Monday, 3 October 2016

Five-Year-Olds Have More Fun

Mum, did you know that Piranhas can bite through metal?
Um, (me, distracted) yeah, sort of. No! What? Are you sure? I've never heard that before..
Yep. They can. It's in the book Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas. Mrs Baxter read it to us in the library. 

Really? (Thanks Aaron Blabey. Was that book really factual?)

Mum. Did you know that Pterodactyl starts with a silent P and that some dinosaurs are herbivores? 
Um, yep. I did know that. Thanks. Can we eat breakfast now? (Me, eying his bacon and hoping he's not considering vegetarianism. Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Mum, do marshmallows have lots of sugar in them? Cause I've just eaten six!!


Five-year-olds want to do everything and they want to know everything. It's an exciting (and exhausting) age. They still feel (to you) like they were only born yesterday but they are big now, and getting bigger (and louder) all the time.  

They have opinions. And they want to share them. Often. They want to tell you new things - that they've just discovered or experienced or thought of. They require your full attention. So they know you're listening. You have to stop what you're doing and face them. Eye contact is a must. Warning: this makes listening and driving/cooking/reading/sleeping difficult.

Sometimes you find yourself gazing fondly at them (yes, okay, often when they're asleep) and fondly recalling that brief baby moment in time when they couldn't talk. Oh the serenity. 

At times their emotions are erratic. Tantrums are fewer than in the past couple of years, but it's still hard to reason with a five-year-old who won't be told.
Never say "you're too little", which is often the case, or "wait till you're bigger" because it won't go down well. Definitely never call them a baby because the consequences will be extremely dire. (Siblings please take note.)

Here's Arch, after having had a small (humiliated) cry because I'd ordered him a babychino - NOT a baby anymore Mum! - showing me his wink. So cute. 

Here's Arch insisting he can fly the kite. Not easy when you're so close to the ground... Just saying. 

Arch toasting marshmallows like a pro and telling me it's the best day of his life! (It took the ten-year-old to dispel the magic by pointing out that "Arch hasn't actually lived that long"... ) Don't you just love tweenie cynicism?! 

Five-year-olds might still wear baby pajama onesies with the feet sewn in - but they'll insist on choosing their own (clashing/weather inappropriate) outfits during the day. Don't judge.  Most parents are way too tired to argue. 

Five-year-olds can still get way overtired after a big day - but if you suggest an afternoon nap you will be laughed out of town. "That was what I did when I was three or something!" Arch declared last time I suggested it. 

Five-year-olds can have way more fun you.  A poo joke can keep them laughing for hours. 

They take in information like a computer and often surprise with their level of knowledge and understanding.. However they will never understand why they cannot eat lollies for breakfast or why a piece of fruit is better for them than an icecream.

Don't underestimate what they are capable of, or how much better they look in your glasses than you do.

And when they say that they need a cuddle (or a snuggle and a snissy) make sure you stop what you're doing and give them a big squeeze. They may be growing up fast but these moments are way to precious to ignore.

You won't be sorry.

Illegal selfie on Mum's phone...

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Power of the Picture Book Challenge

At the beginning of June I discovered a picture book challenge on Instagram. Yes, it was winter and I was bored and getting kind of low-spirited at being cold - so what better way to brighten things up than make a whole lot of new Insta-friends with a common interest!? Oh my it was great fun. And addictive. Even our toys got in on the action.

Finding a picture book each day from our (not insubstantial) children's book collection to match a changing theme, was inspiring, interesting and entertaining. It reminded me of the power and pizazz of a good picture book. Some make you howl with laughter. Others have a poignancy that can bring you undone. My mum was a kindergarten teacher for many years and used to read a book about a Magpie who died - every year to her class, crying every time. Generations of kids watched agog at their teacher's emotional response to a picture book. I love this.
Through carefully chosen words and illustrations that bring the story to life - a glorious partnership is made in a picture book. Happily the market is apparently booming. Unsurprisingly e-books can't begin to capture the magic. 

Can you recall your favourite Golden Book? (Mine = The Tawny-Scrawny Lion!); The Dr Seuss tale you loved best? A book you treasured?; One you still own (or wish you did)?

