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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Feature Homes

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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Feature Homes

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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Feature Homes

A Boot Doll House

House in a shoe - gorgeous doll house

How absolutely gorgeous is this Boot Doll House!  Marina (aka Vintage Jane) who lives in England shared this gorgeous project on her blog, and I contacted her because I fell in love with it and wanted to share with you all!

This boot house was made for special little boy.  

“He wanted a boy’s house.  And so, just before Christmas, Grandma (the Interior Designer) and Grandpa (the Builder) built and decorated a very special house and on Christmas day the little boy received this.”

The story is lovely and you can read it here. And you can see a little more of the process of a Boot House being made here.

A Boot Doll House

These pictures show some of the incredible detail gone into this beautiful creation. It makes me want to see it in person.

Top Floors

House in a shoe - gorgeous doll house - top floors

Kitchen

House in a shoe - gorgeous doll house - kitchen

Bathroom

House in a shoe - gorgeous doll house - bathroom

Front Steps

House in a shoe - gorgeous doll house - front steps

Workshop

House in a shoe - gorgeous doll house - workshop

Bottom Floor

House in a shoe - gorgeous doll house - bottom floor

Check out more pics at Vintage Jane.

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Feature Homes

Cubby Under the Stairs

Under stairs cubby house - convert the space into a cosy area for kids to play

I love hearing about how families create dedicated areas for play. Jess sent me this picture of a cubby she created under the stairs for her two daughters, aged 3 and 2 years old.  If you have an under stairs storage area, Jess shares tips on how she converted this area into a special space for her kids to play.

Cubby Under the Stairs

Step 1: Clean Out

Find a new home for all the hings we stored under there: living in a townhouse the under stairs area was sacred space but with a new storage area in our garage, we were able to make room.

Step 2: Remove Door/Add Curtain

Remove door and hang little hooks and a wired a wired line for the curtains.  Thanks to Spotlight and my mother-in-law for sewing curtain hems! (Originally I just tied ribbons on the curtains to pull them to sides but ended up sewing them on as my girls loved the privacy of having the curtains shut and loosing the ribbons!).

Step 3: Decorate

I put disney princess posters on the walls (but wallpaper is a great idea). After the initial surprise reveal for my daughter’s birthday, I had her help decorate inside with fairy lights that we put up inside using command hooks.

Step 4: Add toys

The girls helped decide what things should go in there and they frequently change it around or take extra things in. Mostly inside, there’s a little oven/stove, tea party set and baby cot or dolls house.

Step 5: Winter

In Winter I put down foam squares as we have floor boards and it was a bit cold.  Large floor cushions would work well too!

It is the girls little haven and in return I get some time for motherly duties while they happily play.

Under stairs cubby

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Feature Homes

Funky Tape Floors

tape floors

I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney yesterday with Chelsea from Moments A Day.  My favourite exhibit was Jim Lambie’s Zopob Room lined with coloured vinyl tape. I snapped a few pics with my iPhone. How fun would it be for a play room?! 

Realistically, I wondered how it would hold up with wear. It appeared the tape was covered in varnish and the finish was gorgeous!

This room reminded me of the ways I use tape to decorate around the house (two ideas below) and how when we think a little differently, there is an ability to achieve amazing and cool things.

Stationery Corner

A cute colour themed area by gathering items around the house and giving it a fresh look. You can find the tutorial here: Tape Book Cover

Decorate with tape

Juice Bottle Vases

Put a posy of flowers in to brighten a room or use to store items like pencils or paperclips. Tutorial here: Juice Bottle Vase

Tape Juice Bottle Vase

Artist: Jim Lambie

Born 1964, Glasgow, Scotland, Lives and works in Glasgow

Zopob 2014

Materials: Vinyl Tape, Varnish

“Jim Lambie’s Zobop works involve completely covering gallery floors in huge expanses of monochromatic or widely coloured vinyl tape, that gives the impression of multilayered movement, even pulsation. The result is memorising, uplifting and at times vertiginous, as his optical wonderland challenges our propriceptive process.” — Museum of Contemporary Art

More Jim Lambie Spaces

Stripes & Shapes

Jim Lambie - ZPBOP - Vinyl Tape Floors -  National Galleries

Image: NationalGalleries.org

Stairs

Jim Lambie Vinyl Stairs

Image

Black & White

Black and White Floors - Jim Lambie

Image

Gold

ZOBOP Gold - Jim Lambie

Gold ZOBOP

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9 Tips for Visiting an Art Gallery with Kids

Feature Home: A Wall Bookcase

before and after -- lounge room make over

It’s one of those places where you walk in the door and feel instantly relaxed. The house radiates such warmth and grace!

