Thursday, October 9, 2014

DIY cleaning products (that work better than anything I've bought)

Sit down. I have to tell you something. All of a sudden, I enjoy cleaning. I also am starting to despise any kind of mess and am obsessed with decluttering. Living more simply seems to be where we're heading, but that's a whole other post. This one is still about that first bomb I dropped. I enjoy cleaning. WHO AM I? I am now clearly related to my clean-freak sister Kristie and equally neat Aunty Norma. Ok, I'm not that clean and tidy yet, but baby steps... Anyway, it started innocently enough - the dishes I'd leave in the sink overnight unwashed (YES. I did that. Eww) were nowhere to be seen. In fact, if the kitchen didn't sparkle before I went to bed, the next morning would just start bad and the whole day would go downhill from there. The three baskets of laundry that would overflow for a week and be tipped out onto the floor numerous times a day to find Zak's sock's pair or Immy's undies reduced to one basket that is almost always empty because I had this novel idea to put the washing away as soon as I grabbed it off the line. The shower is scrubbed every few days; the toilet daily, I vacuum several times a week and enjoy smacking the shizz out of my rug outside with Zak's plastic baseball bat (I hang it over the swing set and get so much enjoyment out of that - take out all frustration. I even let the kids at it. Layla is particularly good at whacking it). I've even ordered some old-fashioned wooden cleaning brushes to really get into the zone. In short. I enjoy cleaning. So much so, I'd look up DIY cleaning products on Pinterest while nursing Annika. I am SUCH a social butterfly...

Everyone knows the genius of baking soda, vinegar and lemon. I've tried the usual combinations before but always felt they lacked something (and not just a decent scent!) and for a while I even did the incredible great pairing of bleach and baking soda. Hardly good for anyone - and even then, the bath stains remained and the soap scum on the shower glass refused to budge. But now, I'm happy to have found some great recipes that are pretty easy to make and actually work. Not just work, but work better than anything I've bought at the store. Not even exaggerating. And because I made them myself, I could make the packing pretty too. So I dug out some old jars and repurposed an empty Murchison-Hume into the new mint all-purpose spray, which by the way, is genius.

So far I've made the all-purpose cleaner, a tub scrub, a laundry powder and a not-so-successful (but only because it wouldn't fit through the spray nozzle) stain remover. (If I master that one, I'll let you know.) My house and laundry are smelling so scrumptious lately, I had to share with you too. 

Since moving out of home, the only washing powder Steve (and the kids) didn't have a reaction to was Omo Sensitive and the Eco Store powder. Everything else? Eczema breakouts and if I ever added any kind of softener? Rashes and allergic reactions. So to be perfectly honest, I was not expecting this to go anywhere, but they haven't had any reactions at all, which is brilliant because it smells so yummy, cleans so well and makes everything it washes feel good, clean and fresh. The original recipe I copied called for unscented soap, but I figured rather than adding essential oils, I could use the scented soap instead - that way, I can mix it up and try different "flavours" next time without having to spring for more essentials oils (I want to try peppermint next!)

You'll need:
1 bar Castile soap (I used Dr Bronner's Pure Castile soap in Lavender)
1 cup Borax (from the laundry aisle of the supermarket - Coles had it; Woollies didn't)
1 cup Washing Soda (also from laundry aisle - not to be confused with baking soda. In my searches I've discovered you can make washing soda by baking the baking soda in a try in your oven. Baking it removes one of the carbonates, meaning it's no longer bi-carbonate soda, but carbonate soda, which is washing soda. Sheesh, I am such an expert on these things now).

How to:
1. Grate your bar of soap into a bowl. The kids can - and will want to - help you with this. It is unavoidable if they are around. Just let them, a little grated skin is not going to harm your clothes! Ha!
2. Add the Borax and Washing soda.

