Monday 22 December 2014


It is telling that to write this review I had to go searching for the book and found it in my three-year-old daughter's bed, next to her while she was fast asleep. It's her current favourite.

We bought The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jane Ray late last week on a visit to a local bookshop. I have to admit that I bought it after only a quick flick. The illustrations seemed sweet and I liked that it was bringing to life a Christmas song that I have been singing for as long as I can remember.

When we returned home that day, we read it almost straight away. It was a big hit. She enjoyed the singing element, although we read it too, and we both got lost in all the layers of the illustrations. There is so much detail. For example, one of my favourite pages is "eleven pipers piping" because almost every one of them is playing a different pipe, which gave us a chance to talk about different musical instruments. The book is also great for counting all the different gifts. 

I think we will be reading this book many times more before Christmas is over, and that's going to be fine with both of us.

Wednesday 17 December 2014


For one of our advent calendar activities, we decided to go ice-skating. It's something we've talked about over the years, and were excited to finally make it happen.

Macquarie Ice Rink was an easy drive from our home in the inner-city, and as it's located within that suburb's shopping centre, parking was available, although busy on a weekend leading up to Christmas.

While the facilities were a little old and tired, the staff were helpful and the site, overlooking towering plants, was quite pleasant. 

The main disappointment was that there were no "penguins" or other devices for the children to hold onto or push. This meant the three-year-old did minimal skating, and the 18-month-old was relegated to the sidelines. However, the six-year-old was keen to give ice-skating a go. And while he said it was harder than skiing, he never wanted to leave the ice.

Overall it was a fun experience, but next time I would search for a rink that catered to all ages. I've heard good things about Canterbury Ice Rink. And there are temporary sites that are set up during the colder winter months, such as the venue in Bondi and out the front of St Mary's Cathedral.

Here's what we learnt on our trip to Macquarie Ice Rink.

* Tickets are cash only.
* If you are novices or have very young children, buy your ticket at the start of the second hour of the session for a discount. (Each session runs for two hours - so check the times beforehand.)
* Get your parking ticket validated before leaving the rink as they will add an extra hour to your ticket.
* Take spare clothes in the event of wet bottoms.

Tuesday 16 December 2014


As one of the activities for our advent calendar, we made paper bunting the other day. As it so happens, later that afternoon I went to see a friend, Bianca, from The Beige Larder, and she was selling larger flag-style bunting she had made for Hey! Market. It proved to be the perfect partner for our smaller version.

Here's how we made our paper bunting.

Paper (we used cardboard as it was to hand, but paper would be a little easier to fold and glue)
Craft glue
Tape (to hang)

Step 1
On a piece of paper or card mark divisions 3cm apart apart on the top end of your paper and 6cm apart on the sides. Join the markings to create a diamond pattern.

Step 2
Fold diamonds in half, ensuring pencil markings are on the inner side of the paper/card.

Step 3
Place join over top of twine and glue two halves together. Press firmly to help adhere. Once dry, you're ready to hang.

images the indigo crew

Wednesday 10 December 2014


I've been wanting to make playdough for months, if not years. And today, at the request of a sick child, I did. It was much easier than expected, although some tips along the way.

I adapted this Easy no-cook playdough recipe.

However, next time I won't use wholemeal flour (that's what I had on hand), and I will add just one drop of food colouring, not one teaspoon.

3/4 cup salt (so the children won't want to eat it!)
2 cups flour
2 tbsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp sunflower oil 
1/4 tsp food colouring (here I used 1 tsp and it was too dark for my liking)
1 cup of water

Mix dry ingredients and add oil.

In a separate bowl, mix food colouring to water.

Slowly add water to dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Knead in bowl and onto flat surface. Ready to use.

Note: When finished with dough, cover well in cling wrap and place in airtight container in fridge. Will stay fresh for a couple of months.

images the indigo crew

Monday 8 December 2014


Reading books with my children is one of my favourite pastimes. The classics, usually, are popular for a reason. Although I've found some age better than others. My son and I started The Wind in the Willows, but have yet to finish it. But perhaps it's more of an age issue. And some books appeal more to one child than the other. My son never had much interest for Peter Rabbit but my daughter loves it. 

Then there are contemporary books. Some I love because they are so beautiful, and I appreciate their artistic merits. But sometimes, they don't always appeal to the little ones. It can be because the stories don't hold enough interest, or that the illustrations are too beautiful - and not engaging enough.

But when all the right elements meet - it's a happy day, for all concerned. Enter Sippy & Sunny: A Byron Bay Adventure.

The texture and colour of the cover got me in, and my daughter became transfixed from the first question: "Do you know who it was?"

She was shaking her head.

"You won't believe it..."

Her eyes opened wide, and wider... For the rest of the book, she was pointing at various parts of the beautiful illustrations by Bec Winnel, and asking questions about the characters, and if she too could hold a koala one day.

The book is co-authored by Vicki Wood, who came up with a first draft of sorts while trying to help her granddaughter go to sleep. Kelly Elsom, Vicki's daughter, is the other author, and behind The Elsoms musical group.