Josh and Bonnie have been renovating their riverfront 1930 Queensland workers cottage — slowly — during the last 10 years.  A few years ago, I featured their completed country-retro kitchen, and now I want to share with you a new space in this wonderful home: the lounge room complete with a floor-to-ceiling wall bookcase (which I am gleefully hanging off here).

How long have you planned this space?

Bonnie: I’ve wanted a floor to ceiling bookcase for a decade!

Josh: We had the colours pretty much picked out, and the vision, when we first bought the house 10 years ago.

amazing lounge room / family room

How does that feel: to see it finished?

Josh: Relieved! I finally did it!

Bonnie: I love my lounge room. I love my lounge room. I just keep saying it because I love my lounge room.

amazing library

amazing wall bookcase -- with ladder

How has this room added value to family life?

Josh: It’s a place to retreat as a family. To relax and read without the television.

Bonnie: We have designated family time here now.

lounge room

lounge room -- bookcase

Have you put things in place to retain that sense of value for the room?

Josh: We made it a rule that this is a quiet room.  We call it the adult room so it’s special for the kids to be here.  We made a space for the kids where they can romp and play; this room is not for that. And the room isn’t a walk through area so it keeps this space for its purpose.

How did you work out the design?

Josh: I trawled through Google images and started to draw out what I liked. Then I just started.

lounge room design

Are you happy with the way it came out?

Josh: Very. It’s come out perfectly.

Bonnie, Why do you love books?

Bonnie: I’ve loved books since I can remember; probably from my own mother as she used to read to us [my sister’s and I] as children.  I developed my own love for books at the age of eight after I read The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton.

Since then, I’ve read a wide variety of genres; I belong to a book club which helps me read books that I would not usually pick.  I am particularly fond of old English literature from authors such as the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Jeffrey Farnol

The enchanted wood by enid blyton

How do you foster a love for book in your children?

reading with kids -- library

When my children were small, I had a lot of books in different areas around the house.  Now they are older, in some instances I ask my kids to read a book before I will allow them to watch the respective movie.  So for example, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, The Lightning Thief, Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice.

My eldest daughter (14) loves reading.

My son (13) only really likes non-fiction, especially if it’s about reptiles; I can’t get him interested in novels at the moment.

My youngest child — she’s 10 — she loves non-fiction too, but together we are reading more fiction, a chapter at a time. Right now we are reading Mr Galliano’s Circus by Enid Blyton.

mr galliano's circus enid blyton

reading chair - library

Do you have a system to keep track your books?

I use the My Library iPhone app to catalog and keep track of the books I have.  EVERY library should have a copy of War and Peace by Leo Tolstory!

War and Peace by Leo Tolstory

home library

What sort of style were you going for in this room?

Bonnie: Eclectic.

Josh: But we are not quite finished yet. There is still a little more to do in here.

family lounge room

lounge room -- eclectic style

_DSC0950-001

_DSC0975-001

_DSC0977

_DSC1006-001

Where did you get that amazing chair from?!

Bonnie: From Far Pavilions.

Josh: I made the foot stool to go with it.  We decided a dark wall with white trimmings would make the accessories like the chair stand out.

patchwork chair

amazing floor to ceiling library -- library ladder

What did you want to achieve with this room?

Josh: We wanted a cozy room to be quiet in, and for chatting with friends. So often the television is the center of a family room and furniture is placed facing the tv. We didn’t want that for this space; we wanted the chairs facing together.

amazing home lounge room design

amazing home lounge room design

amazing lounge room / family room

And has that been achieved?

Josh: Yes.