3. The original recipe just required you to mix it together (you could add a few drops of essential oils if you used unscented soap, or if you wanted to pair to scents - I'd imagine vanilla and lavender would be a nice combination). After stirring it looked a bit too chunky for my liking. I only use cold water in my machine and wasn't sure the soap would dissolve so well. So i put a few batches of it through the Baby Bullet (a coffee grinder or good blender should also do the trick) and used the milling blade. It totally dissolved the grated soap and turned it into total powder. It looks like store bought stuff. 

4. Place in a container of your choice. At first I put it back into an Omo container I had - it filled it about three quarters of the way. But then to pretty it up, I made good use of this jar I had in the back of my cupboard.
5. Use one tablespoon of powder per load. I use two scoops of this wooden spoon.

I'm really shocked at how well this worked. Normally, trying to get rid of marks on the bath involved spraying with whatever bleach-ish spray I had and watching it streak the bath and not actually come away when I scrubbed it. This sprays on, scrubs off beautifully and leaves it looking brand new again (my bath is not even a year old yet so kinda new anyway but it has been grubby and this clears it right up). I use it on the counter, the loo, the tiles, the shower screen... It hasn't come out of the bathroom yet, but I might make a different scent for the kitchen...

You'll need:
A spray bottle
Liquid castile soap (I used Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap in Peppermint)
Tea Tree Oil

How to:
Add two tablespoons of castile soap to each cup of water. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to the mix. Then shake and spray!

Ever wondered if ever there was a way to recycle your egg shells? Well stop! There is! Apparently, egg shells all ground up is basically calcium powder, which you can take as a supplement (I'd read up more on this before doing so though) or use to scrub your bathtub super-clean! Think of it as the cleaning regime's equivalent of an exfoliator. The finely ground shells are still gritty enough to scrub away at the surface, removing stains and grime. Plus it smells heavenly.

You'll need:
Egg shells - I used about a dozen and a half.
Baking soda (bi-carbonate soda). I used the same volume as whatever the eggshells made up.
20 drops of orange essential oil

How to:
1. Collect your shells over a couple of weeks. I rinsed as I used them, then left in a container. When you're ready, place in a pot of boiling water on the stovetop and boil for around 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and lie on a tray and leave to fully dry - I left them in the sun, overnight and again in the sun for a few hours before crushing.

2. In smallish batches, I gently broke them up a little more and placed in the baby bullet (a food processor or coffee grinder would also work). Using the milling blade, I blended until the shells were basically obliterated. It turned to powder. 

3. Once all the shells were now calcium powder, I placed in a jar and added an equal part of baking soda (bi-carbonate soda). 

4. Shake the jar until blended. Add your essential oil around five drops at a time, mix with the handle of a small spoon until all mixed up and no lumps!
5. Use a small spoon or your fingers to sprinkle onto the surface you want to scrub. I sprinkle onto a wet sink or bath and scrub away, adding more water as I need to. 

And there you have it! Three easy to make cleaners that make your home smell sooooo good. And not a vinegar bottle in sight. (Though my next experiment is a vinegar-based floor wash with essential oils...) I'd love to hear your own stories of using homemade products - I was pretty skeptical a while back when the vinegar/bi-carb thing didn't work. But these versions - and the castile soap - seem to be the right mix. I'm keen to try more - disinfectant, dishwashing tablets.... What worked for you?! 

And in the interest of keeping things real, here is how my bathroom looked while shooting the pics. The sink kept casting a shadow on the bottles, so I raised them with a marble board! Books to the rescue again!

Turkish towel and wooden spoon, Honey I'm Home (local store); Marble tray from Aldi; diamond jar from Hot Dollar (I think); tiny brown vase is a baby panadol bottle; brown spray bottle, Muchison Hume.

