The Tree Wall

I wanted to share this beautiful idea for a living area: a tree wall feature.  Sharron decided to decorate this wall space with a tree shape.  She simply put the word out that she was looking for someone with artist ability to paint the wall for her (you can find people on Gumtree, through Google or find a local Facebook buy/sell group and ask in there). It cost $50.

The great thing about this design is you can just throw frames up however you like, without them needing to be in line. And it looks fantastic!

Family Tree Wall

Family Tree Wall

Family Tree Wall

Family Tree Wall

Family Tree Wall

Family Tree Wall

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End of Year Teacher (Approved) Gift Ideas

I know many teachers personally (my sister is one of them) and they don’t expect gifts at the end of the year, but the gesture is certainly appreciated, especially a heartfelt card or note.  I appreciate the work teachers do with my kids, and each year the kids and I like to give a token gift. Last year we made bird wreath Christmas Tree decorations with a card written by the kids.

I asked the teachers in the Be A Fun Mum Facebook Community about the gifts they like best (you can through over 300 comments here). I’ve boiled it down here to the top 5 and other favourites..  What stood out to me was that it’s the personal gifts — personal notes and handmade cards — that mean the most to the majority of teachers.

Teacher Gift Ideas

TOP 5 Teachers Approved Gifts

1. Personalised handwritten card/letter/drawing

2. Christmas tree decoration

3. Wine

4. Stationery supplies: stickers, sharpies, stamps, sticky notes, storage boxes

5. Homemade food 

Note: This was popular amongst teachers, however some teachers had homemade food items on the strongly PLEASE NO list too, so be aware of that. Perhaps include a small note saying the items were made in an hygienic environment.

FOOD/DRINK

  • Wine/Champagne/Alcohol/Soft Drink
  • Gourmet coffee/Tea

Here’s a fun idea on how to dress up soft drink or other beverages: Reindeer Bottles

HOMEMADE

  • Personalised handwritten:
  • Food:
    • Shortbread
    • Biscuits/cookies
    • Peppermint bark
    • Rocky Road
    • Fudge
    • Choc balls
    • Rum balls
    • White Christmas
    • Cookie mix in a jar (recipe here)
    • Chutney
    • Jam
    • Brandied fruit
    • Homemade pesto in baking dish
  • Christmas decoration (you can find a list of handmade decorations here: Handmade Christmas Tree Decorations)
  • Fresh fruit basket
  • Pot plant/plant seeds
  • Pamper package jar with all the essentials for a mani/pedi
  • Teacher survival kit
  • Christmas wrapping paper + tape + fun poem on card (check out the tutorial here)

Since November you’ve been shopping,

barely sleeping, hardly stopping.

Now it’s late you’re in a scrape, out of paper, out of tape.

Hope this wrap helps save the day!

Have a Happy Holiday!

  • Artwork:
    • Word art with teacher’s name or the names of the children in the class. Use programs like Tagxedo or Wordle
    • Framed class photo signed by all the children
    • Framed thank you

teacher gift ideas

I made these graphics for free at Tagxedo

PURCHASED

  • Christmas tree decoration
  • Personalised:
    • Stamp/stickers (for labelling resources)
    • Keyring
    • Pen (engraved)
  • Perfume
  • Cookbook
  • Dictionary
  • Book
  • Diary/planner
  • Funky necklace/bangle/earrings (e.g. purchased from markets or handmade)
  • Scarf
  • Vase
  • Pot plant/plant seeds
  • Thermal coffee mug
  • Whistle + ball (Coach/P.E. teacher)
  • Scratchies/lottery tickets
  • Stationery supplies – stickers, sharpies, stamps, sticky notes, storage boxes

STATIONERY SUPPLIES/PACK IDEAS

Below are some ideas on stationery packs to give to teachers.

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Pack

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Pack

Giving them can be as easy as tying pens, pencils, sharpies & highlighters up in ribbon.

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Packs

Or place all the times in a gift box.

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas - Stationery Pack

A set of mini drawers is a fun ideas too!

End of year teacher gift ideas - drawers filled with stationery

VOUCHERS

  • Coffee
  • Bottle shop
  • iTunes
  • Books

GROUP GIFTS

One of the parents can coorindate to collect funds to contribute to a group present.

  • Vouchers:
    • Movies/Gold Class
    • Massage
    • Local restaurant/café
    • Manicure/pedicure/facial
    • Local artist
    • Experience gifts  (eg RedBalloon)
  • Shopping centre gift card
  • Photo canvas of the students
  • Watch
  • Jewellery
  • Handbag/Luggage

DONATIONS

Books/toys for disadvantaged children & donations to children-based charities (below are some of the mentioned charities):

PREFER NOT TO RECEIVE

  • Mugs
  • Lotions/hand cream
  • Soaps
  • Candles
  • Chocolates (boxes)
  • Teacher appreciation gifts (they get so many of these!)
  • Homemade food items (please be conscious that some teachers prefer not to consume homemade foodstuffs, particularly if made by the children)

There you go! A heaps of teacher approved gift ideas and tips!

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Even more Teacher Gift Ideas

Handmade Christmas Tree Decorations

How to Dust Mite Proof a Bed (& Other Allergy Friendly Home Tips)

Brought to you by Bupa and Nuffnang (S1)

20% of Australians have an allergic condition such as asthma, hay fever or eczema1. My daughter is one of them. She suffers from eczema (you can see how extensive it is, especially on her neck, when it is at its worst). 

how to dust mite proof bed for eczema and other allergy sufferers

Through years of investigation and tests, we discovered many triggers of eczema, and two main factors we are focusing on at the moment are wheat and dust mites. 