If you thought you'd grown too big to enjoy 'em, you are sooooooooooooo missing out!!

Of course it helps to have a five-year-old who is wanting me to read/help him read one (or fifteen), every single night. We love snuggling under covers and discovering the magic of a new story, sounding out words, laughing at rollicking rhymes, pointing to the pictures (the artwork can be mind-blowingly amazing!) ...I really don't want this time to end (though by about book seven, I do find I'm yawning more than reading. Okay sometimes I do get cranky and snap the book shut - "Tomorrow! We'll finish this one tomorrow!!" Cue howls of protest...)

They become synonymous with your childhood, weaving their way into your mind and memories. You might recall a favourite book and then surprise yourself by also remembering intricate details about the pictures that went with it. Or how the spine got scuffed and who you blamed for it. Who read it best using funny voices. Or what your PJ's looked like in 1982....

Whether about big things or small, Picture Books bring laughter and joy to many. They characterise culture (for example, Australian ones can tell of things unique to Aussie life) or appeal across borders by highlighting universal themes (love, friendship, families, kindness, happiness, grief); they fulfil a vital role in the learning and development of children everywhere. They reach across generations.

Here's a few favourite Picture Books, for inspiration.

The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson is currently very hard to find. Follow the link to the publishers for a copy - all the major online sellers don't seem to have it. Any book that starts with the line: "George lived alone with his Grandmother and the empty space where his mother and father should be."is going to be emotional. This book does not shy away from the darkness that can live inside those who are feeling empty and lonely. However, in finding a dog who needs as much love as George, this boy (and his new found pet) begin to flourish. The story is delicately told and heartwarming in the extreme. The illustrations add to the poignancy. 

On a sillier note, Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort is universally funny to kids (and adults). I know I'm not telling you anything new by saying that underpants is a subject guaranteed to produce snickering and laughter. However, making a link between the undergarment and how dinosaurs became extinct is kind of new. But to my (unscientific) brain it is as believable as any of the other theories out there... So for any parent who's ever told their kids that the Great Wall of China was built to keep out the rabbits, this book will make perfect sense. 

The vibrancy and wonder of Eric Carle's picture books have not paled over the decades. If all you know is the hungry caterpillar then you're missing out on the much larger and SCARIER animals given the Carle treatment. The Greedy Python is another fun one worth looking up.

For those of us who grew up wishing we were Laura Ingalls and loving Michael Landon, these picture book versions of prairie life are a lovely introduction to Pa and Ma, family, roasted jackrabbit and all that made up that wonderful pioneering life. 

And keeping with our bookish theme, we attended the launch of the latest Exploding Endings by Tim Harris. When we first discovered Tim's writing, we were pretty excited at a local title containing such a great mix of school age fun and humor. (See our review here) So it was with great excitement that we joined the celebrations for Exploding Endings Volume 3 - and yes, the tales are as hilarious as ever. Particularly good for reluctant readers (and similar in look and style to Diary of a Wimpy Kid) these titles make great Christmas gifts.

I'm now taking part in a #KidsLitChallenge on Instagram - celebrating favourite book titles for 6-12 year olds. Check it out!

Also check out the great list of nominated and award-winning books from this year's Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. Have you read many of them? 
Here's my review of the wonderful Mr Huff a worthy recipient of the Book of the Year: Early Childhood Award.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

National Op Shop Week 2016

I couldn't let National Op Shop Week pass without the opportunity to again state how great it is to support charity shops in their good works in the community. If supporting them means getting rid of some clutter, or by nabbing a FABULOUS bargain along the way, well how good is that?!! It's actually a great way to shop without spending too much. It's making your dollars count. 


Some people seem to have no idea how to op shop. And yes, if you don't have the patience to trawl though loads of stuff in search of a treasure then it's not going to be your happy place, that's for sure. While some op shops are set out in a highly organised manner, many prefer the more chaotic approach. Either way, you'll need a bit of time and fortitude to give it a red hot go.