* My adaptation of this recipe from Step Into My Green World
** My adaptations of the recipes from Little Green Notebook

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The cubby house that love (and lots of recycled timber) built - progress report

 Just to keep with our current trend of taking forever to finish things, here is a peek at another unfinished and s-l-o-w going project: a cubby for the kids. Just like last time, we decided to make it ourselves out of as much recycled timber as we could. So aside from buying the concrete, the saddles (? those metal things you put in the concrete for the main structural beams to sit in), and a few pieces of timber for the main frame, we've pretty much created a hodgepodge cubby house out of scrap materials we've found in various places. We've used bits left over from our own renovation, we've picked up fences people were throwing away, have raided council clean-up piles for long lengths of flattish wood for cladding and stolen bits and bobs from our families. One neighbour gave us his old architraves and skirting boards; the other neighbour donated old gates. An eBay slippery dip that just cost us petrol money to get was erected to one side; a found old timber ladder is screwed to the wall to allow the kids to climb to that platform for the slippery dip or the pole from our front porch that is now a fireman's pole. A tyre we rescued from the water was strung up off the small pergola and tied with rope from our boat's old anchor which is still at the bottom of the sea after getting stuck one day and being cut loose. We're planning to paint coloured polka dots on the tyre for fun and spray paint the pole in rainbow stripes using the stupid amount of paint I've stockpiled in recent years. 

This weekend just gone, we finally got around to laying the floor. Well Steve laid the floor. I helped  with the measuring then took one of our many children to one of many parties that they get invited to (all those estimates on what it costs to raise children? Do they include all the presents for their friends you're meant to purchase over their childhood as well? Cause those things add up!). Anyway the floor is a very uneven mismatched surface made from two different gates from next door. The panels were different widths, thicknesses and some had weird ridges so it's certainly not the smoothest floor going around, but they can stand on it and play. A lack of a roof and interior walls did nothing to stop the kids from moving in yesterday - Zak even hung a picture or two...

Even the broom and timber rocking chair were roadside finds (I scored a mid-century extendable teak dining table yesterday too. Yay!) and the chandelier was given to us by a neighbour at our old house for our first cubby.)

We thought about leaving the walls as is on the inside - the kids use the studs as shelves! - but they can also push out the cladding and some of the other walls are scarily hideous with all sorts of random bits of wood. No carpenter is ever allowed near our cubby!

Today I mixed up a bunch of black and grey paints I had leftover and gave the floor its first coat (it had a bit of a sanding yesterday). As soon as it was dry, off they went, dragging half the house in there with them and stayed out until after the sun went down.

Seeing as the finish line is in sight and they are so keen to play in there, I think we'll get a move on to finish it off. Famous last words! But tomorrow we'll paint the door (I said the kids could help - God help me) and I think some curtains are in order, solar fairy or cafe lights (seeing as the roof will again be clear - they should work well here!) for nighttime playing, and some scrap-fabric cushions and cheapie rug. So far it's been used as a shop, a tap-dancing stage, a house, a school, a movie theatre, a weapons storage bunker and general hang out spot. Tt was perfect timing getting that floor down in time for the holidays - yay!

This little house has been nicknamed "The Grubby House" (The Graham Cubby House). The previous one was "The Grugly House" (The Graham's Ugly House). I think this one might be slightly uglier, but we needed a new name so Grubby House it is. And oh boy, will it get grubby with my lot! It's going to cop a beating this cubby, which is kinda the point. x

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Surprise Thursdays

Just before the last school holidays, we spontaneously started a new weekly tradition: Surprise Thursdays. Basically, it is exactly what it says - a surprise that occurs on a Thursday afternoon after school (during term; any time of day in the holidays). It can be anything from a milkshake in a cafe or being let loose in a lolly shop with $5 each to exploring a place we've never been before or paying a visit to family or friends. It's become something I wasn't sure would last, but the kids LOVE it and have not forgotten at all - they don't even allow their friends over or invite themselves to their friend's house on Thursdays because they know they'll miss out! The downside is now being tied to coming up with something different every week! Luckily, there is the fall back of a great park or McDonald's McFlurry if I get really desperate!