Bonnie: Yes. It’s: exactly.

wall bookcase

“It’s: exactly.” Bonnie said it just like that. It wasn’t “It’s exactly…” or even “It is exactly.”  But, “It’s: exactly.”  As I sat in this splendid room the answer to my last question made perfect, perfect sense.

More Feature Homes

More inspirational feature homes, from an Aussie family who moved to Italy, to living on a Christmas Tree Farm: Feature Homes.

Moving to Italy

Things that matter and following your heart is what stands out to me in this interview with Lisa from Renovating Italy.

Just a bit of background for you.

Meet Sam and Lisa.

Lisa is an Aussie who grew up in Melbourne.

Salvatore (who everyone calls Sam) also grew up in Melbourne to Italian parents.

They met while studying photography.

After spending 2 years renovating a house in Italy, Sam and Lisa knew Italy was in their heart.  They are now heading back  to Italy to renovate a beautiful home, creating a simple life full of friends, good food and simple joys with their children Carina and Luca.

Snippets of the Family in Italy

renovating in italy family pics

Lisa, you travelled extensively in your 20’s. What was it about Italy that captured you?

I felt like I had come home, there was a connection on such a deep level. Each moment spent wandering through ancient towns, seeing the works of art that inspired me since I was a teen, was a gift. In Italy, I felt free, at ease, as if I had lived there my whole life. What captured me so…the flavour, texture, passion, riot of colour, the absolute feeling of being alive every moment, and of course the people.

“In Italy, I felt free, at ease, as if I had lived there my whole life.”

Your first renovation in Italy was in Gambasca. Do you have before and after pictures of the renovation?

before and after Gambasca renovating in italy

Where did you live while doing this renovation?

The house in Gambasca had at one stage been a working farm owned by one family. Sections of it were liveable and we had two rooms in total that we used for over 8 months while the renovations were under way. The lower floor was used for animals and the upper story for storing feed and one room for smoking chestnuts to use as flour.

So we had our two children, Carina then 3 and Luca then 1, sleeping in with us.  The other room functioned as kitchen, playroom, laundry, bathroom (we heated water on the stove and washed the kids in the sink). Sam and I took showers in the campervan.  I still wonder how we did it.

We knew we had to get the building sealed quickly as Winter was approaching and the entire porch area was open to the elements. We had dirt floors upstairs, no windows, and no idea what we were in for! You can read more about it here: Our First Letter Home.

Have you utilised the flexibility of living in a campervan to travel around Italy and beyond?

campervan around italyFunny you should ask, we took my in-laws for three months through Europe and Italy in our 6 berth campervan. We were able to see the most beautiful out of the way places, stopped at the top of the alps overnight, woke up overlooking the ocean at Portofino, slept in a tiny village square in France, got robbed in Barcelona (they took all our clothes and got the camera). Travelling in the camper gave us such freedom: we could stop where ever the whim took us.

When we were sick of the renovations we could load up the van and be in France in a few hours, after living in Australia the ability to travel through entire countries in a few days is incredible.

Portofino

portofino Italy

France

france

Colourful Streets in France

colourful streets in france

“After living in Australia the ability to travel through entire countries in a few days is incredible.”

What do you miss most about Australia when you’re overseas?

Of course my family and friends; I missed them the entire time. I miss being able to join in a conversation, never getting the joke; my Italian was limited although I understood more than I spoke.  I miss having the kids start school and not being able to talk with the other Mums or teachers. Being able to drive, having my independence as Sam did all the driving and we went everywhere as a family. I miss the sound of Magpies carolling, shopping centres, junk food, libraries, op shops and garage sales…silly things I just took for granted in Australia.

You have purchased a new place to renovate in Veravo, Liguria.  Do you plan to move to Italy and live there with your family permanently?

Yes, the plan is to move permanently.  We finished renovating the house, where we are currently living in Brisbane, and have it up for sale. We also have a renovation of an old house in Scarborough, which is split into 4 units to complete which we’ll keep as a nest egg.

I can’t wait to board that plane for Italy, and relax for a little bit until we start all over again.