FIrstly, think about what you are looking for. If it's kid's clothes, there's usually a section set aside just for this. Shoes, likewise. China and glass, tick. Records/CDs/DVDs and books might be somewhere else. Kitchen stuff - yes. Furniture - usually in the bigger stores. Sometimes the sheer volume of stuff can be overwhelming - in which case sticking to one category can help you focus and avoid running screaming from the premises. 

Some op shops have special deals on different days of the week. The Salvo's Stores offer cut prices on clothes with certain colour price tags between Mon-Wed. Many Vinnies stores have a colour coded tag each day that is 50% off. If they don't advertise a deal on an item, don't ask. It's annoying for the (usually voluntary) staff when people try and bargain what is already selling at discounted prices. You might think something has been way over-priced (yes, guilty of this myself - well-used girls' Nike sneakers at one of my locals were $30 and I found this a total joke!) just walk away..... deep breath.... let it go....

Here's a few of my latest finds to give you some inspiration!

CLOTHING: My working wardrobe has been dormant for over a decade now. Luckily, thanks mostly to op shopping, I had a good amount of quality items to draw on - but it definitely needed a revamp this term when i got a 4-day a week real job (as opposed to my op shopping job, which as you know, wasn't a real job). 

So what did I look for? Some versatile dresses that can be dressed up or down - work suitable but fun too. I don't have many prints - but that's the beauty of op shopping - you find yourself trying on things you would never spy in normal shopping land. 

One of these is a homemade dress, fully lined and fits me perfectly, bar the sleeves which are a little tight. One dress is vintage and made in France. The third dress is a high-end Australian brand that I could never afford new. I love them all - can you pick from the descriptions which is which?

The leather shoes appear to be brand new. Again, not what I'd look for normally - but fit beautifully and I just love the colour. They are leather with a rubber sole so super comfy too. They cost $20 which is quite a bit for me in op shop dollars, but would hardly buy you anything in normal shopping land. 

These red leather sandals are made in Spain and give me hope that when winter (finally) ends I'll be strutting around with a definite spring in my step! They were $7.50.

CHINA: I love these little floral Made in England butter dishes. Perfect for keeping coins/jewellry/soaps in. I never pay more than a few dollars for them and they make lovely little birthday gifts for friends when the budget is tight. 

ARTMaybe your mantle lacks a regal touch? I was chuffed to find this vintage print of the Queen in a gilt frame complete with a (slightly cracked) gold crown. 
When I saw this I knew I was a monarchist and that it is a keeper. 

CHINA AGAIN: Sometimes you just want a nice mug for hot cocoa. This beauty was made in Copenhagen. 
But I bought it from an op shop. 
Come to think of it, that's not as fun as going to Copenhagen to buy it, but still - op shoppers can't always get everything they want. 
That takes patience.   

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Parent Fails - Real or Imagined?

A friend recently posted on Instagram an (obligatory) bottle of wine pic with the caption: That moment you get your kids eyesight checked in grade 1 instead of kinder and find they need immediate glasses and an eye patch 🍷

Made me laugh (A lot. It's always funnier when it happens to others, but it could have been any of us, right!?) and think about all the oh-so-many ways we never manage to get it quite right when parenting. It's often just the little things that add up to that general feeling that we're somehow failing at the most important job in the world. Most of the time, we're doing a lot better than we think. Truly.  

At least that's what I told myself when these random moments happened: 
  • You realise the shower your kids use ran out of soap days if not weeks ago, and no one has bothered to mention it. Or notice.
  • You made a big effort to cook a wholesome and delicious Moroccan chicken dinner, and your five-year-old cried because he wanted two-minute noodles.
  • A class teacher casually mentions that your child declined to tell news at the start of the term because "our family didn't do anything fun all holidays". Yep that's us, the no-fun family.
  • You get a note in the diary to say your child has been reprimanded for making "inappropriate noises" - and you can't stop laughing!
    So if your parenting-fails (real or imagined) are getting you down, remember, you are so not alone. So here's some tried and trusty pick-me-ups! Yep, scientifically proven to work. Every time.

    Give yourself a treat. Preferably something with icing sugar and cinnamon. (Check out @scrollies on Instagram)

    Buy yourself some gorgeous in-season flowers. They'll brighten your day, your table and your mood.