When Bupa’s Guide to a Healthy Home digital book came out I thought it worth sharing here because it has important information about how to keep your home safe from fire damage, flood damage, burglary and theft as well as allergens, moulds and dust mites.

Great tips, and I was especially interested in the allergy-friendly section of the book. There were a few ideas I hadn’t thought of like having 100% natural bamboo sachets in the cupboards to soak up moisture. The book is free by the way, just head to www.bupa.com.au/healthyhome to download a copy.

About the Guide to a Healthy Home

Allergy Friendly Home Guide

Bupa Home and Contents Insurance provides the best possible coverage for life’s unexpected moments, however there are a lot of things you can do around the house to create a happier, healthier and safer environment for the whole family. Bupa has partnered with experts across the country to develop the exclusive tips in this guide, taking us through some changes we can make in our own homes. Through ‘Bupa’s Guide to a Healthy Home’, we they aim to teach that, along with having the right home insurance, there are so many things you can do to ensure your family’s health and safety in your home.

How to Dust Mite Proof a Bed

The other thing I want to share along the lines of keeping the house safe and healthy is how I dust mite proof my daughter’s bed. There are a lot of so-called allergy friendly products out there and I have boiled it down to a system we use to keep her bed as dust mite-free as possible.    

How to dust mite proof a bed

Products/Process

  1. Mattress protector that covers the entire mattress (not only the top).
  2. Cover mattress with a dust mite-proof fitted sheet.
  3. Cover with a regular sheet (or allergy-friendly sheet). For my daughter, I use a silky feeling sheet with antibacterial properties.
  4. Quilts: Feathers are not ideal; Microfiber (e.g. Polyester, Tencel) quilts are better for allergy suffers and they are affordable. However, it’s best for the quilt to be covered with a dust mite-proof protector, even if quilts are labelled ‘allergy friendly’.
  5. Cover quilt in a quilt protector (for dust mite protection).
  6. Place quilt cover over the top.
  7. Place pillow inside a pillow dust mite-proof protector.
  8. Cover with pillowcase.

I purchased the sheets (that are smooth so they don’t irritate my daughter’s skin) and dust mite-proof protectors from Aussie company Allergend.com.au.

Cleaning System

Wash all items in hot water.

Weekly

  • Pillow case
  • Regular sheets

8-12 Weeks

  • Pillow Protector
  • Quilt Protector
  • Dust Mite Fitted Sheet
  • Quilt Cover
  • Quilt (or at least air the quilt)

Yearly

  • Mattress cover
  • Quilt

This system is both doable and effective.

We do a lot of things in our home suggested in the digital book, and at the moment we are fine-tuning by avoiding wheat and dust mite proofing the bed. You can see the massive improvement in my daughter’s skin so far!

eczema - dust mite proof your bed

Other Cool Stuff

I always like a good giveaway and this is a fun one from Bupa at the moment as part of their Healthy Home campaign. All details and the free digital book can be found here: www.bupa.com.au/healthyhome

BUPA healthy home giveaway

1. Bupa Guide to a Healthy Home Digital Book, 2014

You can read my disclosure policy here.

Brambly Hedge Mouse House

When her twin boys are tucked up in bed, Maddie Brindley (Mads) creates magical, miniature worlds that have to be seen to be believed.

She’s made a Hobbit Hole, based on the book and film – The Hobbit – where every finely crafted detail is true to the story and will leave you marvelling at this mum’s talent.

Mads has also made an incredible miniature Gingerbread House, reminiscent of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, which is currently for sale on Etsy.

But it’s her adorable, miniature Mouse House that captured my imagination – perhaps because it is inspired by Jill Barklem’s beautiful Brambly Hedge picture books.

As a child, Mads loved the Brambly Hedge stories and painted her own illustrations, based on those in the books. She still has the original copies and now reads them to her children.

Mads’ Mouse House is based on Crabapple Cottage from Spring Story by Jill Barklem (pictured). 

Jill Barklem Brambly Hedge

brambly hedge illustrations

Brambly Hedge Illustration

via Hey Bud

For those not familiar with the stories, they follow the adventures, in word and picture, of a community of mice who live in Brambly Hedge. Brambly Hedge is an idyllic spot, on the other side of the stream, across a field where a close-knit community of mice make the most of what each season has to offer.

It took Mads’ 11 months to complete the Mouse House, but I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the investment of time and talent. Enjoy…

Mads said she had no firm plans when she began the project – just a scribbled drawing with rough dimensions and lots of MDF! The next step? “I then stuck all the wood together and decorated,” Mads said. Yep – as simple as that!

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse

Mads crafted most of the items inside the Mouse House herself- the fireplace is made out of scraps of wood, metal paint, and an egg whisk.

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - kitchen

She custom made the furniture and borrowed her Grandma’s sewing machine to make the curtains. The curtain tie backs are the small ribbons that come in clothes when they are new to hang on hangers with – so clever and resourceful.

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - kitchen

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - kitchen

The well-stocked miniature pantry.

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - pantry

The laundry room – the towels are made from old baby bibs from when Mads’ twins were young and the cloths are strips of ribbon. 

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - laundry

The cosy living room.

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - lounge

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - lounge

Outside.

