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. 

More

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

Infinite Playgrounds Website

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

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

 

Orange Lantern Candle

how to make an orange lantern candle

It feels good to use something instead of throwing it out.  And it’s cool to say to your kids in the afternoon, “Hey, we are going to cut up oranges to eat, AND make a candle lantern.”

Below are the steps on how I made an orange lantern.

Materials

Orange

Tea light candle

Small knife

Instructions

Step 1

Cut around the belly of an orange (with the two points at each end). Don’t cut all the way through, just so the knife is just into the flesh of the orange.

orange candle instructions

Step 2

Using the knife, make a small cut between the skin and the flesh of the orange.

make an orange candle

Step 3

Place a finger in the cut and carefully run your finger around the orange, separating the flesh from the skin.

orange candle

Step 4

Continue working your finger around the orange until you’re close to the base.

orange candle

Step 5

Use the knife to cut the remaining flesh off the bottom of the orange.  This is to make sure you don’t tear a hole in the bottom of the orange. Use a spoon to carefully remove the rest of the orange (or just leave it in there if there is only a small amount of residue left).

how to make an orange candle

how to make an orange candle for decoration instructions

Step 6

Repeat with the other side of the orange.

how to make an orange candle for decoration

Step 7

Make a circle shape cut, about the size of a 20 cent – 50 cent piece, on the inside of one of the orange halves and push out to make a hole. This will become the top of the candle.

Tip: Test the orange to see which side sits best on a flat surface and use that for the bottom of your candle holder.

how to make an orange candle holder

Step 8

Place a tea light candle in the base of your orange lantern.

how to make an orange candle lantern for decoration

Step 9

Light the candle, put the top on and enjoy a lovely orange smell throughout the house! Pretty!  I had my candle lanterns burning for a couple of hours, and the skin didn’t burn because the hole in the top of the orange was large enough (plus I would only use a fresh orange and single use only).  As for any candle, never leave it unattended.

orange candle lantern

orange candle lantern

Step 10

The orange lanterns look absolutely gorgeous as a table centrepiece, and I can see myself using them for Christmas decorations, a dinner party, or just because I can.

I placed pebbles on a large rectangle and put 2 orange lanterns in the centre.

orange lantern centrepiece

orange lantern table centrepiece

Step 11

We ate the orange too, of course.

orange lantern

More

Nature Crafts

On Flowers & Upcycling Glass Jars

tinted bottle or jar -- colored glass

When I dated my husband (a long time ago), I said to him, “Never buy me flowers. They just die. ”  How I have changed over the years!

I used to see flowers for the end result — wilted, limp and lifeless.  I couldn’t enjoy their moment in the sun or see their beauty because I was clouded by things not yet to come. It’s interesting, as I look back, I can see the same correlation with many aspects of my life at the time.  I was afraid to do things because of what might, or could, or would be.

Now I see flowers for their unpretentious beauty. They are what they are.  They are here one day and gone the next; they grow and shine, and wither and die.  And they grow again. In their shining moments, they brighten my day and make the kids smile, and while not tangible, that’s worth something deep and truly beautiful.

And so I stop to notice, admire and smell flowers. Sometimes, I buy them to brighten the house. Sometimes I pick them from my own garden when they are there.   I find myself embracing the change in nature more and more, and I look for ways to bring the transience into the house, in many forms, like painting sticks, hanging autums leaves or collecting fallen flowers to fill a bowl.

One of the ways I enjoy bring nature inside is through upcycling jars and bottles (for example, this wall vase).  I saved a collection of cute jars of different shapes and sizes, and decided to tint them using paint I purchased for my glass tumbler candle holder project around Mother’s Day.

It’s very easy!

 Materials

Glass jars or bottles

Pébéo Glass Paint (I used Turquoise 20 — purchased from Spotlight)

Pébéo Thinner

Paint brush (wide and soft) or sponge brush

tinted jar -- upcycle jars by coloring them with glass paint

Instructions

There are many tutorials on how to tint jars on the web, and I experimented with a few different techniques and I’ll list them here.

