Tuesday, April 15, 2014

eastery decorating with watercolour eggs and crepe paper flowers

If you're as lucky as us, your school holidays will have so far been plagued with rain, meaning indoor activities is where it's at. Stuck like glue to the couch anyway with baby Annika, some simple craft ideas are gold for us. And with Zak gone to my parents house this week for a boys holiday with his younger cousin, there is lots of loom bands being made (and flicked around the house), painting being done and glitter being glued to all sorts of bits and pieces. It's incredibly pink and girlie here at the moment. So with Easter just days away and gifted with a voucher from Officeworks to try out some of their craft ideas, I hotfooted it to my closest store and stocked up on double-duty supplies: something to keep the kids busy and that will also decorate the house for Easter. My score? 
- The prettiest watercolour set, (Micador Watercolour Palette, $12.78) - I've bought this set several times before. It has the best colour palette and is perfect for little kids - plonk them on the kitchen counter with a cup of water, a stack of paper plates (they're thicker and won't fall apart from the water) and a paintbrush and they will spend ages painting, mixing colours and making a super-easy-to-clean-up mess.
- Crepe paper in a range of pinks, white and metallics (Elephant Learning Company Crepe Paper, $2.33 a packet)
- Pipe cleaners (Elephant Learning Company Chenille Sticks, $1.98 a packet) 
- Paint brushes
Add to this list some egg shells and you're set for some simple decorating you can do with or without the kids (I did the ones that ended up in the pictures, but Immy did manage to paint a few eggshells -and smash every single one she painted - and Layla pitched in and made a million of the flowers to take to school for news and give to her teacher). 


These were so easy to do - and so effective. I decided to use cracked eggs from a frittata as little vases for the crepe paper flowers, but you could easily blow the insides out and hang the painted full shells from a Easter branch or tree. 

Dip the paintbrush into some water and dab off the excess onto a tea towel. Swirl around in the colour of your choice until there is more paint than water. Now paint a large circle on the egg shell. You can start anywhere and leave it to dry. Pick a palette of several shades of one of two colours (I used the beiges and pale pinks up to the vibrant purples) and just keep painting circles over the shell, overlapping the colours a little until the shell is all coloured. Leaving the circles to dry before painting a new one will result in more vibrant colour; doing it while wet will blend the colours a little. 

If you use the eggshells as vases, you can either place them in egg cups or do as I do and cut up a toilet roll into different sizes, cover it in silver leaf and use as small stands for the eggs.


So pretty to dress up your space for Easter, great as wall decor in a girl's room (just snip off the pipe cleaner and blu-tak to the wall) or filling a windowsill of assorted jars or bottles, these crepe paper flowers are quick and easy to make.

To make these, simply cut crepe paper into rectangles around 10cm by 15cm (add a few centimetres and take off a few for varying sizes). Place around eight rectangles into a pile - experiment with several colours, making them slightly smaller each time the colour changes (see far-left example in image below). Fold the sheets backwards and forth around a centimetre wide into a concertina, as if you're making a paper fan. Wrap a pipe cleaner around the centre of the folded paper (middle example, below) and round off the edges with a pair of scissors. Now gently open the fan up a little (far-left example, below) and very, very carefully separate each piece of crepe paper from the pile and fluff it out a little (far-right example, below). Crepe paper bends and stretches nicely, so feel free to fluff, twist and pull the petals until you're happy with their shape. Snip the pipe cleaner stem to the length you're happy with and pop in the egg shell vase. Or in a real vase! 

 These would also look sweet strung together with some string and hung on a wall as a garland or as party decor. Good thing about paper flowers is that they cost a whole lot less than real flowers - so you can spend your savings on chocolate eggs for yourself. That's what I do! 

What kinds of crafts are you planning to do with your kids - Easter or not? I might need some more ideas! I have one more I hope to do and show you before Easter - stay tuned! It all depends on whether baby lets me use both arms or not tomorrow!

Also, to give yourself a few extra minutes of peace these holidays, jump onto the Officeworks site and download this colouring in sheet for World Kids Colouring Day and tell them they have to take a L-O-N-G time to carefully and super-neatly colour in this page so they can enter it into the competition for a chance win $300 worth of Steadtler goodies. Entries need to be in by May 6.