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - outside

Brambly Hedge - mouse dollhouse - outside

Have you ever created a miniature world? Or built your own dolls house? We’d love to see your designs.    If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the Boot Doll House featured earlier on the blog. 

by Cath Johnsen

Nature Inspired Playgrounds

Playgrounds in Australia tend to have similar look about them. Plastic slides painted in primary colours, a springy toy that often doesn’t spring, and a token swing set in a sea of chip bark. I remember this one playground at Warwick we discovered as a family on one of our road trips, and it was so refreshingly different because it was an older playground and had play equipment the kids hadn’t seen before. An old fashioned merry-go-round was in one corner, a wide metal climbing frame in another, and if you drew a triangle between three points, the tall-tall slide would be found at the third point. 

Playground

Playground

Health and safety regulations are there to protect our children, but in a world increasingly afraid of litigation, it has become easier to install one size fits all play equipment rather than innovative, custom playgrounds that work within the natural environment. 

Is it healthy to impose a top-down approach on our children’s play, driven often by standardisation?  Or can a little risk in play actually be a good thing?

Recently I discovered Infinite Playgrounds in the UK – a collaboration of artists and educators that are breaking the mould in playground design.

The designers at Infinite Playgrounds believe it’s possible to find the right balance between risk and safety – their bespoke, natural and unique playground creations allow children’s imaginations to run wild. I found the playgrounds so stunningly inspirational, and I wanted to share them here.

Infinite Playgrounds design spaces that complement the existing environment. They make use of hills and banks, installing slides or waterfall streams. Where trees have been felled, they create natural climbing structures. The opportunities for active and imaginative play are endless. Be inspired by some of their incredible playground designs:

Nature inspired playground

Nature inspired playground

Nature inspired playground

Nature inspired playground

Nature inspired playground

“Playgrounds should be built in a way that allows children to manage risks and become independent learners.  This leaves the traditional idea of play equipment behind and moves forward to exciting and challenging spaces for children to play, with managed risk that is justified by the high play value children gain from our natural elements such as our climbing trees.”
— Sam McGeever, Creative Director, Infinite Playgrounds

Nature inspired playground

 “Play areas should challenge children to the limits of their own abilities; a child of three will access a playground very differently to a child of five or eleven years, and again differently for a confident child of three to one who may be more cautious or have a developmental delay.  Therefore it is essential that play equipment is exciting and open-ended in order to develop with children, supporting and scaffolding their natural ability.”
— Helen Law, Creative Director, Infinite Playgrounds

Nature inspired playground

“We must be careful that health and safety laws don’t prevent child-led, explorative play, which give children risk management skills and confidence that last throughout their lives. The world is full of hazards and children need to learn to assess and respond to them in order to protect themselves. Risks have value in that they can be an opportunity for learning and for this reason they should not be eliminated altogether.”
— Joanne Law, Early Years Consultant, Infinite Playgrounds

Nature inspired playground

Nature inspired playground

The longer I parent, the more I believe in the importance in NOT compartmentalising our children into the boxes society often provides. I touched on this when I wrote about our favourite play spaces (and why they weren’t playgrounds). And yet — YES — there is absolutely the need for (the right kind of) research into safety and the establishment of general guidelines to protect our kids. There needs to be a balance and it needs to be motivated by caring for kids, not the bottom line or fear.

It’s a conversation worth having.

I love this quote from Joanne Law: We must be careful that health and safety laws don’t prevent child-led, explorative play, which give children risk management skills and confidence that last throughout their lives.

When I look at the Infinate Playground designs and read about their philosophy, I see a good and true balance; it inspires me, and fills me with hope for a world that truly cares about the wholistic development and wellbeing of this new generation we are raising.

The Building Process

Check out more of the building process over on the Infinite Playground Facebook page.

Do you think modern playgrounds serve our children well?
Share with us how you manage risk in your child’s play time. 

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Infinite Playgrounds on Facebook – great pics, inspiration and behind the scenes

Infinite Playgrounds Website

DIY Lego Play Table

My friend Belinda from BAC Photography told me about her Lego table project she did with her boys. The process is really very simple and achievable and such a fabulous way to facilitate Lego play. She’s sharing how she put it together below.

The Lego City Project

DIY Lego Play Table

My twin boys have always loved building blocks!

It started on their first birthday when they received a Mega Blocks truck that came with some bricks. The novelty of pushing the truck had long warn off but connecting the giant bricks went on and on.

On their 3rd birthday they received their first set of Duplo and we didn’t see them for the rest of the day.

The cycle started again on their 5th birthday when we moved into our current phase. LEGO!

Now the collections have begun in earnest, the real creations are coming out and the walking on Lego (mostly by mum and day) is in full swing!

Over the last two years we have bought a lot of new sets of Lego for our boys (as have family and friends for birthdays and Christmas) but we (my husband and I) were finding that we would build something, but would then be destroyed and part of this was because it would be on the floor and get tripped over or trodden on.

My husband then had an idea! LIGHTBULB!

We had a big sheet of plywood in the garage (waiting to be thrown out), so using this we put in to place Operation Lego City.

Step 1

Source a piece of plywood – If you don’t have a piece of plywood lying around like we did, it is relatively cheap to buy from a hardware store. Just think about the size you want for the space you have (or if you want it to fit on top of an existing table).  Plywood comes in many different sizes.

Step 2

Begin painting – Get the kids involved. Start with a white base coat and then anything goes. We went with a green section for around the city, blue for the ocean  and a grey strip for our airport runway!