It is a magical book on many levels, but the last word must go to my daughter. When we got to the end, she said: "Can we read it again"

Friday 5 December 2014


Quite a few years ago I lived in London and every Monday morning my colleagues would ask me, "So where did you go to this weekend?" Over the course of two years I saw more of the country than most of them had in years, if not a lifetime. And that was their words. Knowing that I was only going to be in the UK for a short period of time spurred me on. But there's always been something of the explorer within my blood. Having children hasn't erased that. Instead, it's reignited it.

Last weekend we took a day trip to Manly Dam. Here are some things we learnt.

It was much larger than we expected. While it's not listed as a National Park, it felt like that in terms of its size. There are lots of bush tracks and options for water sports. You could easily fill an entire day here.

Water sports
The dam itself is a decent size, and was popular with people water skiing and kayaking. There is a ramp for ski jumps - and at one point we saw it get used as a slide for boogie boards. Swimming and splashing around near the water's edge was popular but nowhere near as busy as one of the nearby beaches. A few visitors took along inflatable boats and water toys.

Bush walking
There is one bush track that takes three hours to complete. We were content with walking across the dam's bridge, and turning back after about half an hour. It was a good introduction for the kids who hadn't been on a bushwalk before. They got to climb rocks, spot wildflowers and look out for animal tracks. 

The area is well-catered to those who want to set up a barbecue. And some groups had reserved picnic tables for large get-togethers. We were content with relaxing on a blanket in front of the dam. There were no food vendors or kiosks in site, although there were public toilets.

images the indigo crew

Wednesday 3 December 2014


When I visited Mr & Mrs White late last week, I wasn't expecting to walk out of the store with Christmas presents for little ones. But as soon as I stepped into the Sydney furniture and homewares showroom with girls in tow, they beelined straight to what looked like a kids table and chair set furnished with an old school chalkboard. It was actually the Kiss Cuddle Coffee Table. The littlest then became besotted with its accompanying chairs while the eldest gravitated towards some of the soft rabbit skins on display. (Note: Given that Mr & Mrs White are so thoughtful in what they produce and sell, it's not surprising that they source from Australian and New Zealand tanneries, known for having among the best health ratings in the world. The skins are also by-products of the meat industry.)

Perhaps because Mr & Mrs White have two little girls of their own, the furniture they design and create is made to adapt to various stages of life. Small cube boxes, pictured on the floor in the last image above, can work as a child's stool or a bookshelf. And oversized cushions suit sleeping as well as lounging. 

Before we left, at the last minute, I spied a series of sweet original watercolour artworks by Annette Kelsey. Another happy and unexpected discovery that day.

images courtesy of the indigo crew 

Monday 1 December 2014


This year I wanted to do a little something different with our family advent calendar. Last year I gave gifts. They were small - and mostly encouraged creativity of some sort - stamps and stickers, scissors and sticky tape in different shapes, sizes and colours to what the children already had. But I still felt a little uncomfortable going down this path again. They already have so much "stuff", and I want to cut down on cheaper disposable purchases in general. I thought about getting books for each day of the calendar - but that seemed an expensive exercise. And I also considered activities, but wasn't sure I could come up with 24. Then I read the brilliant post by Esther at Babyccino Kids. Her advent projects were mostly about giving, and finding ways to have fun together as a family over Christmas. The only slight problem was that some of them were heavily geared towards a European winter - drinking hot chocolate or walking around in the dark at night. As summer is such a big part of the Australian Christmas, I set about adapting some of the ideas, and giving them a slightly different spin. Would love to hear if you have any other ideas.

images the indigo crew

Wednesday 26 November 2014


Somehow, this year, I have managed to get all of my Christmas shopping for the kids done before December. Even stranger, perhaps, is that some of the items were bought in January. Yes, a few things on sale. And a few things I spotted and have managed to hold onto all this time. Such as the fairy wings, above. Even better is that my three-year-old daughter has recently been asking for fairy wings.

When my children were younger, if I'm honest, the presents didn't seem to matter so much. They were just happy to open something that had been wrapped in paper. But the six-year-old has a much stronger sense of what he does and doesn't like, and the three-year-old is fast learning from him.

So here is a sample of what they are getting this year. If you have yet to finish your shopping, for your children or others, I hope it gives you some ideas. 

From top to bottom.

Boy, age 6
* Carson Advdenture Pack, includes 5 x 30mm binocular, Lensatic Compass, Flashlight & Whistle/Thermometer - from Sydney University Co-Op.
* Seedling harmonica - from Gleebooks.
* Crochet Basil Bear - from La De Dah Kids.
* Outliving Snapshot Pencil Sharpener - from Sydney University Co-Op.
* Spinning toy - from Gleebooks.
* Collegien + Nununu Slippers - from Mr Wolf Kids.
Not shown:
* Blood Orange Stars PJ Set - from GNancy.
* Microscope - from Terrific Scientific.