1. Thin Glass Paint

First thin down a little glass paint with paint thinner, depending on how transparent you want the jar to look. You can use the paint without thinning it, but it won’t look like a tint (below is an example of the difference).

diluting glass paint vs undiluted

I mixed about a 10 cent piece size blob of glass paint to a 50 cent piece amount of thinner in a plastic cup.   The amount of paint you see in the picture below will cover approximately 2 jars (so it goes a long way).   It’s pretty hard to get this wrong, just test it on your jar to see the colour, and adjust until you have it the way you want. (Just wipe the tester paint off the jar with a paper towel).

how to tint a jar blue

2. Paint Jar

Sponge Brush: I tested a sponge brush first, and applied the paint in quick even strokes.  I found the sponge gave me a more bubbled (frosted) surface than the brush. If you want a frosted look, a dabbing motion works best.

tinted jar color upcycle

Paint Brush: To achieve the transparent look I was after, I preferred the paint brush look, just keep the coverage as even as possible. (Next time, I’ll use a brush a little wider than this one).

Paint the outside of entire jar (including the base).

tinted jar color upcycle

3.Dry

Place upside down on a piece of paper and allow to dry for 24 hours.

tinted jar color  -- allow to dry 24 hours

4. Bake

Place baking paper on a tray.  Place the jars on (right side up) on the tray.  Cook in a 150 C oven for 35 minutes.  Done! Dishwasher safe too!

5. Display

Such a wonderful way to reuse jars and bottles in the home.

Happiness :)

how to tint a jar blue

how to tint a jar blue

how to tint a jar blue -- color glass

how to tint a jar blue for flowers

The Tree Draws

Nature is alive and beautiful, and as a family, we celebrate this on a daily basis.  I stumbled upon artist, Tim Knowles online, and his tree drawings inspired this activity.

It’s an easy activity to do with kids and holds promise of mystery and magic on a breezy day.  A tree that draws! You can’t help but notice the wind, and how it moves the leaves in a dance, or how pretty the bird’s song is. It forces you to be still, and watch, and listen.

One of Tim Knowles Tree Drawings

Oak On Easel

Stonethwaite Beck, Smithymire Island, Borrowdale, Cumbria
1/07/2005

Our Tree Drawing

Backyard Tree (can anyone recognise the type of tree?) On Easel

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
24/07/2012

11:30 am to 1:30 pm

tree drawing inspired by artist tim knowles

Materials

Canvas (or other hard surface to tape the paper)

Watercolour Paper or an Art Board

Masking Tape

Drawing material of choice (heavy sketching pencil, felt pen, permanent marker)

1. Materials

You can purchase all of these materials from a discount or art store (and even places like Target, Officeworks & BigW). I decided to use three A5 pieces of pastel watercolour paper for one feature, and then an artist board for the other. An artist board is like very thick cardboard with a canvas front. It’s brilliant for all kinds of projects and not as bulky as a canvas.

nature crafts do a tree drawing

2. Tape paper to canvas or straight on to an easel if you have one

This way, the paper will hold still for the tree. Keep the tape right at the edge so it doesn’t damage the paper too much.

tree drawing

3. Set up the paper in front of a low branch

Use an easel (if you have one), a step ladder (like I have) or a chair.

tree drawing

4. Tape pen to a branch

Look for a branch that naturally moves in the wind, that is close to the ground.

tree drawing

5. Adjust canvas in front of pens

Move the canvas in place so the pens are only just touching, and the tree draws with the wind. It’s beautiful to watch!  Leave for a few hours and see what happens.

tree drawing

Watch!

6.Date and hang

I purchased this lovely frame half price at Target.

tree drawing nature art

Second project

Backyard Tree (can anyone recognise the type of tree?) On Branch

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
24/07/2012

12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

I also hung an art board on a branch (using an alligator clip, to hold the board, and a ribbon).

tree drawing on art board

tree drawing -- bird

The children were AMAZED and very excited to see the final picture.  They though this one looked very much like a bird or swan. Can you see it?

Date and time

date drawings

tree drawing nature art

Ideas

  • Give as a gift: couple a photograph of the tree in a frame with the relative drawing
  • Create a memoir of a special place visited or holiday destination
  • A fun weekend activity
  • Build on the tree drawing shape to create another drawing

More

Nature Crafts

Nature Craft: Rock Footprints

nature craft -- stone foot prints

When I do craft with my kids, I like for it to be an extension of another outing or activity.  For example, making potpourri bags for the drawers was coupled with a trip to the shops, collecting shells at the beach turned into a wall feature and a fun addition to a country drive was to stop and make wild flower wreaths. For me, craft is about connection rather than just something to do.

When the children and I explored a local stream recently, we collected rocks to make rock footprints.

exploring stream kids

It’s not craft, it’s connection.