1-BAC_LegoCity001

DIY Lego Table

DIY Lego Table

Step 3

Watch paint dry – kids are terrible at this. They can’t wait  for the paint to dry so they can start placing their Lego City!

Step 4

Let the building begin!

We had a lot of fun building with the boys and enjoying them play for hours! You can add to the city as you go and ebay is great for picking up second hand roads and sets too. It doesn’t even have to be all Lego, we added in a Tomy train set around the city too.

To keep the plywood off the floor, we purchased two small tables to rest it on.  We can move it around if we need to and it gives us storage underneath too (an existing coffee table could work in the same way).  

Making it permanent: For a more permanent solution, the plywood can be glued down on a suitable table. For an unpainted wooden table (or sand back if required), just use PVA glue over the entire surface of the table, place the plywood over the top and rest heavy objects on top and allow to dry over night.  This can be done on other surfaces (ie. not wood) too, but a product like No More Nails would be needed. Just ask at your local hardware for some advice and they are really helpful.

DIY Lego Play Table

DIY Lego Play Table

DIY Lego Play Table

DIY Lego Play Table

DIY Lego Play Table

Taking the project one step further 

The novelty of my boys Lego city has not warn off but to add to the fun, we decided to make a book. Our own story book!

We set up a robbery at the museum, a fire on the plane, a near miss train crash and of course a police chase around the city to catch the bad guys. My boys set up the scenes and we took the photos together, then we created a story to read along to with our images… there are so many places now were you can order up these digital photo albums and the kids can be involved in the process the whole way!

Not only do my boys love their Lego City, but they take care of it and the creations they have built far better than before we had a table to store it on. They are protective of it when friends come around and keep it cleaner than their bedroom. We are adding new things all the time and they boys are already planning for the new Lego they have asked Santa for.

Although the table is big and does take up a lot of room, they are only young once and tomorrow they will be grown up and out on their own and I’ll be left reminiscing about all the Lego I have stepped on over the years in an empty toy room.

DIY Lego Table

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DIY Skateboard Shelf

I was at my sister’s on the weekend and this is a little idea worth sharing. You can pick up small retro-like skateboards from places like Kmart, Target, Toys R Us and BIG W from about $15 (like this Avigo one).   They can often be found in second hand stores for cheap too. These skateboards make for cute shelfs for knick knacks in a child’s bedroom.

DIY Skateboard Shelf

Materials

Small Plastic Skateboard

2 Angle (or L) Brackets – found in the hardware section in many places

Screws (make sure they are short enough so they don’t go entirely through the skateboard – just measure roughly on the side)

Instructions

1. Attach the L Brackets to the wall. To do this, use a level to mark ensure they are horizontally even.  Then, use the skateboard to measure how wide apart the brackets need to be: the brackets need to sit just inside the wheels as shown in the pictures below.

2. Sit the skate board on to the brackets, leave just a tiny gap from the wall. Then, it’s simple a matter of screwing a short screw (just make sure it is long enough to go through the bracket and into the skateboard plastic without going out through the top) from the underside of skateboard, up through the 2 brackets and into the skateboard to the shelf is secure.  

DIY Skateboard Shelf

DIY Skateboard Shelf

Display

Fill with completed Lego, money boxes or decorative things.

DIY Skateboard Shelf

DIY Skateboard Shelf

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Plant a Pot Garden for Spring!

how to plant a herb garden in potsI like the idea of gardening, but find it overwhelming.  Last year, I enlisted the help of a friend to get me started, and together we broke up the process in 3 easy (and FUN!) steps to make it achievable for anyone! The good thing about this garden is it’s in pots, so even if you don’t have the space for a garden, you can still experience the joy of growing something yourself and using it in the food you eat.  I believe this process is so important for kids!

I’m shocked (and very happy to say) that the garden I planted in pots a year ago is still alive. I repeat, IT’S STILL ALIVE! This is how I did it (if you start now, you’ll have a garden in a month):

Stage 1: Plant the Seeds

growing herbs from seeds using toielt rolls

The kids and I planted the plants from seeds. It’s a lot of fun to see the shoots pop out of the ground.  We used toilet rolls for this projects (great way to recycle them) and you can find the step by step procedure here:  Plant seedlings in toilet rolls

Then: 2 weeks later

Stage 2: Create Garden Label Rocks

spice garden rocks

While the seedings are growing tall and strong in their lovely toilet roll case, make label rocks.  Or you can use other label methods like write on small wooden spoons (just make you varnish them with outdoor gloss). Step by Step guide here: Paint herb garden rocks

Then: 2 weeks later

Stage 3: Plant Garden

herb garden rocks

Once the seedlings are about 5 cm high, it’s time to move them into the big garden pots, add the rocks and enjoy!  You can find all the materials I used for this project here: Plant a herb garden

And a year on, below are snippet of what is growing in our garden looks like coming into Spring (with very, very little maintianance).

Parsley in the garden

Herb Garden in Pots

Seasonal Planting Guide

For more details on when you should start planting for your area, this article is helpful: Seasonal Gardening Australia

School / Homework Station

I asked the Be A Fun Mum community on Facebook about their opinions on homework for primary school students. There was a huge response (737 comments) and below are the results:

What parents think of Homework

The main feedback to come out of the discussion are as follows:  

NO: 

  • children spend enough time studying at school & research suggests homework is not effective
  • parents find it hard to allocate time for homework
  • cuts into time for play, extracurricular activities, family time etc.