{Images by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home. Thanks to Officeworks for the store voucher for supplies and the project idea.}

Sunday, April 6, 2014

easter craft ideas

The bringer of chocolate will be hopping around the corner soon enough (yay!). I have this week to make some hats of some description for the Easter Hat Parade on Friday. Zak wasn't too keen until I mentioned it would be small, and Layla wants a bunny mask again - 
and of course that means Immy does too. We made these ones last year (above)... I guess they're going to be similar this year, but might use some pretty fabric this time. Stay tuned... In the meantime, to get a similar look to these masks, you can try my original version, below, (no template though sorry) here.


Make a bunny mask and fluffy tail

I have one or two new crafts to bring you soon, but in the meantime, here are some blasts from the past that are no longer on my site (because it was hacked last year and I have been too lazy to painstakingly upload all the old posts in one hit). So maybe they're new to you? I made them for Kidspot a few years back - I love seeing how my kids have grown through their Kidspot pics! Layla looks so cute and tiny here! And yes, it's the same suit Immy is wearing in the top pics. I have no doubt there will be a picture of Annika in it in a year or so too! Possibly at Easter time just for fun.



Make a felt Easter basket to stash their goodies in


Transform a simple cane basket into a feathered nest


Wool wrap a branch to make an Easter tree


Learn how to blow an egg and simple ways to decorate them


Make choccie eggs even sweeter by customising them and gift-wrapping them with prettied-up clear plastic bags


Fingerprint chicken gift tags and handprint bunny cards


Make an Easter hat for the parade


Leave some bunny footprints to prove the Easter bunny really visited


Create an Easter egg treasure hunt and make chalkboard easter egg buckets


Make hanging cones for the egg hunt


Make bunny and chicken finger puppets out of toilet paper rolls

Am thinking we will make a bit of an Easter tree of some kind this year. If I get some time!

Friday, April 4, 2014

introducing... Annika Mae Graham

Well, she was 11 days late and she may have exhausted me for the past nine+ months, but you know what? This gorgeous little girl was totally worth all the pain, all the exhaustion, all the worrying and freak-outs. She came swiftly into the world on March 25 smack on 12pm after a very quick hour and a half labour (I was induced - the drip went in at 10am, contractions started properly at 10.30, she was pushed out just in time for lunch - quite convenient, really. I did say I had hoped to have her by lunchtime!) and she has been smooched and cuddled and oohed and ahhed over ever since. We're all smitten with her and she has just fit in perfectly with our family. Here is a quick pictorial introduction and I will share her birth story a little later on. Quick deets...

Name: Annika Mae Graham
Date of birth: March 25, 2014 at 12pm
Weight: 4.12kg (9pd 1oz)
Length: 50cm

And some more baby spam from Instagram!

Me and all my babies...
A comparison of all the bubs at the same age

Miss Cranky Pants after her bath

She is SO cute, if I do say so myself. And any worries Zak had about only having sisters seems to have been quashed the moment he saw her. He and Layla fight over who is going to hold her first! And Annika seems totally happy to let them fawn over her - she seems to calm down when they're near. I guess she's used to all the noise and craziness after listening to it for so long in utero!

Oh one more - here is a little GIF of Immy giving her a smooch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

the kitchen renovation: another update

So two things that have still not happened: 1. My baby has not been born. 2. My kitchen is not finished. No real surprise there with either of them, though! Baby is now four days overdue and just when I think things might be kicking into gear, they stop and it's back to just UGH. The kitchen on the other hand, is getting closer. The windows went in a while back, then the plasterer finally came and fixed the walls and then finally came back to sand and then the electrician after a few delays managed to get the rangehood in and so all the major work is now done. HURRAH! So it's just up to us now to paint, sand and stain the floors and put the fridge in the right space. Oh and tile the splashback - it's just going to be the simple white subway tiles again - same as the bathroom for a bit of consistency. And also because I just love them. I did it myself last time, so here's hoping I'll be able to do a smaller area just as well.

At this stage my plan is just to tile under the windows and up to the rangehood - the tradies kept asking if I was planning to tile on the wall to the left as well but I just can't imagine that looking great having one wall tiled and the other not. Your thoughts? 