The View at Our New Place In Liguria

the view Veravo, Liguria, italy

Overlooking Tiled Roofs to Majestic Mountains

the view Veravo, Liguria, italy -- renovating in italy

The Path To Our Place

Veravo, Liguria, italy renovation

The house in Liguria is not liveable so we will be living in a campervan while we renovate.  It is a 10 minute walk into the house from where we can leave the van so that will get us all fit as it’s mostly up hill! The good thing is that the kids are older now 10 and 8 so they can walk! The locals used donkeys to get furniture and provisions into the houses in the past, which our daughter thinks is just wonderful (yep she wants a donkey!).

What are your tips for living a simpler life, and how does living in Italy reflect that?

For us, life has been this way for about twelve years: renovating then moving, and doing it all over again so we have very little clutter. Also knowing we are moving overseas tends to stop me buying things we don’t really need. Marrying into an Italian family has shown me that life doesn’t need to be complicated. Slow food, great friends, and a simple life are the essence of living in Italy.

“Slow food, great friends, and a simple life are the essence of living in Italy.”

How do you balance treasuring memories, that are often attached to material things, and living a simple life without clutter?

I am extremely sentimental; I am such a hoarder of memories. The thing I’ve learned is that I can let go, that holding on to ‘things’ is not the same as holding a person. We lost our first little boy Aaron, and he would be 12 this year. Over time I have given up many treasures of his childhood. I’ve learned to see that things are just that: things.  The memories are attached by me, so I slowly remove the material memories like the bassinet, the clothes, the toys, and keep only the most precious things, like a lock of hair, hand prints, his blanket. Each of our children have one box of treasures from  years past, they are filled to the brim with concentrated memories and love.  Our children don’t have rooms full of toys, and when they outgrow something we pass it on to someone else. We really don’t need much to be happy, as you soon find out when living in a campervan for any length of time.

I photograph the children’s art works and school things, the only thing I can’t do without are my books. Many of them will come to Italy with us. I am stockpiling novels to read, and have a growing library for the kids as well. So we travel light, do without, and create our own memories without needing souvenirs to hold them.

“We really don’t need much to be happy. We travel light, do without, and create our own memories without needing souvenirs to hold them.”

aussie family moving to italy

In 5 years, what will your family life look like?

In five years I think we will be one with the rhythm of Italy. Life moves at a totally different pace, I would love to continue writing (perhaps publish a book). Our children will be teens, and working out their own place in the world. I think the biggest effect will be on my husband, all the pressures of life will slowly lose their grip and he will get to just enjoy life day to day.  Friends will come to visit, and we’ll be able to get back to Australia.

My goal at the moment is to build my blog, Renovating Italy, into a resource for those wanting to follow a dream. I love blogging and the freedom it gives to work anywhere in the world doing what I love. I never thought when I started it would come to this.

lisa renovating italy

Follow Lisa and Her Family

Renovating Italty Blog

Renovating Italy on Facebook

More Inspiring Families

A Trip to Lesotho, Africa

Living in a Bus

6 Month Holiday in Bali

Living on a Christmas Tree Farm

A Sea Change

A Room for Everyone

Feature Home: Freedom – Living in a Bus

The lovely Georgia from Documenting Delight agreed to visit the blog to tell me all about living in a bus!  I stumbled upon Georgia’s blog and was immediately enchanted by the captivating photographs and the spirit behind the words. I’m so glad to have you here Georgia; thank you for sharing your story with me.

Freedom – Living in a Bus

Living in a bus

“We  were able to really cement what was important to us and grow our confidence as parents together without pressures of rent and work.”

So Georgia, first things first: Where on earth did you find a bus?

Once we decided we wanted to live in a bus, finding one wasn’t that hard. It’s actually amazing to me how many already converted buses are out there.  I’d never noticed one before we started looking – now I see them all the time!

Next thing: How did you make it livable?

Well, my husband isn’t the handiest of men, so we knew right away we wanted something already done. Our bus came to us newly fitted out by a kind soul from Kingaroy. He did it all himself and it was, by far, the loveliest of all the fit outs we saw. It felt like a tiny cute apartment on wheels.

While researching we did come across lots of people who completed a fit out themselves and I admit, I wish we were that handy.