 

Materials

Piece of wood (or use a canvas)

2 x Screw eyes

Rocks (1 sole of foot size and 5 for toes)

Gem glue, like 330 Epoxy (a hot glue gun works too but for best results use expoxy glue)

Instructions

1. Sort, clean and move the rocks around until you get the best foot shape.

rock footprints

2. Lightly sand the piece of wood to help the glue stick. Canvas can also be used instead of the wood.

3. Arrange the rocks on your piece of wood or canvas using gem glue or hot glue gun (the gluing should be done by an adult).

pebble footprint

4. Allow to dry as per packet instructions.

5. Press screw eyes and twist on either side of wood to allow for hanging.

instuctions nature craft stone foot feature

6. Hang with a piece of twine or rope.

The Rock Footprint sign hangs on the outdoor cubby. We might add some words to the sign when we think of a good name. I’ll keep you posted.

Connecti

rock footprints nature craft Update

31 March 2014: So almost two years since I wrote this post, I thought I would show you how our footprints looks now: even more rustically gorgeous! (and still holding together after being out in the elements for that long).

Rock Footprints

More

Nature Craft

Vintage Paper Boat Garland

vintage paper boat bunting tutorial

Oh, if I could go back in time, I would decorate my son’s entire nursery with vintage paper boats. They are adorable!

I love vintage paper, and books, so I combined the two to make a vintage paper boat garland today. It’s simple to put together and costs almost nothing. A paper boat garland can be used to decorate a nursery, room or for birthday party decorations.

Materials

Vintage book (I purchased one from a thrift shop for 50 cents)

Twine (I used divine twine)

Sticky tape

Large needle

Instructions

1. Check the book to see if it’s rare and worth a fortune (unlikely but possible). Check this post on how to do it: How to Check What an Old Book is Worth.

2.  Carefully rip about 10 pages out of the book.

3. Fold each piece of vintage paper into a boat.  The below video shows how to make an origami paper boat.

4. Using a large needle,  thread the boats on to the twine.  There are two different ways to do this.

i) Horizontal Vintage Paper Boat Garland

  • Thread the twine through the point of the paper boat. Hang horizontally over a book case, door frame, window or in the bedroom.

vintage paper boat bunting

ii) Vertical Vintage Paper Boat Feature

  • Thread the twine, from the bottom of the boat, through the top point.
  • Place a piece of sticky tape underneath where you want the boat to stay. This way, the boat won’t slip down the twine (you won’t see the sticky tape because it sits inside the boat).
  • Hang in a bedroom, on the side of a bookcase or use as a ceiling mobile.

vintage paper boat bunting instructionsWarning: There is a chocking hazard so use caution if hanging where a child can grab it; supervision is required.

vintage paper boat bunting

Hmm, this makes me wish I read the book!

Vintage paper boat glarland
I made extra boats for son to play with in the kitchen sink.

paper boats

Putting Colour into A Grey Day

pink / purple bougainvillea

As I was watched the children play with the Milk Bottle Lid Boats in the rain, I noticed how pretty the bougainvillea looked behind them. I think I noticed it especially since the day was so grey.  Many of the pink-purple bougainvillea flowers have fallen off, creating a carpet of colour on the ground. It’s beautiful!

bouganvillea pink purple

I wanted to bring that beauty into the house so I collected some flowers and put them in a crystal basket vase that I haven’t used for a long time. So pretty! They also look gorgeous floating in a bowl of water.

Just putting a bit of colour into a grey day. That’s all.

pink / purple bougainvillea

pink / purple bougainvillea

Other Floral Posts

Make a Wild Flower Head Wreath

Simple Things, Small Joys

Christmas Paper Chain

Make your home look festive with a Christmas Paper Chain. These adorable decorations are cheap, simple and fun to make.

Christmas Paper Chain Printables

Materials

Christmas Paper Chain template (see below) or use wrapping paper cut to size

Stapler

1. Cut each chain link, leaving approximately 1 cm of white on one side (the printer margin is perfect).

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- instructions

2. Make a circle by overlapping the non-white side over the white edge.

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- instructions

3. Staple to hold the chain link together.

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- instructions

4. Link the next piece of paper through the completed circle, and continue the steps until your Christmas Paper Chain is the desired length.

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- instructions

You can use the Christmas Paper Chain for all sorts of things! Below are some ideas.

Wall

Hang up on the wall. Because the chain is made of paper, it’s quite light so good quality blu tack works well.