YES:

  • reinforces what they learnt at school
  • it gives parents an indication on how their child is doing at school and what they are learning
  • teaches good habits for high school years

I can see it from both sides. Personally, I’m in the no-camp (expect for reading!).  Homework impacts greatly on the harmony of our family life.  My husband is away a lot, and I’m on my own most of the time with the kids, so when there are afternoons like I described here, homework is another thing we have to juggle, another deadline to meet, another expectation to fill. I find the continuous grind takes a little joy out of the freedom to do some of the things I see add a lot of value to family life, like the children coming home, chatting, eating, running outside to play for hours, helping with dinner and that sort of thing.  I can hear words that say, “Can’t you still do that?” It’s not about the time, but about the impending job of homework affecting the tone of family life, and I’ve noticed this especially with my kids with learning challenges.

It was interesting to see that I’m not alone in struggling to juggle homework, with a whopping 72% of people indicating the desire to limit homework to a minimum.

Homework Box

There are certain things I do to aid the homework effort. One is to have a dedicated homework box with staples the kids need. The kids can grab the box and sit at the kitchen table.   It’s essentially a box with stuff thrown in it; not beautifully sectioned or pretty by any stretch, but it does the trick. Having things readily available makes doing homework easier.

This is what I have in it:

  • Lead pencils
  • Scissors
  • Colouring pencils
  • Paper glue
  • Tape
  • Erasers
  • Sharpener
  • USB (for Powerpoint Presentation Orals)

Homework BoxSchool Station

The Homework Box is kept in the School Station (which is an Ikea Expedit unit with drawers).

School Station

Hair: All school hair stuff is kept in this box. This includes brushes, hair bands, bobby pins & spray-in conditioner.

Homework Box: The homework box is kept in this drawer.

School Folder: The kids can put their homework folders in this drawer for when we get to it. Only the younger kids use it (the older kids keep their folders in their room).

Keeps: I keep this drawer for special drawings, awards and other things I plan to keep in each child’s respective school memory box. At the end of each year, I sort through the items and glue/add them to the scrapbook/box.  (I plan to do a post about this soon if anyone is interested).

School Paperwork

On top of the School Station I have two trays:

Forms In: Paperwork the kids bring home from school. I also keep any other child-related paperwork here (sports/medical).

Info/To Do: This is a fairly general pile.  For example, I keep information about excursions, sponsor chid letter to reply to, move paperwork from the ‘in box’ to this tray once done, paperwork that is not important but I have to look at again…

School Station

In addition to the writing materials in the Homework Box, I keep a few extra pens for general use in these cute juice bottles I decorated with tape.

Pencils / Pens / Permanent Markers

School Station

Another storage systems that has proven to be hugely handy (but not related to school) is my bits and bobs box.  My daughter made this toolbox at school and I claimed it for the kitchen bench. It looks cute and is great for the odd items that gravitate to the kitchen bench but have nowhere to live: Loose change, keys, my running watch, husband’s wallet, headphones, charger chords etc.

School Station

I would like to say these systems keep me organised and on top of everything, but alas, sometimes they don’t.  However, they certainly do help my effort to keep family life running smoothly.

More

Organising kids for school

Saying NO to micro-managing (what that looks like for me)

Benefits of an after school routine

STAGE 2: Planting Vegetables into the Garden

Be A Fun Mum gardening expert, Renee from About the Garden, is sharing how to prepare and plant your vege garden.

STAGE 2: Planting your Vegetables Seedlings into the garden

Planting your Vegetables Seedlings into the garden

Planting your vegetable seedlings into the garden is easy if you’ve already completed STAGE 1: Steps for preparing an existing garden for Planting Vegetables.  Once you’re confident your garden soil is prepared, your ready to ‘roc-n’roll’ with planting.

Supplies

Seeds or Seedlings

Garden gloves

Bird Netting

Bamboo or timber stakes

Tools

Garden Trowel

Hammer

STEP 1: Seed or seedlings?

In my experience it’s always best to plant seedlings in the garden over seeds. WHY? Because ants or birds can carry off seeds, but you will have no idea until weeks after it’s happened. It’s horrible disappointing for everyone. Try growing seeds in a seedling tray or toilet rolls first and wait until the seedlings are at a good size before planting them into the garden.

It’s important before you start growing your seeds or planting seedlings that you are planting the correct vegetable or herb for the season. If you’re unsure what you should be planting now in your garden this yearly seasonal growing guide is very useful. Your local garden centre will have good stock of in-season seeds and seedlings for you to choose from.

STEP 2: Planting

Planting is pretty straight forward, especially if you are using biodegradable products like toilet rolls. Simply simply dig a little hole that’s big enough to fit the depth and diameter of the toilet roll and pop the toilet roll into the hole with the seedling right way up. Push soil around the toilet roll to hold in place.

If planting seedling stock from a garden centre, pinch the bottom of the plastic punnet, then gently pick up from the root ball rather then the leaves, as this can cause the little plant stem to break. Place the seedling in your pre-dug hole and gently push the soil back around the plant.

Spacing is really important when you’re planting out seedlings. Whilst they may look small now, some seedlings can grow into spreading plants that can over take the space, shading other plants causing them to die. Tomatoes are an excellent example of a vegetable seedling that requires substantial space. Spacing requirements for seeds and seedlings can be found on the packaging.

Planting your Vegetables Seedlings into the garden

STEP 3: Watering

It’s always a good idea to give your plants a good drink of water immediately after planting; this helps them settle in and reduces ‘plant shock’. I tend to hand water my newly planted seedlings, adding a little SeaMax™ Fish & Kelp to the watering can. This organic product is just amazing, it is a little smelly, but fantastic in helping little seedlings settle into their new home in the garden.