I was worried the windows might look funny being so small, but I'm so glad I went with windows on either side of the rangehood and not walls. And cheers to the builders to suggesting we square-set the windows and not architrave them as was originally planned - I questioned the squishiness of it and they came up with some other options - don't always think you HAVE to stick to plan A. It was worth the very long wait! Architraves would have looked so busy and weird between the wall and the pantry. 

And on the other side of the space is a black wall - Dulux Domino. It needs a second coat and a serious touch up thanks to the disastrous painter's tape I used. I have used millions of them now and this one was just terrible (Unipro?) - not sure if it was just a bad batch or what but it just might as well have not been used. I'm trying a Japanese washi-tape version for the glass doors - will let you know how we go with those once they're done. 

We're pretty exhausted in the home DIY department at the moment - a few storms in the past few weeks brought to light an existing problem we never noticed before: the roof leaks. Always good. It used to just leak against the back wall and wasn't noticeable at all (well we never noticed it - just assumed it was wet from the TERRIBLE patio job that someone erected out the back before we bought the house. The whole thing might as well not be there - water comes in everywhere) but since the doors have now replaced the wall, when it leaked it was leaking onto our doors, over the top of them and inside. We freaked out about our unprimed doors warping and everything being ruined and got priming ASAP once they dried. The builders made a few trial-and-error fixes (there were a few things it could have been!) and a few rain storms later, we're no longer leaking. Yay! Doors are still only primed though.... We'll get to it when baby arrives. Well Steve might - he's been my painter lately (bathroom needs one more coat!) and the cubbyhouse builder. And the hardware stalker. It's been weird  NOT being the person to hit the hardware for timber or paint and other bits and pieces... I kinda miss it. But honestly, I'm struggling to walk now - sore back, broken toe (I nearly did the splits in the rain a few weeks back - if my toe hadn't stopped me, am pretty sure I'd have broken legs and given birth on the ground. Or something. At least the baby would have been here...) and huge baby belly = awkward. 

Nordic Taburet Counter Stool, Click On Furniture // Tractor Stool, Freedom // Replica Tolix, Everywhere

We also finally decided on stools for the kitchen island - there were a few options. I had my heart set on some Danish-style timber ones I saw on Instagram ($$$) Then I saw the price - $325 each. Considering we need 4 of them, it was never going to happen. Then I fell for the Freedom tractor stools ($$) but there is several months wait. Steve found some $15 timber stools at a shop near his work - FIFTEEN DOLLARS EACH!!!!!!! But then decided he'd prefer something metal so we're back to the Tolix ($). He loves them, I love them, so it's settled. I've seen some absolute bargain ones at The Reject Shop and at Mitre 10 for less than $40 each so the hunt is on. For the price of one tractor stool or half a Taburet, I can get all four. Which in my clever mind means I have saved so much money I can spend it on more frivolous, pretty things like this collapsible copper basket I fell for from Dear September. Fruit bowl, perhaps? 

In other renovating news, I picked up the latest Real Living mag last night and was looking forward to the kitchen and bathroom special (despite having already done them both!) and I was, well... disappointed. I just didn't feel there was anything helpful in there at all - aside from the tips in Deb's letter. The pics were pretty, yes. But just pretty. Not totally practical. Too trendy. Too expensive. Too... unrealistic. I'm not here to pick on magazines - I love them! ESPECIALLY Real Living - I still think of it as my baby. But it's not what it was meant to be anymore and while I love the direction it's going for prettiness and gorgeous covers, I feel there is a big gap in the market again for real tips/real-life living/real budgets/real needs. Pinterest and blogs have caused mags to up their game - I have no doubt. But usually only in terms of inspiring images. And to be perfectly honest, I've seen projects in the mags that I've already seen on Pinterest. And as for great information, I get it all now from endless google and blog searches because I find I just don't believe top interior designers are speaking to me when they reveal their "top tips". I have come across the odd great tip every now and then, but I just can't relate most of them or their work. And one more rant: one would think only architects, interior designers/stylists, graphic and fashion designers or shop owners are the only people with nice homes! Bit tired of seeing the same old designery interiors - surely there are teachers or police officers or something out there who have some taste and creativity!