It all started one Thursday when I was driving past a train station. Immy noticed the stairs on the overpass and wondered what was at the top and what could you see. I told her maybe one day we could find out, so when we picked the bigger kids up from school that afternoon, I just drove straight there without telling them anything. They were pretty chuffed (to walk up and down stairs at a train station - my kids are obviously easily amused!) about the surprise and we looked out over the water, counted the steps up and down, found some recognisable landmarks and then headed over to the park we spotted from the top. Around the corner from the park was a little reserve and the kids just had so much fun climbing in the trees, helping Zak out of the mud, messing up a very neat pile of autumn leaves someone had obviously raked up and just running around in the cool afternoon air having fun and being children. So, together with my desire to see more of my own area, I figured we'd continue it every week.

Some of the other things we've done is ...
- Explored the local mangroves and found a tyre swing
- A treasure hunt and gather at Pearl Beach
- Due to everyone being sick and then the death of my Nana, the kids missed out on their cousin catch-up during the holidays so one Thursday I drove past the school and took them down to Sydney to my sister's house where they got to meet their new baby cousin Harry for the first time and hang out with their Oma (my mum), aunties and cousins. I don't usually let them take days off for no reason, but this was thoroughly enjoyed by all - especially my mum who needed the cheering up and cuddles.
- A party afternoon tea at home complete with balloons, party poppers and cake. I'd planned for all their friends to also come, but I wasn't feeling very well so postponed them for another day. The good thing about cancelling a playdate that the kids didn't know about is NO WHINING! Hopefully we'll get to do that complete with party games in the next few weeks.

And today, we visited a really old cemetery at Point Frederick (below). Called Pioneer Park, it's the resting place of 497 people buried between 1840 and 1953 - and what a resting place! Surrounded by the beautiful Brisbane Water. We didn't stay long because of the rain, but we admired the beautiful craftsmanship of the tombstones, looked for the oldest stone (1843 was the earliest we saw) and felt sad at the grave of a little girl Zak's age. We looked for flowers to pick and place on the stones, but the rain forced us back to the car before we could really explore or check out the paths that led Time Team....
down to the water. I imagine it'd be an eerily beautiful place in Spring and apparently is a popular picnic spot (?). But I guess that's nothing compared to what Layla suggested we do when she found out we were checking out a place filled with passed people: "Can we dig them up?" My kids watch too much 

I love the council's commitment to preserving this site. Many of the tombstones are no longer readable, so little plaques have been placed in front of them with the details for when the stones' inscriptions are no more...

So that is our new tradition! At the risk of running out of ideas, I'm going to get the kids to come up with a bunch of suggestions themselves and I'll put them into a hat and draw one out whenever I get stuck. That way, it's still a surprise of sorts. Or maybe I'll surprise them with NO surprise! But then I'd never hear the end of it! As tricky as it may turn out to be, I'm going to keep at it - they really look forward to their Surprise Thursdays - Layla even spoke about it at her public speaking competition. So if you ever want a bribe for your kids, try it yourself! Or if you have any great suggestions for a surprise, please let me know. x

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book week: clone trooper and alice in wonderland + fruit critters

It was somewhere between soldiering on, sewing an apron despite my 30-odd-year-old sewing machine smoking and crackling (from dust, apparently) and paper mache-ing a Clone Trooper helmet that I realised something: I've become THAT mother. The over-the-top over-achiever. Ooops. The kids' Book Week parade was today and we went all out! 

A few weeks ago they told me what they wanted to be: Alice in Wonderland and a Clone Trooper from Star Wars. Layla was relatively easy - I just made a circle skirt and apron (both very ill-fitting - I'm not a great sewer; I basically just sew costumes so they're only ever designed to stay together for one day!) and stuck a black velvet ribbon onto a headband - she had the rest of the items. But I did forget to puff up the sleeves of the blue shirt and it bugged me all day! 