HOT TIP: As I’m generally a time poor gardener, I came up with this great idea of laying drip hose around my vegetable garden BEFORE mulching. This means during the week I can plug my water hose to the drip hose and give my vegetable garden a good slow drink over a length of time. I won’t lie, this small investment saves me so much time and to make sure I don’t forget to turn the tap off, I set the alarm clock on my phone.  The secret to making this work is to ensure that every seedling is close to a section of drip hose and when turned on, the hose is only ‘dripping’, not spraying water everywhere.

Planting your Vegetables Seedlings into the garden

STEP 4: Mulching

After I’ve water the seedlings and set up my drip hose, I spread a thick layer of sugar cane mulch around the garden, being careful not to cover the seedlings. You want your mulch to be approximately 4cm thick, as mulch acts as an excellent insulator for the hot sun, keeping the moisture in the soil. As an insulator, mulch also protects the seedling root systems from over heating during the hotter months.

DO NOT skimp on mulch, it really does make a massive difference to your gardening success.

Step 5: Protecting Your Baby Seedlings

It’s true, I get quite protective of my baby seedlings and nothing annoys me more then walking out to find my dogs digging them all up!

After the first few baby looses, I learnt that I needed to cover the seedlings until they had grown. It turned out; my dogs weren’t interested in the seedlings themselves, but all the ‘stinky stuff’ I’d put into the garden to make my babies grow. Frustrating. So now I hammer several timber stakes into the ground and throw a simple bird netting over the top. The bottom of the netting is secured with a few well placed bricks.

HOT TIP: Remember to remove the bird netting as seedlings grow, tomato and beans for instance will attach and grow through the netting. It’s incredible difficult to remove these plants from the netting without damaging them or the net, so just pull it aside as they grow, that way the net can be re-used in the future.

Planting your Vegetables Seedlings into the garden

This formula for planting a vegetable garden has really taken my success rate through the roof. Just to re-cap, my three key processes for success, that you shouldn’t skimp on are:

  1. Compost
  2. Drip hose system
  3. Mulch.

With these three key items I can generally get away with watering my vegetable garden 1-2 times a week, depending on rain and humidity in South-east Queensland.

Planting your Vegetables Seedlings into the garden

STAGE 1: Preparing an Existing Garden for Planting Vegetables

Be A Fun Mum gardening expert, Renee from About the Garden, is sharing how to prepare and plant your vege garden.

Steps for preparing an existing garden for planting vegetables

Preparing your existing garden for planting vegetables is not as complicated as you may think. All you need is a few supplies, tools and a positive attitude to a little hard work.

The first thing you should know about me is…I’m not the world’s best gardener, I’m a working Mum with two small children, I’m terribly time poor and have on more then one occasion killed a cactus. But over the years I have found a formula for preparing my vegetable gardens that has the best results for the amount of time I can invest into them.

Here are my supplies, tools and steps to getting my gardens ready for planting vegetables.

Supplies

5IN1™ Organic Plant Food

Garden gloves

compost

Tools

Hoe

Garden Fork 

STEP 1: Dig it – Garden Bed Preparation

You need to dig and dig deep into your existing garden. A garden fork should be enough, but if your soil has really compacted down and is hard, you’ll have to pull out the garden hoe, just watch your toes! 

When digging make sure you put garden gloves on, as this is really hard work and you can get blisters. But don’t let the fear of a few blisters stop you from getting started, because the BONUS of digging is CALORIE BURN. Seriously, digging burns a huge amount of calories and I often wear my heart rate monitor to track how I’m going. It’s one way to turn a tedious job into part of my fitness routine.

Steps for preparing an existing garden for Planting Vegetables

STEP 2: Mix it in – Compost

Compost. That stinky stuff all those garden guru’s talk about, really is the corner stone to success. Why? Two primary reasons;

REASON 1: Compost is excellent for water retention, so therefore decreases the frequency of watering. 

REASON 2: Compost adds nutrients back into the soil, giving the vegetables much needed ‘plant food’ to grow healthy & produce harvest.

It is possible to make your own compost using household scrapes, but this process takes months before it becomes suitable for use in the garden. Alternatively you can use a ‘off the shelf’ product and I personally love 5IN1 Organic Plant Food by Searles. Even though I make my own compost, I still add a bag of 5IN1 to my garden before every planting, as I can see the difference it has made to the quality of my soil.

You need to spread the compost around the garden and dig it into the existing soil, the 5IN1™ bag includes a ratio guide on the back that is really helpful if you’re unsure how much product you need. 

REMEMBER: Compost is compost. It is not soil. If you plant your seedlings directly into compost they will die. Why? The compost medium burns the little seedlings roots and sends them into ‘shock’. So always mix your compost with garden soil for happy little plants J

It is always a good idea to give your garden a few days to rest before planting. This gives the compost a few days to break down further.

Then you are ready for vegetable planting! 

Now read STAGE 2: Planing Your Vegetable Seedlings into the Garden

 

How My Bedroom Colour Scheme Helped

bedroom colour theme -- with sheets

I’ve collected a lot of mish-mash of items over the years: new things; hand-me-downs; old things.  My house doesn’t look anything like a magazine. I don’t mind.  Mostly.  However, sometimes, just sometimes, a seed of discontent grows inside me. 