      Find a place of serenity and lie down on a gorgeous and comfortable couch. 
      Warning, if you do this in a shop, eventually someone is going to come and tell you that they're calling security if you don't leave..

Thursday, 14 July 2016

6 Perfect Picture Books to Wipe Away Winter Blues

Part of our efforts to enjoy the winter holidays with kids, and distract us from the facts that:
a) we have cabin fever
b) we are a long way from anywhere warm 
c) I have a cold, and
d) the whinging has (occasionally) reached fever pitch
is to pull out the WINTER THEMED picture books. I have chosen some titles that, like all good picture books, have a story that resonates with readers of all ages. The illustrations fire up the imagination with winter scenes that instantly transport you in to their world. And there is something that will capture a small piece of your heart in each of them. I promise!!

So straight after a big bowl of porridge in the morning, Arch and I curl up on the couch, sip hot chocolate and read a few favourites. It doesn't generally snow in Sydney, but the icy winds are enough to take us there...

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson (illustrated by Axel Scheffler) warms the cockles of your heart (whatever they are) by taking you on the wild wintery (mis)adventures of Stick Man who has become separated from his Stick Family. Lonely and lost, Stick Man tries his best to get back to his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three...  Whether you had a pet stick as a child or not (I did!) the multiple uses of sticks, will ensure you never look at them with quite the same disinterest again. Julia Donaldson has a true gift for rhythm and rhyme and characters that entrance and delight. This is definitely one of her best. 

This book along with some of my other winter-pics does tie in with Christmas - but this story is an all-year favourite. 

It's Snow Day by Richard Curtis (illustrated by Rebecca Cobb) is another heart warmer on a chilly winter's day. Living in the Southern Hemisphere, I have no experience of snow days, when (bliss!) school is called off due to icy weather. But in this book, it happens! However, one boy, Danny, and one teacher, Mr Trapper, turn up. So what happens when the strictest teacher and the worst student are left alone together? Well needless to say, things don't look good. Slowly over the course of the day, things start to change. Bonding over building a snowman two lonely people find that their unhappiness starts to thaw... Get this book quick. You'll love it.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis (Illustrated by Christian Birmingham) is an abridged version, which would never be my first choice for this epic story. Definitely read the full version to your kids. It will grab their attention and imagination with a glowing heart of gold and life-changing allegories that touch hearts of all ages. That said, the beautiful pictures by Christian Birmingham are a glimpse into the world of Narnia that complement the story perfectly. Enjoy.

Don't Call Me Little Bunny by Gregoire Solotareff has been one of my favourite picture books for years. Written and published originally in France (1988) with used copies available on Amazon it is a quirky and edgy tale about a little bunny with 'tude. Living high up in snowy Alps, Jack Rabbit, affectionately known as "Little Bunny" by friends and family alike, is frankly, sick of his nick-name. In an effort to show that he is not cute and cuddly, Little Bunny (sorry, Jack Rabbit) takes to a life of crime. Making a true friend along the way, Jack realises there's more to life than being angry about a nick-name that doesn't change who he really is. Pictures are fantastic, and the humour is top rate.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner (Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal) showcases a beautifully detailed and illustrated secret world of what lives in and under the snow. It's a little like a documentary in picture book form - who knew there was so much going on in a world of white? My five-year-old loves this and never tires of it.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle is my last choice, and yes again it is a Christmassy story. The wonderful and whimsical illustrations and creative extra extra bits (clear plastic overlay pages add snow to the scenes) bring to life the magic of the snowy sneason (sorry, season). You'll find more to love with Carle's colourful characters and gently funny tale. Kids will squeal with delight at the vibrancy and special surprise on the last page. It is a timely change before spring hits and you have to start reading the very hungry caterpillar again! 

Happy Winter Reading!!!

Here's a link to my post this time last year on The Top Ten Holiday Tasks to Keep Everyone Happy. Check it out!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Botanical Style - Book Review

I spotted this book on a recent foray in to Note To Self in Epping, and knew instantly that this was a piece of gorgeousness that would have me swooning at every page. Firstly the gorgeous green on the cover is the colour of my bedroom walls. The pictured botanical prints and gleaming glassware could have been taken from my mantlepiece - only there's less clutter. Most of us have some elements of botanical style in our homes, maybe without even realising it. Once you start to notice, flowers, plants and nature are the inspiration for beautiful things everywhere, and that is what Selina Lake showcases in this lovely tome.