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- hang on the wall

Tree

Hang on the Christmas Tree, or decorate an outdoor tree on a fine Christmas Day.

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- decorate the tree

Table Centrepiece

Make a shape out of the chain and use in the centre of a table.

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- paper chain heart

Along a window – Inside or Outside

Use above a door or window, inside the house or outside (on a patio).

Christmas Paper Chain -- free printable -- above a window

Free Printables — Christmas Paper Chain

Below are 12 free printable Christmas Paper Chain designs.  I’ve put each chain link close to eachother so there is no need to cut around each individual one.  To access the PDF file, click on the picture.

To see the entire range of handmade decorations, click here: Christmas Tree Handmade Decorations

To see the entire range of Christmas Craft on this blog, click here: Christmas Craft

christmas paper chain -- quirkychristmas paper chain -- snowman gingerbread man christmas treechristmas paper chain -- brown and pinkchristmas paper chain -- quirky black and white christmas treechristmas paper chain -- snowmanchristmas paper chain -- blue snowflakechristmas paper chain -- purple baubleschristmas paper chain -- light blue bells and candy canechristmas paper chain -- gold bells and hollychristmas paper chain -- blue christmas treechristmas paper chain -- red and white starchristmas paper chain -- white and red star

 

The Grass is Greener

“You don’t realise how fortunate you are in Australia.” Suda Sudarsana, international P & G scientist, began the story. I met Suda when I was in Thailand recently and his down-to-earth approach resonated with me.

Suda continued the story; it went something like this: You have space in Australia, and the kids get to run around on the grass. In Japan, this is almost unheard of.  When I suggested the baseball team I coach practice on a wet field in bare feet, there was an uproar by parents!  I believe walking barefoot on grass, is really important for kids.  Australian children have this opportunity.

buffalo grass

Australian kids are fortunate. Australians are fortunate.   According to industry research, 84% of us have a lawn.  Now that’s summer, and we are spending more time outside, I thought it would be interesting to put together a post with tips on how to both care for, and make the most of the lawn.

To help me do this, I had a wonderful chat with Tony from Caboolture Turf, about outdoor living, caring for the lawn and how to manage tricky spots.  Tony is obviously passionate about grass, and boy does he know it well.  First things first: below is a picture of the best part of my lawn. The (very) bad parts come later.

{buffalo grass}

running on the grass

What are the basics for lawn maintenance?

  • Fertilise every 3-4 months
  • Water within your local council guidelines (this is plenty to maintain a healthy lawn)
  • Mow low and tight. This encourages the grass to grow sideways, and there will be less room for weeds and prickles.

Is it okay to leave the clippings in the grass?

Absolutely.  Clippings are good for the grass, the only issue is if the grass is long when cut, the kids will walk the clippings through the entire house for weeks to come.  If you mow regularly, it’s a great idea to leave the clippings once in a while.

What about lawns with mixed grass (like mine)

Mixed grass is common in Australian yards.  It’s not a problem if you don’t mind the grass not matching perfectly. What you’ll find is the grass best suited to the area, will be dominant.  This is why it’s important to get advice on what sort of grass is best for your area. A perfect example is this (pictured) section of your yard.   This area gets almost no sun so you have all sorts of things growing here. Couch was originally planted here, and failed as the garden matured. Carpet grass has started to grow instead, but ultimately this area need to be poisoned, removed, some lime added (to solve the moss problem) and then re turfed using a shade tolerant variety like buffalo (Sir Walter).

{incorrect grass for the area}

problem areas turf -- deciding on the right turf for your area -- moss, carpet grass, clover

How do you know what grass is best for your lawn?

This section (pictured below) of your yard is a good example of how the right grass performs well in the right area.  This buffalo grass, close the the house, works perfectly, but there is a distinct line where the buffalo stops and couch starts.

{buffalo grass is wonderful in shady areas}

choosing the right type of grass for your lawn

This is a true example of where the newer variety of buffalo is a better choice (than the original couch).  Quality advice from a Turf farmer, can save a lot of money (and hassles) in the long run. For more information about how to choose the right type of your grass for your lawn, visit this post: Choosing the Right Turf for your Lawn.

“The best way to enjoy your outdoor spaces as a family is just to do it. Unplug and make it happen.”

What is the best way to maximise the yard for family life?