Discontentment is an interesting thing, and I’ve learned to take a moment to analyse it before it grows. Sometimes, all I need to do in this situation is give myself a pep talk and set my expectations straight. Get over it. However, sometimes the unrest growing stems from legitimate reasons; sometimes from real needs and sometimes because of the way I’m made up.

I’m not a materialist person, never have been. But I love beauty. Truly beautiful things: colour, light, shadows, nature, interacting lines, simple good-good design…things that add value to life.   I know myself and how I interact with the world around me.  I know that colours, sound, light, nature: it all impacts on me greatly. It’s part of who I am.  

I’ve lived in many places, and some suited me better than others.  There’s no point waiting for a perfect situation to come upon me. No.  Neither have I found it helpful to continually squash myself — my God-given beauty — under the banner of should-be-gratefullness. Should be. Should be. Should be. It’s about seeking to balance reality with expectation; it’s about acceptance while still investing in things that help me shine; it’s about being an overcomer.  

So I see value in acknowledging how I feel (without wallowing and becoming a serial whinged).  When I recognise a seed of discontentment growing inside me about my situation, I go through a process.

  1. Acknowledge reality

  2. Look at what do I have

  3. Observe inspiration as I live life

  4. Make the best of it. Create something!

  5. Be grateful and enjoy

The Bedroom

Using my bedroom as an example. I see my bedroom as a refuge. Sometimes I sneak in there of an afternoon and curl up on the bed, looking for a few moments of quiet. Even just 1 minute.

Reality: the colour theme of the bedroom is not my favourite.  And when you add the 13 year old bed frame, a coverlet found on a clearance sale a few years ago and an antique commode chair from my grandparents, well, it’s a bit of a mess.

Inspiration

Then, I took a moment and looked at my bedroom objectively.  I saw the colours brown, maroon, yellow and blue.

Then, I flicked through photographs of special places I’ve visited, and I found one of Spring Bluff Station near Toowoomba, which is one of my favourite places.  It reminded me of the colours in the bedroom. All the room needed was just one more colour to tie it together.  Green.  Dark green.  And so I got dark green sheets that reminded me of gum trees.

… the inspiration

spring bluff inspiration

Warm and Earthy

I love it! It’s warm and earthy.  I now walk into my bedroom and I think of a burnt red cabin surrounded by gum tree woods, with a blue sky backdrop and the sun shinning all around.

…can you see it, as I see it?

my bedroom

…tinted coffee jar I featured also in this post

my bedroom

…see that teddy bear? Had it since I was 3, when I had a hernia operation. My favourite toy.

my bedroom

I sometimes leave out the ECCO shoes I wore on the World’s Longest Catwalk because they go with the bedroom. Nothing wrong with using shoes as decoration when they are not on your feet!

I make a point of enjoying the room now — it’s not only a refuge, it makes me happy. Joyful!

Discontentment isn’t helpful or good.  When it happens I either throw a tonne of gratefulness at it or use it as a catalyst to overcome by creating and relishing in beauty…even if it’s only beauty I can see. Because if I can see it, then others will feel it. Give.

Lego Play & Storage: Brikbag Review

Review Post (see definitions here)

All my children are into Lego, mostly fuelled by my son’s obsession with the stuff. I get it. I too was a Lego lover, and spent many hours on Sunday afternoons with my big sister building and playing.  We used a sheet to play on so pack up was easy.

I recently came across the Brikbag which works on the similar principal to the sheet my sister and I used when were children.  It’s a great product to aid play (Lego or other toy play). In a nutshell, the Brikbag is a play mat that closes into a bag…or a bag that opens into a mat (whichever way you want to look at it!).  

Brikbag Review

Material

The Brikbag is made from durable 100% cotton with chord strings for closure. It comes in a variety of trimmed denim colours and two denim prints. Featured below is the bag in the Yellow Busy City Print.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review - Material

Sturdy material on the back side.

140cm diameter 100% durable cotton Blue denim  - yellow trim - yellow pull cord Yellow Busy City Print on exterior of bag Cold machine wash Packaged in a re-usable, calico, drawstring bag.

Key Features

  • 140cm diameter
  • 100% durable cotton
  • Pull cord
  • Cold machine wash

Brikbag Review

Function

The mat is 140cm wide, which is an ideal size for many rooms. It’s big enough for a child to sit on but not too big so the bag becomes too-bulky for storage.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

There area two pull draw strings which aid in closure. You do need to pull firmly to close the bag.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

The draw strings pull to create a bag.  Due to the thickness of the material, there is an opening in the top once pulled to capacity. 

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

It’s easy to carry upright, but if transporting, I would either put it in a box or wind the long draw strings around the top section of the bag to avoid spillage.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

The bag (with the Lego still inside) fits perfectly into our 8 Brick Yellow Lego Storage Container.  We also have smaller 4 Brick Lego Storage containers for other  Lego.  For larger Lego collections, a crete toy box or tuff tub would work well.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Play

I’ve been watching the kids play with the mat, and it does aid their play.  It helps them find pieces they need to find (without spreading Lego all over the floor) and it makes pack up easier.  All the Lego doesn’t stay on the mat (of course!) but the majority does and when packing up, the kids throw any stay Lego pieces back on the mat or in one of the storage bricks.  

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

This is what the playroom looks like after a couple of hours of Lego play.