Zak's costume wasn't quite as easy!  I'd been collecting cereal boxes and other small snacky boxes for a while - they're the perfect thickness for making sharp folds the armour needs. Last week I started putting it altogether. I found a good pic on Google images and just started making some pieces. Elastic stapled or tied to the cardboard meant he could slip them on and off easily and they'd stay put. The chest plate and belt were made of a thicker cardboard box, hot glue gunned together and then everything was painted white. I did plan to spray paint it white but chose the cheapest paint in the shop (who wants to use the good stuff on a costume?). That was a waste - the cardboard soaked up all the paint; it was quite the vanishing trick! So I ended up using the remnants of our bathroom paint and hand painted it on - it didn't take long at all to do and it dried really quickly near the heater.

The helmet was another story - I blew up a balloon, sat it inside a strip of cardboard stapled into a circle and papier mached the whole thing. When it was dry, I popped the balloon (and prayed it fit Zak's head as it was done while he was asleep!) Then I had to add to it to create the "bill" at the front - it was really just trial and error and I just kept adding folded up or rolled up bits of newspaper soaked in papier mache glue to build up the sides. I did a few layers at a time, then would blow dry or leave it to dry overnight or in the sun (this was obviously over a few days!) Finally, I painted it, cut out the eye hole (cut it too high, hence the black strip of cardboard covering it at the top a bit!) and drew on a few markings with a Sharpie. Done! Here are some in-progress pics!

To top it off, I spray painted a water pistol we had black and he was all done! He looked so great - yes, it was a lot of work but Zak is pretty funny about dress-ups - he's not that keen normally and often pulls out at the last minute joining in the parade. But he kept on and on about this costume SO MUCH that I couldn't disappoint him. You should have seen how excited he got with each new piece I made - he'd try it on and act out the part. So cute. He also hates having his photo taken, but this morning didn't complain once when I picked up the camera - he was quite the little actor!! So to see him so chuffed was worth every second of working on it! Plus, the helmet looks cool in his room and I have no doubt the costume will be worn again and again until it falls apart!

The torrential rain this morning had we worried he would "melt" before we even got to school, but the rain stopped and the sun came out just long enough for them to get to class, then poured down again, and stopped for the parade - thanks Mother Nature! Here is one more, with Immy, who is ... herself! 

 The school also held a fruit and vegetable creation competition recently. Despite it being a bit of a waste of food (although you could take it back if you wished; or it went to the chickens), we gave it a go using what we had at home already and kept it minimal.

Layla's stage had to make a critter and she wanted to do a ladybug, so I suggested an apple body with sultana spots - she came up with seeds for eyes and the cherry stalks as antennae. I cut the apple for her and she put the rest of it together - sticking the eyes on with Vegemite (of course!). She came third place for her efforts - a pretty darn good job considering some of the other entries. But I was told later she was chosen because it was obvious she had created it herself - clearly some of the other entries hadn't even been touched by a child! It's also a great little afternoon snack with a difference!

Zak's year had to create a monster and he came up with this guy all by himself - I just cut the mouth. The teeth and fingers are the inside of beans and the eyes and hands are cherry tomatoes with peas as eyes. He's pretty cute and looks like he wants a hug! Ha!

I'm proud of their creativity and involvement in school activities. And I'm so grateful I'm able to go to these things - I remember my own book parades and Easter Hat parades and working with mum on my hats and costumes. And I remember how much fun I had - I hope my kids remember too!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A (very exciting) renovation update (with unexciting pictures)

Guess what I did this week? I had a builder come out to chat to me about extending our house! And a  draftsman to talk about plans! And I couldn't be happier about it! Being the crap home-reno blogger that I've been, I haven't exactly documented this house's transformation properly have I? But between not wanting to blog, a new baby and a few unfinished renovation projects, an exhaustive amount of posts on our indecisiveness would have hurt your head as much as the indecisiveness has hurt mine. So here's the thing. We bought this house for its location (and price, obviously. Got a great deal there!). Certainly not its good looks. Because they aren't good looks. They are hideous - notice I never posted an image of the exterior? That's because it looked like this (below). 