And so long story short, when I eventually do the final reveal of the bathroom and kitchen, I'm also going to write some helpful things I learnt along the way. I'll include prices and contacts and links and honest reviews of products. And if you have specific questions or things you'd like to know about for your own upcoming reno, please ask away and I'll see if I can address those too. Let me know in the comments what you'd like to know about the process. 

Fingers crossed my next post will be an introduction to our newest addition! One can only hope.... 

{top three images by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home}

Thursday, March 13, 2014

immy's 3rd birthday

My sweet little baby girl has turned three. And is no longer a baby - she is now a "big little girl" and "Pop is a tiny baby, not me." Pop, of course, is my fourth child due... tomorrow! (Most likely today if you're reading this on Friday). Immy's birthday was on Saturday and being sooooo close to the end of an exhausting pregnancy, I did debate throwing some candles on a ice cream cake and calling it a day. But then I felt bad and decided Immy needed to have a little more fanfare - so I kept it sweet and simple: family only, no theme, easy decor I could make while resting my elephant feet (they're swollen and dry and awful and I can't reach them to do anything about it), and popular activities I didn't have to supervise or be involved in. 

My lovely mother-in-law took care of all the food, so all I did was wriggle one tenth of a massive bowl of butter cream I made around a double sponge cake, shoved some sprinkles on top and stuck in way too many candles. Everyone had a great day and Immy was thrilled. Here's what we did...

Tent fun: I put my cranky pants foot down for presents this year and sent everyone a message demanding they steer clear of soft toys, plastic, big or noisy things. I gave them a few suggestions that would keep with our new "careful purchasing" rule where we have to be mindful about what we are bringing into our house - nothing too big, badly made or unnecessary. So sticking to that theme, I bought her a book, a pair of sunglasses, some Duplo to add her very-much loved collection and made her a tent. I used these instructions as a guide but cheated with the sewing as I did it late the night before her birthday and just wanted something for her to have in the morning. I also think it needs a few extra bits of dowel on the bottom connecting the two A-frame parts, but that again is for another day. So far, it's been a big hit with everyone.

Crown decorating: I almost can't recall a party where we didn't have crown or hat decorating - it's always so popular and sooo easy to do. You can buy premade strips of paper crowns from craft stores or you could do it even cheaper and buy a piece of white cardboard and just cut it into strips, then cut a zig zag down the centre of each strip creating two crowns. This is all I do! Then I stick a strip of double-sided tape all the way along the bottom and lay out a table of crafty stuff - feathers, glitter, paper dots, diamante stickers - and let them at it. I also put out a watercolour set this time and they enjoyed the easy painting too. Then you wrap the hat around their head and use a piece of double-sided tape at the end to stick it together to fit their head.

Treasure hunt: Bless his stinky little boy socks... Zak asked me what games we were having at the party about 10 minutes before people started arriving. I said "um, none". He looked at my like I had three heads and declared HE would make up a treasure hunt for everyone and would look after everything. So he did. He wrote out some clues (they even rhymed! "To find clue number 4, you have to do through a door!" "Four is not enough, you need to find a chair with lots of stuff!" and the kids went looking for them and found the treasure chest filled with extra lollies that didn't fit into the balloon pinata. He's my party planner in training.

Jelly playdough: This is the yummiest smelling thing - made with jelly crystals it's also super-soft and nice to play with. Everyone loves playdough so this went down well with them all. You can find the recipe here.

Shady picnic spot: Umbrellas and tents went up, pouffes and cushions came outside and tea sets and real party food ended up being scattered throughout the yard as everyone pulled up a pew in the shady spot. Casual and simple is always good!

Giant balloon pinata: Normally, I will make a pinata of some kind. But there are other times when I just use balloons - mystery balloons are fun and messy (several large balloons filled with cream, confetti, lollies, silly string, goo, water); or there was the balloon darts of several parties where each child gets to throw a dart at a board of lolly-filled balloons and grab the contents once it pops. Then there was this year's cheat: one large balloon, lots of lollies inside, one birthday girl and one dart. We gathered the kids around, Immy popped the balloon and the kids scattered to find their lollies. The coloured balloon banner above the pinata was meant to be a giant number 3 made of balloons, but that was a major fail so we just stuck to a balloon garland!