I think the things that made our bus so livable were storage (the gentleman who built it stuck cupboards in every free space) & aesthetics – he paid attention to detail with nice wooden bench tops and clean white tiles in the bathroom. Some of the other buses we looked at had a tap and a porta loo and that was the bathroom, I don’t think I could have lived feeling like it wasn’t a home.

Living in a bus -- bedroom

living in a bus -- kitchen

living in a bus -- living area

“I think all the ‘stuff’ we own these days weighs us down subconsciously.”

Now some fun questions:  Why was living in a bus a dream for you?

We wanted to live freely; we didn’t like the idea of paying out rent every week but we also didn’t want a mortgage. We realised with just one small baby, we actually didn’t need much space.

“We spent so much time outdoors.”

What is the secret of living simply?

Gratefulness for what you have.

Did you find that you utilised outdoor living more as a result from living in the bus?

Absolutely. We spent so much time outdoors. All our little girl’s first year of photos are outside. My husband would wake every morning with her and take her a long walk outdoors. She took her first steps through long grass.

living in a bus

“Gratefulness for what you have.”

What was the best and worst thing about living in a bus?

Well, it was the size and the…size. Living small has its advantages: I felt very in charge of everything we owned. I think all the ‘stuff’ we own these days weighs us down subconsciously and I remember feeling very free. The space was sometimes frustrating with a toddler who wanted to walk and a baby on the way.

Video tour of inside the bus

“We would live in a bus again in a heartbeat.”

How long did you live in your bus and what did you learn personally, as a couple, and a family during this time?

We lived in our bus for over 12 months. Making the choice to live simply that first year of parenthood (we moved into our bus with a 2 week old baby) meant that my husband was free to only work casually (only two shifts a week). This gave us our first year as a family to simply enjoy each other. We  were able to really cement what was important to us and grow our confidence as parents together without pressures of rent and work. We would live in a bus again in a heartbeat.

living in a bus -- outside

“We wanted to live freely.”

Do you have a question or comment for Georgia? Leave it in the comments below.

Georgia is a photographer & filmmaker who is busy documenting delight at Gregarious Peach.com. Read more about Georgia and her family on her blog; click the picture below.

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Feature Home: Living on a Christmas Tree Farm

killiecrankie farm -- live Christmas Trees

It must be magical (and busy) this time of year on a real Christmas Tree farm. To find out more, I’m thrilled to welcome Lee to the blog. Lee, her husband and 2 children live in Tasmania, where they run the Killiecrankie Christmas Tree Farm. One thing that strikes me about Lee, is the contagious connection she exhibits between living, loving and working. It’s inspiring!

1. What made you take the leap to move from the city to farm living in Tasmania?

My future husband moved down initially for work, when I found a job in Tasmania also, we finally lived in the same place for the first time in years.   We weren’t going to stay. Just work, then go off on our Cycle Tour of The World.

We did the cycle tour and realised we really couldn’t live in a city again. We loved the pace of life down in Tassie enough to want to make the move permanent.

Since then, we have added to Tasmania’s population with my parents, sister and brother-in-law and three kids of our own.

Sunrise at Killiecrankie Farm

killiecrankie farm -- around the farm  -- live christmas trees tasmania

Frosty morning at Killiecrankie Farm

killiecrankie farm -- around the farm -- live christmas trees tasmania

“The kids are very food orientated when relating about the farm!”

2. What do your kids love most about living on a small farm?

I think it’s the 15 square metres of raspberries, followed by dippie eggs from our chooks – the kids are very food orientated when relating about the farm!

Kids at Killiecrankie Farm

killiecrankie farm -- around the farm -- live Christmas trees Tasmania

3. What do you love most about Christmas?

Everything!

Having everyone home, high Summer, presents, eating outdoors, ham leftovers, the build up to Christmas Day, school holidays, carols by candlelight, wrapping parcels, making gifts, cooking traditional foods you get only get once a year…yeh, I like Christmas.

Aussie Christmas Wreath at Killiecrankie Farm

killiecrankie farm aussie christmas wreath

4. Do you have a favourite Christmas Recipe?

Yes, my Mum’s Rum Balls – fruit soaked for a good six months!