Brikbag review

Lego Storage

In a recent post I wrote about sorting and storing toys, I discussed the potential need to look at our how we store Lego in the next couple of years (as our collection grows).  For now, we use Lego Storage Bricks (which look really cool) and the Brikbag fits nicely into the bottom yellow brick so it all looks neat when packed up. Half the Lego stays in the Brikbag (whatever pile the kids are using), and they use the Lego in the smaller bricks on the mat as needed.  The Lego sorter head is a bit of a fail (it looks good but I don’t find the kids use it much) — we keep it though because it looks so funky in the playroom.

All in all, our Lego storage systems are working well at the moment.  In the next couple of years, I will probably move to a draw system as our Lego collection surely increases.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Pros & Cons

Below are some pros and cons I jotted down about the Brikbag:

Pros

  • Good size for play and storage
  • Machine washable (love that)
  • Portable
  • 100% Durable Cotton
  • Makes packing up easier
  • Price – reasonable price: $44.95 (plain) $54.95 (print) 
  • Print designed in Melbourne by graphic artist Rogue Planet (supporting Aussie talent)

Cons

  • Bag doesn’t entirely close up (not necessarily an issue but good to know for storage and travel)
  • Would be great to see some more colour/pattern variety in the future
  • Can only hold so much Lego effectively (i.e. Not a storage solution for large Lego collections. Still great as a play aid in this case).

Available at Brikbag.com.au or check out the stocklists.

More Reviews

Bento Laptop Lunch Box

Contigo Drink Bottles

Lottie Dolls

Thermomix Review

Disclaimer: The Brikbag was sent to me for an honest review. All views are my own.

Sorting and Organising Toys

Sorting & Organising Toys

I sort and reorganise the children’s toys about twice a year, usually after Christmas, and then half way through the year. I’ve just re-done it this last weekend before school goes back for the new term. Below is the step-by-step process I go through:

1. Pull Everything Out

When I’m in the process going through the toys, I remind myself that it gets (much) worse before it gets better. I’m ruthless and pull EVERYTHING out.

organising toys

2. Sort                  

After pulling the toys out, I sort them into groups and the kids help me with this.  I always feel grateful that my children have so many toy options to play with when I see how many toys they have. There are particular toy items that I have found to be a winner for play and I’ve mentioned some of those things here: Products I Rave About.

Featured below is most of the toys in our house, besides stuffed toys which are kept in the bedrooms.

organising toys

3. Store/Give

  • Prioritise toys most played with.
  • Give away items the children don’t need or use.
  • Store some toys and rotate to keep things fresh. I stored toys (like the Little People toys) in a box on wheels in the garage.

4. Solve

I use the opportunity when sorting toys to reassess the play space to see if there are better ways to do things.  Last year I did a playroom project with Howards Storage because our systems weren’t working very well and the new system (with the drawers) is fabulous.   After sorting the toys, the kids and I put them back into the respective drawers and this is what it looks like:

playroom makeover

Toy Station

The toys are stored in general category drawers. I find this helps children find what they are looking for and it helps with packing up too. For example, we keep the play dolls in one, the doll clothes in another; the match box cars and other vehicles, plastic figurines, wooden blocks all in separate drawers.  These particular drawers are part of the elfa system.

elfa storage system -- organising toys

elfa storage system -- organising toys

Artwork

The children produce a lot of artwork, and the fridge isn’t big enough!  I think this is my favourite part of the room, because I love seeing the children’s masterpieces on the walls.  To hang the artwork, I used three Command Hooks and skirt hangers so I can display and change artwork as the children do it and it gives this space a special and varied feel. There are heaps more ideas how to store children’s artwork here.

organising toys -- artwork

displaying children artwork

_DSC0353

Drawing                                       

My children draw most days, and I keep the drawing supplies readily available in a mini bucket turntable. When the kids want to draw, they can grab a bucket, find a comfortable place, and go for it.  Other craft supplies are stored on the bench top in navy & red striped totes.

organising toys

art caddy -- organising toys

Lego

The Lego is kept in Lego storage bricks at the moment (they look really cute and add that splash of colour to the play room).  It’s working for now, but as our Lego collection grows (and grow it does) I will most probably move to a dedicated colour-coded drawers

organising toys -- legoPlay

I find the kids play with new vigour after we reorganise the toys and I enjoy watching and listening to their play.

Organising Toys

More Inspiration

Here are some pictures and links that may help.

Emma’s Toys

Emma uses the Ikea Expedit cupboard to store toys. Read my interview with Emma here: City to Country.

organising children's toys

Rachel’s Toys

Rachel did a beautiful home renovation and below is a picture of her daughter’s room. Read the interview I did with Rachel here: A Room for Everyone.

organising children's toys

Pilgrim’s Toys

I love Pilgrim’s use of colour in her home. It’s just gorgeous! Read the interview I did with Pilgrim here: Home — Bold and Bright.

organising children's toys

Sharron’s Toys

Sharron has a knack of mixing vintage and new items in her home.  I especially love the way she stores the cars. Read my interview with Sharron here.

organising toys

Nicole’s Toys

Read more about how Nicole (Planning With Kids) organises her children’s toys here: Organising Toys.

Organizing Toys

Pinterest Organising Toys Board

If you need more inspiration I have a wonderful collection of pictures and links on my Pinterest Organising Toys Board. Just click here: Organising Toys. And you can repin this particular post here.

pinterest organising toys / organizing toys

 

How do you organise toys in your home?

This is the view from my kitchen. It makes me happy and I enjoy having the children play so close to the central hub of the house.

playroom makeover

More

10 Tips for Organising Toys