Ruffle cake: The birthday girl loves sprinkles and icing so I grabbed a Coles double sponge cake and smothered it in buttercream. A few too many candles nearly scorched her little face, but she was chuffed with the pink candles. Cake stand from Emerald + Ella.
Tissue paper tassel garland: Instantly makes a party place seem prettier and special. Easy to do and very effective (though likely done to death now!) - I followed these instructions.

Magazine cut-out banner: I dared to part with several pages from my fave magazines for this - but most of the pages were double-sided ads so all is ok. I just cut the letters out and taped them to the wall with washi tape on the underside.

Bouquet of lollipop bonbonnaire: I was even lazy with gift bags this time - Kmart lollipops were dressed up with a bit of twine and a watercolour circle thank you card. They doubled as faux-flower decor after I placed them in a jar on the sideboard! Am sure the parents LOVED my sugary parting gift :)

 And finally, have I mentioned on here that my two sisters AND my sister-in-law are all pregnant? My sisters and I like to do belly progress pics when we get together - I'm on the right, due tomorrow with my fourth child (a girl); Gretchen is in the centre, due six weeks after me with her second child (a surprise); Kristie is due six weeks after Gretchen with her third child (a boy). And Cass, my sister-in-law (not pictured as she was working) is due six weeks after Kristie with her first child (a girl). Can you believe the timing?!?!?! Next time we're all together my baby will be on the outside!

And one more picture of the birthday girl. Because she is just so cute. And funny. And sweet. And crazy. And curly. And clever. And loud. And THREE. Already!

FYI: If you follow my Facebook or Instagram you'd no-doubt have already seen a lot of similar pics. If you're curious about previous parties, you can check out my hashtag #happyhomeparty to see invites, pinatas, decor, food and ideas that I may not have previously blogged before. 

And also... A HUGE thank you to everyone's comments on the blog/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram about my previous post. It is SO nice knowing I'm not the only one feeling overwhelmed. Or the only one who yells at her kids. Or who freaks out about childbirth at the last minute. Or... everything else. I loved hearing your own confessions and stories and I have no doubt I'll have some more to share once this baby makes an appearance and life changes for us again! Again, a million thank yous xxx

{All images by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home}

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

baby update: 9 more days, a freak out + a confession

Today I have 9 days until my due date. I am excited to meet this little miss, of course. And completely terrified. I'm not afraid to admit it. HOW the heck will I ever leave the house again? I can barely get it together in the mornings  now as it is - my kids are USELESS at getting ready for school. Or following instructions. Or listening to anything I say. My house is still half a construction zone with new walls needing sanding, priming and painting, floors refinished and little bits and pieces still not 100% completed. I lost it the other week - it was all just too much. Steve got home from work and I just crumbled in a heap on the bed. For the second time that day. Immy had told me earlier I wasn't allowed to cry, cause I was the mum and only babies cried. Steve was a little more sympathetic and just waited patiently till I finished ranting incoherently and made it all better with hugs and by saying the right thing - I sometimes forget he IS a media manager and knows how to spin things if the need arises. But it worked.

Still. I'm at that doubting stage - what if things go wrong with the delivery? What if there is something wrong with the baby? With me? How will I cope at home with a newborn and three other demanding children? How will I get everyone dressed and out the door in time for school? How will I survive on such little sleep? What if I have a crap recovery and therefore everything above is just made 100 times worse? What if I get post-natal depression? What if I become even more disorganised and forgetful and impatient than I already am? What if it gets too cramped here in our small house? What if four children just doesn't work? WHAT IF? I hate this stage. My philosophy for pregnancies and birth is pretty much whatever happens, happens. There is no plan (except I am terrified of having an epidural - the thought of a needle in my spine is scarier than pushing out a human, so that's off the cards unless absolutely necessary, in which case it's not about me anyway), no expectations and no major requirements or needs. I'm pretty cruisey. Except when those annoying negative thoughts creep into my mind and freak me out. And here they are, in the last few weeks, right on cue...