(With the added advantage of licking out the tin of condensed milk)

Check out Lee’s blog for wonderful recipes like these:

“At the farm there is an ageless joy emitted from people choosing their own tree. Its contagious. And there’s a  link with traditions new and old that shines from peoples faces.”

5. Why do you love live Christmas Trees, and how long do they last for?

I couldn’t imagine not having a real Christmas Tree. We had them as kids, the scruffy rangly ones you bought at the markets sold as fund raisers for the Scouts. But the smell of the pine is wonderful, and it’s all part of that sense of Christmas.

At the farm there is an ageless joy emitted from people choosing their own tree. Its contagious. And there’s a  link with traditions new and old that shines from peoples faces.

Our trees last about six weeks.  The whole key is to cut the tree fresh and then put it straight into water. I think people have had bad experiences with live trees because they die prematurely due to prolonged periods standing on sidewalks without water. I tend to liken a live Christmas Tree to a big bunch of flowers: if you don’t provide water, maybe re-cut the stems, they don’t last long.

Real Christmas Tree at Killiecrankie Farm

killiecrankie farm -- live christmas trees

“Don’t feel sustainability has to be an all or nothing activity. Start with simple lifestyle or eating changes.”


6. What are your top 3 tips for sustainable living?

1. Grow something — anything, to eat. In a pot, in a yogurt container, a vegie patch even. Be it herbs, a bit of lettuce, it all contributes to a better quality of life and appreciation for the seasons and the process of producing food.

2. Don’t feel sustainability has to be an all or nothing activity. Start with simple lifestyle or eating changes.

3. Buy local produce – food miles are a crazy business!

Gardening at Killiecrankie Farm

killiecrankie farm -- in the garden -- sustainability

“Go with what moves you to the Spirit of Christmas, be its smartly kitted out in vintage or a frenetic flurry of colour.”

7. What are some Christmas Tree decoration ideas (including handmade)

I’m an eclectic tree decorator. I’d be a terrible tree styler, as I couldn’t stick with a colour range or style type. People expect to see stunning tree decorating at our place, but they are more likely to find a red crochet heart next to a purple glitter ball the kids made. I suggest go with what moves you to the Spirit of Christmas, be its smartly kitted out in vintage or a frenetic flurry of colour.

Handmade decorations at Killiecrankie Farm

killiecrankie farm -- handmade decorations

For handmade – anything made with paper !

People are so clever with papercrafts, it’s really such a traditional skill that continues to reinvent itself into more beautiful and amazing things. Scherenschnitte, collage, encaustic, origami, letterpresssing, card making  – you can almost guarantee to find a paper, equipment or style to suite any budget and always gain a beautiful handmade piece of art.

Plus paper is sustainable and biodegradable so its like the low fat of Christmas decorations. When you are sick of them they won’t contribute to landfill, but go happily on to recycling.

These Peace Dove decorations looks so pretty on the tree!

Click the picture for the template

Christmas craft -- Christmas Peace Dove Decoration

More

I LOVE Lee’s blog.  It’s so inspiring and gives you an insight into everyday family life at the Killiecrankie Farm. Click here to visit.

Killiecrankie Farm Website

Killiecrankie on Facebook

Be A Fun Mum Links

Handmade Tree Decorations

When do you put up the Christmas Tree

Putting the Christmas Tree Down

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Feature Home: Second Hand Decorating for the Home

I have  just met Ruth Dean and I already like her.  Ruth runs a B & B on a river in Tasmania and is featured in the gorgeously happy September issue of Country Style Magazine. She’s a chef, mum of three and second hand shopping expert!  I’m chatting to Ruth today about the secrets to second hand decorating in the home and what it’s like to run a B & B. Ruth, your B & B is officially on my to-visit list.

What are some of the values you’ve brought to your life in Tasmania, and how you aim to raise your children?

The move to Tasmania was a major decision in our life. My ex husband made the decision as he always loved Tasmania.  We made the decision as we felt the children could experience a different lifestyle. We could afford to have an acre of land in a very special spot, lots of space and live in a small community. I wanted my children to realise there is more to life than shopping centers, fast life and a materialistic lifestyle. To answer your question about what values are important to me, below are the main ones:

  • To instill in my children to respect, care and support family and friends.
  • To realise how lucky we are to have each other, a roof over our heads and our health.
  • The importance of looking after our world.
  • To laugh and enjoy the small things in life.