Well this is how it looked not long after we moved in. Now it looks... well not a whole lot different, but a little tiny bit better. I couldn't handle the maroon and blue colours so did a lightning fast paint job and painted the whole thing white (not even close to my finest work), spray painted the screen and gutter and house numbers black. We also took off the window cover over the bedroom and ripped down the carport. Now it looks like this:

It's your typical Australian fibro house, but with the worst roofline ever (in my opinion) and no personality whatsoever. But the location is perfect - we have water views, we have easy access to the water where we spend the summer and a good portion of the rest of the year fishing, swimming, kayaking, making sandcastles, chasing crabs and just hanging out making forts from nearby sticks. There is park nearby, a great bike track to zoom up and down on. School and shops are within walking distance. We have a great-sized yard. We have a large self-contained cabin which if we really wanted could become extra income. We have the ability to work some magic on a blank canvas of a house. To quote Dana from House*Tweaking (again), "this house is not our dream house, but the house in which to pursue our dreams". I really love that quote - it sums us up perfectly. What are our dreams? A lifestyle that incorporates all of the above. A family home with a decent sized yard my children can grow up in and have fun in. An environment that is slightly more relaxed and old-school than perhaps living in a city would be. A happy home that we can have totally paid off within a few years rather than a few decades. They are our dreams. And we're well on our way to seeing them come true.

Since first spotting this house for sale while we were still living in Sydney, Steve and I have drawn plan after plan after plan as to how we'd like the layout to be - with a second storey; with bedrooms out to the side over the driveway and a large family room at the back; connected to the cabin; a tunnel-like open-plan living space on one side and just bedrooms along the other side; with a new master suite and family room at the back or two bedrooms at the back and turning Zak's room into an ensuite for us. All the time, there were going to be plans to add a loft to our new roof (a new roof was always on the cards; I hate the style/pitch/colour/everything about the one we have). All seemed great at the time we drew them, but there was always something about them that didn't scream "this is the one!" Finally, we figured it out: one large family room at the back with a staircase leading to a loft with a library/retreat/office area looking down into the extension, then a door leading to our master bedroom/ensuite overlooking the water. We'd also like to have a small balcony off our bedroom to fill in the gap created by the jut-out of one side of the front (our current bedroom). Here is my incredibly professional sketch of how the house might look and our idea for the floorplan.

Of course, we need someone to officially tell us all of this is indeed possible without our house looking like it has a too-big hat on its head - and that it won't cost us any of our children or more than what we bought it for - but that's what we'll find out soon enough, I guess. 

It will also mean no more changes to the current layout - we don't have to turn a bedroom into an ensuite, knock out another wall to go sideways or cram stairs into the living room. We can simply add a large room to the back, reuse the glass doors we just put in at the back (we're going to separate them into two sets of French doors on the back wall with a fireplace in the middle) and change the house's front windows/door set up to something much nicer. The only thing I don't get with this layout is vaulted ceilings over the kitchen - so I might have to look at building something around the top of the pantry area to the ceiling so it doesnt look odd. But I haven't even tiled the splashback yet or painted the ceiling so we're clearly in no rush!

The old "live in a house for at least a year before you make major changes" has a lot of merit. If we had gone ahead with our extension plans this time last year, we'd have a whole different house. And I don't think it would have been right. This time? I think we've got it.