Living outdoors: it’s the Australian way.  The idea is to get out and make it happen. There are endless ways to incorporate the yard into family life; below are some tips:

1. Divide: I’m big on dividing the outdoors into sections. This can be done through landscaping, grass sections, stepping stones, a BBQ or a bench seat placed in a nice shady spot.

2. Play: Put in some cricket wickets, invest in a totem tennis equipment, play soccer, put large buckets out on the lawn for water play, bring inside toys out on a large mat on the grass, put up a cheap tent and let the kids play (they might even sleep out there!).

3. Eat: Many modern homes have the kitchen, living and outdoor areas married into one. There is nothing wrong with this concept but it can be a good idea to remove yourself from the house and actually step away. So, for example, if you have BBQ out in the yard, it’s like having a little holiday.

creating outdoor spaces -- a bench seat

The best way to enjoy your outdoor spaces as a family is just to do it. Unplug and make it happen.

What about trampolines and play equipment on grass?

The key to maintaining grass underneath play equipment is to move it around every week. In your case Kelly, the grass is pretty much dead so you probably will need to replace this section with the correct grass: Sir Walter Buffalo Grass in this case, which is suited for shady areas like this one.

Dead grass under the trampoline (oops!)

what to do with dead grass under play equipment/trampoline

What about trouble spots and thinning grass?

This problem is very easily fixed. Follow these two steps:

  • Top dress these areas (using sand), lightly twice over a month.
  • Mow often, low and tight, to encourage the grass to grow sideways.

{Top dress bare spots with sand}

problem spots in grass

I love grass, and living outdoors as much as possible so thank you Tony for such wonderful tips!

 Love freedom  .  Love grass  .  Love Aussie culture  .  Love life

running on the grass

Lawn problems?

Do you have a question for Tony? Do you want him to have a look at a picture of your lawn? You can leave a question for Tony in the comments below, or even better still, upload a picture of your trouble spots on the Be A Fun Mum facebook page, and Tony will come by and leave feedback for you.  You can join Tony’s facebook page for great tips on keeping your lawn healthy: Caboolture Turf

Giveaway

**The Giveaway how now ended and the winner has been notified**

I’m offering a $150 Bunnings voucher on the blog today to celebrate grass! To enter this giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment below about what you love most about grass.  Feel free to ask any questions below about turf, or your lawn and  Tony is happy to answer them for you.

Terms:

1. Australian residents only.  2. Giveaway will be selected randomly.  3. Winner will be notified by email. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, the prize will be redrawn.  4. Giveaway open from Friday 16th December to 21 December 2011.

Other Relevant Links

8 Awesome Things About Turf

Choosing the right turf for your lawn

Be A Fun Mum Outdoor Play Posts

Make a magical play space

Favourite Outdoor Play Spaces

Rock Play Garden

Playing with your kids: a confession

Chasing dragonflies & butterflies

Make a flower head wreath

Nature Hunt

Op Shop Cubby

The Best Family Adventure: Geocaching

It’s the Fun You Have Along the Way

Backyard Games

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

More Feature Homes

Simple Things, Small Joys

A few weeks ago, I shared a little bit of happiness in the form of a candle in a tea cup. The gorgeous Stacey from VeggieMama left a comment that gave me a lot of happiness.

“I also love glass juice bottles with the labels off to make vases for pretty little posies,” she said.

I was inspired. Next time I went to the supermarket, I bought — wait for it — 6 bottles of 200 ml prune juice. The checkout attendant may, or may not have looked at me strangely. I felt like saying, “Hey! I’m a blogger and this other blogger told me about using juice bottles as a vase for flowers, and I couldn’t find anything but prune juice in 200ml glass bottles, and plastic bottles don’t have the same charm, so I just bought the prune juice.” Awkward…

Yes, I drank it all but don’t worry: not in one sitting. I do believe I feel healthier! Any more questions? No? Let’s move on very quickly. So, once I got through all the juice, I removed the labels, just like Veggie Mama said. I tell you, those little glass bottles have given me so much joy over these last weeks!

This is what makes the blogging world go round: two regular people sharing ideas and passing around the joy. Will you forgive me for doing another flow chart?

how the blog world spins

So, thank you for leaving comments; it adds so much value to the blog (and, as you can see, to my everyday life!).

Take a look at my 6 empty prune juice bottles now.

empty glass juice bottles

glass juice bottle vases

How awesome do they look?!

I don’t know if this post is about the health benefits of prune juice, what makes the blog world spin or using empty bottles as vases. Who cares? It’s all good stuff.

Simple things. Small Joys.