{space for a vege garden}

River Cottage B & B Tasmania -- Vegetable garden

“I wanted my children to realise there is more to life than shopping centers, fast life and a materialistic lifestyle.”

What are your tips for organising your home so family life is functional but fun?

I do think the feel of the space is important. The children are lucky enough to have their own bedrooms so we keep toys in their room and when they want to play in the living room, they can, but we pack it up after. Most things have a home, and I do try to reduce clutter as much as possible. The children help out a lot with jobs around the home; we call ourselves the Deans team.  When we have finished tidying up, we play a game together. When it comes to cooking, the children have their own night and I get the night off!   They have fun and we get to experiment with some interesting food combinations.

“The children help out a lot with jobs around the home; we call ourselves the Deans team.”

What are some of the benefits of second hand shopping?

The main buzz I get from second hand shopping is when I really find a bargain!  I couldn’t afford to decorate or change a room if I bought new, so expense is a main benefit. And it is exciting to do something up, give it a second life and it looks good!

decorating with second hand pieces

“Laugh and enjoy the small things in life. “

Does shopping on a budget mean you can’t make your home comfortable and special?

I know there is a bit of a stigma to shop second hand but I think your crazy if you don’t! I love it and am very proud of it! I think it makes your home even more special and unique; you don’t have to follow other people’s trends. I think our house is very comfortable.

“[Second hand shopping] makes your home even more special and unique; you don’t have to follow other people’s trends.”

How would best describe your sense of design style?

Eclectic. Buy something because you love it not just because you saw it in the latest mag. If you don’t like something in your house, get creative and give it a coat of paint; add something to it make it fun!

{the kitchen}

second hand decorating -- kitchen

Image Credit: Country Style Magazine Spring 2011, page 39

“Buy something because you love it not just because you saw it in the latest mag.”

How do you get a sense of what matches and still retain a strong sense of style in your home since many pieces are random and unrelated?

Don’t overdo or over clutter. For example, if you have a set of retro canisters, put them on a shelf by themselves; give them their own identity. Even better: make them useful; I have all my bits and bobs stored in my retro canisters. Another example: I have an antique jug and use it as a vase and put flowers from the garden in it.

decorating with second hand pieces teapot as planter

“Don’t overdo or over clutter.”

 Tell me about your favourite room.

Tough question. I love my kitchen as it works and is functional; being a chef, I enjoy cooking in it. However my bedroom is amazing as I have a wall of glass and look at the stars at night and river all day! Very lucky.

{view from bedroom}

decorating with second hand pieces -- view from bedroom

“I look at the stars at night and river all day.”

What is your favourite second hand object find?

I enjoy using the old stainless steel washing machine inserts. I use them as flower pots and I have one in the garden as a fire pit.

{washing machine insert planter}

decorating with second hand pieces -- washing machine insert as planter

What is it really like running a B & B?

Really hard work and a lot of cleaning! That is the truth, but what we get from it out weighs the hard work. I love sharing our space with people.  It means a lot to them and I love that. The guests pick fresh vegetables out of our garden, have a bottle of wine near the river and we get to know them. We have met some amazing people who still stay in contact!

river cottage b & B tasmania ruth dean

“I love sharing our space with people.”

River Cottage B & B Tasmania

354 Deviot Road, Deviot.

Contact Ruth Dean: 0410 54 1144

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Feature Home: A Sea Change

I was struck by an article in July 2011 issue of the Country Style Magazine. It was about a Mum, a Sea Change and Vintage Fabric. Okay, so that got my attention. I invited this Vintage-Sea-Change-Mum to share a little with me over here at Be A Fun Mum. Welcome Haidee, aka founder of Miss Haidee clothing line.

Haidee, her husband Ben and their children, Millie and Tommy, recently made the move from Bryon Bay to the Tasmania coast. Ben manages the Peppermint Bay dining complex and Haidee runs her Miss Haidee clothing line from their cottage. I looked Haidee’s clothing range and it spoke to me. It brings together the past and present as well as encouraging sustainability and so much more! It’s just beautiful: in form and concept.