Botanical Style will appeal to any one who has ever stuck a bunch of flowers in a vase, admired fallen leaves on the ground or lovingly tended to a house plant or two. And whether you have a favourite floral tablecloth, a ferny wallpaper, or a shiny vase of something on a windowsill - it's all about bringing a touch of the outside indoors. The benefits, Lake enthuses, include creating calming effects, healthy vibes and goodness for the soul. 


The book is divided in to five themed sections: Vintage, Boho, Industrial, Tropical and Natural - Lake's styling prowess make every decorating theme pop with inspiration and beauty. You might be more minimalist than shabby chic, or more modern than vintage, but Lake shows the benefits of introducing the richness and freshness of foliage, florals and nature in to every setting. There's lots of paint-flecked surfaces and rustic textures for the more gritty gardening types. Lake also layers romantic looks without too much chintz or formality. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Simple touches like berries on a mottled green plate, through to bolder moves like wallpapering or stencilling leaf prints onto walls can help you channel your inner flower fairy/garden gnome. There's plenty of ideas for those who don't want to make big changes (or who rent) and still add a botanical twist to their interiors. Lake advises keeping it simple - for example, garden cuttings displayed in gleaming glass or oversized pots can be pretty and striking. 

While I particularly loved her chapters on Vintage, Industrial and Natural Botanicals, the rich visual imagery - courtesy of the wonderful photography of Rachel Whiting - makes choosing favourites extremely difficult! 
Actually impossible!

Lake's advice is practical and imaginative. She offers numerous style tips that make achieving her looks happily possible. For those with a crafty bent, there are DIY techniques that will have you reaching for your hot glue gun. Fancy sewing a silk cushion cover? Whipping up a Botanical Pinboard? Or making a hanging light-bulb vase?
Yes. You can.

So if you've ever expressed love for lupins (I have!), or coveted your neighbour's camellia (okay, also me), Botanical Style will have you throwing open the windows, fanning yourself with a palm frond, stroking a succulent and humming your favourite flower song (yes there's a list!) in no time. You may even find yourself painting a wall in a rich deep hue or filling that empty corner with an amazing aspidistra! 

This book along with many other things too beautiful and numerous to mention can be found in one of my all-time favourite stores: NOTE TO SELF at Epping in Sydney. They know how to rock Botanical Style better than anyone I know. Do drop in or check them out on Facebook.

Note to Self Epping
Note to Self Epping

 Botanical Style can also be ordered from Booktopia.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Autumnal Antics

Sydney's Autumn has been pretty special so far. The weather has been fabulous. There have been weekend trips to picturesque parks, summery temperatures, spectacular sunsets and a crispness in the early morning air that has returned my favourite accessory - the scarf, back to its rightful place: strewn all around my room and hanging from every door knob. I love scarves more than I can say. (Check out my Pinterest board) I have quite a few. Besides warding off scratchy throats they are a small fashion item that packs a punch.

Fear not if your jeans are too tight, your top has toothpaste marks, your shoes hurt and your hair is blah - a scarf can give you the confidence to stride stylishly through your day.

Seriously. Remember when pashminas were all the rage? Super warm they provide an instant shot of warmth, a shawl, blanket for the knees or even, I recall, a fashion fix for split trousers (Gwyneth P!)

Which brings me to Sophie Digard. Have you discovered her scarves yet? They are the bomb! Check out this website for a glimpse at her range - truly works of art. A french designer who works with linen, silk and wool, colouring her threads with natural (glorious!) pigments. She then works with a team in Madagascar, using traditional methods, to crochet and work them in to wondrous creations. The end results are (expensive!) and unique.
There's a new stash in a shop near me. I joined a flash mob of women all swooning at the sight and feel of theses beauties:

Here's some pics of our Autumn fun. The leaves haven't dropped in our usual haunts, but here we found a great collection.

And then there's the sunsets.
Words fail.

From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised.
Psalm 113:3