We're also going to inject some fun - a pool table, a bar under the stairs, a dart board, TV with the wii, kids space... It may not be picture perfect with all these things or even close to an interior designer's idea of style but we couldn't care less. WE are the ones who are living in this and we want it to be a fun family home. So super-style is taking a backseat. Not to say I'm not going to do my best to make it look nice, but four kids live here so it's not exactly going to be designer goods everywhere! Besides, the death of my grandmother and Steve's grandfather in the past two months has brought back floods of our own childhood memories and the things that stood out to us were all the family gatherings and fun we had in and around the homes we grew up in or spent a lot of time in. For Steve it was always sport of some kind, any kind; for me it was hanging around and playing pool in my grandparent's billiard room (they had a massive dedicated room off the main living room through glass bi-folds with built-in seating  around the table and french doors opening to the outside - very modern considering it was built by my grandad about 50 years ago), building forts in the backyard, playing in made-with-love cubbies, and making "beautiful" music on the many gigantic organs or pianos. Similar to the fun I try to create with my own kids. And I'm determined this house will be a FAMILY home. With a family room that is an actual family room and not a prissy perfect space that you're scared to sit in in case you move a cushion out of place (have you ever searched "family room" on Pinterest? So not family rooms).

The top image was a sketch Steve whipped up one evening a few months ago of how we envisioned the house to look. It's changed a bit now but you get the gist I'm sure. In other renovation news I have finished painting the bathroom! We only started renovating the bathroom in November last year, so you know, I'm super prompt with our finishing touches.....

I will attempt to document the process a little better than I have been previously for anyone else who knows nothing about extending but would like to! Have you extended before? Love to hear your experiences - I'm not expecting this to be easy. We know we are in a restrictive zone so there will be battles. I am optimistic it will all be worth it. Eventually!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Annika's DIY flower monogram birth announcement / thank you cards

Annika is four months old today! And she is so cute and funny and filled with personality, just like her three older siblings. Luckily, she has fit in really well and I can happily say despite those want-to-head-butt-the-wall moments (mornings/dinner time/getting out the door any time), life with four kids is pretty darn great. Being a bit of a DIYer, I decided to make her birth announcements (actually, it's so late and her birth has been announced a million times over and she has pretty much met everyone, so let's go with "thank you" cards, because that is really what they are for).

A while back I spotted a flower monogram on Pinterest - someone had opened up a 3D papier mache letter and filled it with flowers. Great for parties or events and I thought a fake-flower one would look great on her wall. But that didn't happen so I had the idea to make one up, stick it on the wall above her in a floral wrap against my black wall for her birth announcement picture. So I sliced the top off a 3D letter, hot-glu-gunned fresh flowers into it and hung it on a tiny nail on the black wall in my dining room. I lay a sleeping, wrapped Annika on a sheepskin on the sideboard and snapped away until she woke up (which wasn't very long. Just like her siblings, she is a cat-napper!) Then I uploaded them in iPhoto, chose one and then played around with some fonts in Finder (I use a Macbook Pro) and came up with these announcements.

 Then it was time to print - my first attempt at Officeworks was a big fat fail as the font I originally used for the info (Mossy) was too thin so it was back to the drawing board. In the end I paired CK Cursive with Pompiere - both freebies - and tried again. Another fail because I had saved it as a PDF and you can't print four PDFs to a page unless you set it up that way which they didn't tell me till I got there, so I went home empty-handed again and re-saved as a jpg. This time I took it to the local printer place where I successfully printed four to an A4 page! It cost me a bit more ($18 for 10 sheets compared to around $10 that Officeworks would have cost me), but honestly, for the time I'd have to waste again and the petrol money, I'd have come out even! I printed on thickish stock - 250 gsm - so it's not photo glossy, but it still came out nicely and I can write on the back easily.

Then I just cut out with a scalpel and ruler and done! I'm pretty happy with the end result - now I just have to finish writing on them all and sending them out!

CK Cursive free font (Annika font)
Pompiere free font (main font)
Black wall paint is Dulux Domino
Ludde sheepskin, Ikea
Vintage Aqua muslin wrap, Toshi
Papier Mache letter, Spotlight
Flowers, picked from my garden, nicked from around the neighbourhood and bought from the supermarket (yes, I am classy like that)
Garden snips, Country Road
Striped pen (my fave thing to write with!), Officeworks