What stood out to me about Haidee’s story was the living-life together-concept she is creating with her family. This is something I want to incorporate into my own family (I talked about in this post).

Family life for Haidee seems to encompass work, play, home and family. All these things mesh together in a beautiful way of living. It’s less about working, and then trying to find time for family, and more about living life together as a family, encompassing all its parts. I believe living life like this gives way to so much time (and moments) without the need to be “less busy”.

Kelly: What advice would you give to others contemplating a “sea change”?

Haidee: Go ahead and do it! I talked about “doing it” forever. Talk, talk, talk, and weighing it all up. Honestly, if you’re thinking about it then you have already planted the seed and with out movement, you won’t grow.

Before our move, we had just finished renovating our house in Byron Bay: all white walls and timber floors and vintage 1930’s stain glass windows from a Victorian farm house. The house looked so good! And family life was good.

And now here in Tasmania life is just as good! There’s great food (actually really, really good food and lovely wine) and I have met new friends. We live in a wonderful community full of people of all ages. The kids have divine teachers and are both in supportive enriching schools. I walk my son to school and am blown away by the beauty of Tasmania!

{Tasmania Sea Change}

tasmania sea change life

I am so glad we made the move. We are creatures of habit so its lovely to experience more.

“Honestly, if you’re thinking about it then you have already planted the seed and with out movement, you won’t grow.”

Kelly: What is the concept behind your Miss Haidee Label?

Haidee: It is a labor of love! I love fabrics and anything vintage. I think Kelly summed it up: “They bring together the past and present as well as encouraging sustainability and so much more!”

I love to add stripes with spots, orange and brown with hot pink flowers, 80’s fabric with retro and vintage; it all mixes and looks fabulous! I am not afraid of contrast. This is the thing people admire the most about the Miss Haidee brand: it works! Fabric that people would never think to put together, looks so beautiful!

{Miss Haidee Vintage Clothing Range}

miss haidee vintage creations
“I am not afraid of contrast.”

Kelly: Does this vision extend to how you live your life with your family?

Haidee: Mmmm, my husband is cooking and I am doing this. He likes things very clean and organized, hence once we converted the garage to a studio and we got along famously. He does all the cooking; I do not have the cooking gene. I am fiercely creative yet when it comes to food I have no inspiration. It is one of the things that astounds me: that my creativeness does not roll over to food.

{Ben’s Food}

We live very well: we have 6 chickens, get produce from our neighbors and fish. In the summertime, we catch squid right from the jetty in front of our house.

The cottage [we live in] has been renovated and it looks fantastic with our inherited Parker furniture. I have a boat thing going at the moment and cannot walk away from a garage sale or market without that cool ship lamp or 70’s picture of boats.

{A snippet of Haidee’s Home Life}

a sea change

Kelly: How do you find the balance between family life and running a business?

Haidee: Having the studio three meters from our family cottage is perfect. I can be mum first, and then as soon as every one is happy, I go into the studio. It wouldn’t work any other way with a young family. Tommy is only at school a few days so he sits with me in the studio and makes a mess.

{Haidee and Tommy}

haidee and tommy

Kelly: What is your best tip for organising home life?

Haidee: Family first, and when you have any other time, work hard and eventually you will see your business grow.

“Family first, and when you have any other time, work hard and eventually you will see your business grow.”

Kelly: What is your favourite room in your home and why?

My studio. It is only a few meters from the house but it is big and white and full of all the magic to create at whim. It’s my cocoon; I emerge a much better person.

{Haidee’s Studio and Creations}

peek inside miss haidee studio

“[My studio] is big and white and full of all the magic to create at wim. It’s my cocoon; I emerge a much better person.”

Kelly: What activities do you enjoy as a family?

Haidee:

  • Fishing and entertaining people (Ben is such a good cook!).
  • Going out for breakfast.
  • And now, going for holidays in the sun!

Have you thought about a Sea Change?

See the Miss Haidee Gorgeous Creations

Miss Haidee Clothes

One of my absolute favourites!

Gorgeous vintage style clothes by Miss Haidee

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