I'm sure it will all work out and things will just eventually fit into place and life will go on as though I've always had four children and absolutely no patience, time or energy. And all will be fun and fine, though nuts at times. Just like it is now. But now isn't always great. I yell. A lot. I have no patience when Zak loses his hat for the 3rd time in two weeks or waits until I start to close the door before he realises he hasn't got his shoes on or didn't brush his teeth. Or when Layla looks at me when I tell her to get dressed for the 342nd time that morning and then just continues playing with... whatever is nearest to her. I want to put a leash on Immy when she runs up and down the verandah at the school before the bell rings knowing I can't chase her. And the toilet training - oh my god the toilet training. I get so annoyed it is taking her so long to get the with poos-in-toilet-not-the-pants-program. I hate myself when I swear in frustration because Zak has broken the phone charger because he snuck into my room to "charge and play" my phone when I told him he couldn't and sat there for ages with it bent. Or when they tell me in the car they forgot their drink bottle or need money for something and I of course never have any money on me. I feel exhausted at pick-up time when they throw their bags at me and demand this friend come over or they go over there or they want this toy or moan because I walked the 500m to the school rather than drove and feel like the worst mum ever because I dared to say "no". I want to scream at the parents who spoil their kids with the latest EVERYTHING or anything because they make my life so much harder. I hate all the "but so-and-so has this. And so-and-so has that." It all gets a bit much and I just want to curl up on the couch and do nothing, but then of course there are mouths that constantly need feeding, balls games that require watching or participating in, fights that need breaking up and homework that needs doing (and occasional bribes that need to be made in order for this to be done). It's all quite exhausting really. So some days, aside from the feeding (more just to shut them up), I don't do any of it. And I let them sit in front of the TV. And then the guilt sets in and I feel even worse.

And then there are all the good things that counteract it all - the knowledge Zak and his friend invited Layla to the library with them at lunch time and helped her do a find-a-word. The sweet way they chat when they walk into the schoolyard or when Zak asks if she had a good day. The adorable way Layla takes Immy under her wing and helps her with shoes or pants or encourages her to "use the toilet like a big girl". The way Zak changes the rules of his soccer game so Immy can play with him and the way he belly laughs when she attempts to tackle him or steal the ball. And those most heavenly moments when they all play together soooo sweetly for an hour or so. Even one bit of niceness makes up for the crappy parts of the day. Thank goodness!

So why am I being all so mopey and confessional? Because recently I've felt fraudish when all my lovely followers on social media or the blog say the sweetest things about my renovating/decorating/craft/baking/projects/whatever, like "I don't know how you do it all." "Where do you find the time and energy?" and crazy things like "You make me feel bad that I don't do this or that" "you're superwoman" or "supermum", but the truth is, I'm not any of those things and I HATE the thought that I make someone feel bad because I baked cookies from scratch for the kids to take to school on Valentine's Day and they didn't do anything. That is NEVER my intention. Basically, I just like to record life - good and bad, though I guess most of the time it's good. Cause really, who wants to see Immy throw a tantrum? (Although sometimes they are kind of amusing). I don't do it to compete, I don't do it to show off, I most certainly don't do anything to make people feel bad. I just like seeing what other people are up to and want to create visual memories of our family life too. I do it because I want to - I enjoy it and I want my kids to have fun memories. I want my house to (eventually!!) look nice. And I like making the little things a tiny bit more special - pretty parties, craft days and learning to bake (oh so messily). But just FYI, it doesn't always come super-easy or calmy or beautifully. Going the extra mile can all take its toll and I can lose my sh*t for stupid reasons. I take on too many things at once and do everything wrong in pregnancy. I paint. I sand floors. I move furniture and lift things. I eat the wrong things. I don't drink enough water. My iron is terribly low all the time. I know these things when I do them and I STILL DO THEM. And then I get all yelly and annoyed and frustrated. And I worry my kids will remember THOSE moments and not the nice ones I try so hard to record. And just for the sake of it - because I often wonder myself about the behind-of-scenes of picture-perfect lives on Instagram - I wanted you to know that... even if it reads all over the place and makes no sense in parts! Because if there is one thing I try to do here, it's to show a little reality too...

{Images are all by me but have been through the Waterlogue app on the iPhone. It's slightly addictive! I want to take some really beautiful portraits of the kids and have them watercoloured and blown up and printed out for my gallery wall}