Girl, age 3
* Down to the woods grey lambfrom Gleebooks.
* O-Check Snow dome - from Paper2.
* Suck UK Quack Tape Dispenser - from Sydney University Co-Op.
* Crochet Amanda Pandafrom La De Dah Kids.
* Collegien Slipper Socks - The Sealerfrom Mr Wolf Kids.
* No 74 Fairy Wings - Mamapapa.
Not shown:
* Ash Stars Long PJ setfrom GNancy.
* Emile et Ida Chaussette Chat Socks - from Smallable.
* Petite Bateau underwear setfrom Smallable.

Girl, age 18 months
* Crochet Zaney Zebrafrom La De Dah Kids.
* Black and White Stars Long PJs Setfrom GNancy.
* Down to the woods little lambfrom Gleebooks.
* Emile et Ida Chaussette Chat Socksfrom Smallable.
* Collegien Slipper Socks - Pandafrom Mr Wolf Kids.
Not shown:
Petite Bateau underwear set - from Smallable.

images the indigo crew

Friday 14 November 2014


Revamping furniture and objects around the home has always been something that I've done. I like to keep life simple - reusing what I have, and restoring what I find. Plus, for me, I get a kick out of seeing something I've transformed. Gratifying, as they used to say.

It's been a while since I've done any DIY projects around the home but when I spied this stool at Mitchell Road Auction Centre in Sydney's Alexandria, I became inspired again. My daughter didn't want to sit in her high chair anymore but our regular bentwoods were a little too low. This stool sits a little higher - I think it may have been used for sewing or by a machinist - and was quite stable. It also didn't look like "baby" furniture. I've never been big on buying kid-specific furniture other than the absolute essentials, such as a cot and high chair. The rest - change tables - have been fashioned out of the tops of chest of drawers. 

The bonus is that when this stool is no longer used by the children it can find another use in our house. 

Sanding machine
Sand paper
Wood oil (I used the remains of a sample pot of Livos's natural oil sealer in Walnut, which we are testing out on our floors)

1. Sand back any layers of paint and wire brush the frame.
2. Unscrew the frame from the seat and spray-paint in black satin.
3. Oil the seat - drying time between coats required 24 hours. Reassemble.

images courtesy of the indigo crew

Wednesday 12 November 2014


While it’s no secret that the long stretch of road between Sydney and Brisbane has some spectacular beaches, not all of them are as well known (or traversed) as others. That’s a big part of the appeal of South West Rocks for architect and designer Marika Jarv and her family, which includes husband Matt and daughters Avie (four) and Jaia (one). South West Rocks is a place of exceptional natural beauty, and caters to the needs of all her tribe. Husband Matt enjoys the surf beaches, and their children have access to safe waters too. Plus, there are plenty of other places to explore, as Marika discovered on this five-day getaway.

Why did you choose this destination? We are very much a beach-loving family, and South West Rocks has the option of lots of spectacular beaches nearby, all a little different from one another. Matt would get up at dawn and head to the quiet Gap Beach for an early surf. The beach below Trial Bay Gaol is prefect for littlies, as the bay is protected by a rocky outcrop, so the waters are calm, clear, shallow and super safe. This area really reminds me of The Pass at Byron Bay - but without all the surfers. Matt’s dad takes his boat out on the Macleay River fishing in the mangroves, whilst his mum liked walking from our accommodation in town to Horseshoe Bay for a swim. My favourite beach was Little Bay, for its breathtaking landscape and seclusion - you enter via a small sandy cove nestled between granite cliffs and pandanas, there seems to be an almost mystical quality to the area - well I think so! The Smoky Beaches are still on our to-do list - waiting for the girls to be a bit older, they’re only accessible via an 800m walking track, starting at the Smoky Cape Lighthouse, and passing through she-oaks and rainforest.

What were some of the highlights? Avie being taught how to surf by Matt - let’s just say she got some “real” surfer’s tips! Visiting the historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol. Being greeted on arrival by friendly eastern grey kangaroos at the picnic area at Little Bay. We also saw two big males having a classic boxing kangaroo match. Walking over the old wooden footbridge at Back Creek. The view from the lookout at Smoky Bay Lighthouse. A serene afternoon swim at Little Bay - we had the beach all to ourselves.

What tips would you give to other parents going there? If you are willing to go off-the-beaten-track, then there are some truly jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches to be found. It’s also likely you’ll be the only ones there - if going in off-season, but be warned there are no facilities or patrols on these remote beaches, so take supplies and be careful in the water.

Can you recommend any places to eat or stay in that area? We rented a house in town, but if I was ever going to camp it would be at the Trial Bay Gaol Campground - the location and views out over the bay are amazing.

Any other trips on the horizon? Yes! Our beloved Byron Bay next February. Each year we rent out a particular cottage at The Pass, where our backyard is literally the beach. We’ve been doing this for five years now, ever since I was pregnant with Avie, and every trip we invite a different set of friends. It’s such an easy holiday with the beach so close. A typical day starts with the boys heading out for an early surf, then we wander down the backyard onto the beach with the kids, after a couple of hours we meander back to the house for lunch on the deck, and afterwards when the kids are napping, us mummies get some time-out sunbaking and reading with no little sandy footprints on our towels. Pure bliss. 

images courtesy of marika jarv