Monday, 14 December 2015
One of the reasons I love to travel, and it's an important part of my life, is that it helps me to put what I value into perspective. For this reason, the most transformative type of travel is to foreign countries. It helps me to step out of my daily patterns of living, and consider new ways of being.
This feeling came over me after our European holiday in the middle of the year. Thoughts had been bubbling away for some time but taking time out to assess what mattered the most for us as a family became a crucial piece in our puzzle.
We got to stay at three amazing places that had a profound impact on our consideration as to how we wanted to live our lives. The first was an historic mill house in the mountains near Varallo. Here we learnt to slow down and relax together as a family, as well as enjoy spending time in a smaller house but on a larger piece of land. The children roamed the garden, splashed around and built dams in a stream that flowed from a nearby waterfall, and we cleared our minds with the fresh mountain air.
Our second base was on an organic olive farm in the hills above Verona. This beautiful place left an indelible mark. Again, we were staying in accommodation with much less space than our current home but every day the children spent their days - or least wanted to - running around the farm. When we went sightseeing they were eager to return to see the horses or play with Viva, the gentlest and friendliest dog I've ever met.
The children loved picking fruit, such as peaches and figs, straight off the trees. They were mesmerised watching bees buzzing around bunches of lavender, and butterflies fluttering along the flower beds. They also enjoyed finding and smelling the different herbs that were often planted as ground cover on various parts of the farm.
Each morning we enjoyed honey made from the bees on the farm, jams from the fruit and homemade bread and yoghurt. We sat under a giant olive tree and took our time to savour and share our food, and ease into the day.
While we were acutely aware that we were on holiday - the best kind - talk started to turn more to how we could replicate more of this lifestyle at home.
Our last main stay was in an apartment in Helsinki. While it was a city base, we were living in a place that was about one-third of the size of our current house, yet it felt so much more functional. We were free of so much "stuff", we were able to engage with each other easier, and the space was light and bright.
While we love our current home, it is a typical Sydney terrace - long and narrow. It has the all-important north-facing aspect but it doesn't feel light and airy. We have designed changes to the house, which have been approved by council, with a focus on capturing more north light and creating a greater open-plan family-friendly living area. But after our holiday, we started to question if this was the path we really wanted to go down right now. It's one thing to build a beautiful house, but is it the home you really want? Where you live, and its environment, is just as important to your well-being as the four walls and the belongings that surround you.
The weekend after we returned from our overseas adventure, we started a search to buy a property in the countryside. For years we have considered moving back towards the coast but that felt too claustrophobic. We wanted to live somewhere that the children could run free, roam and explore. Having a quarter-acre block or a square patch of lawn out the back seemed like a compromise in the big-picture dream we'd had while overseas.
We looked north of Sydney, closer towards family, but inland. There was an area that we had visited previously, and that seemed to tick many boxes. It is a verdant valley with many horse farms. It is only about 90 minutes north of Sydney and 30 minutes from the coast - the same time it currently takes us to get from inner Sydney to the beaches in the east.
Every farm we visited the children wanted to run and run and run. It felt right. There was talk of tree houses, fruit trees, living a more sustainable life. It felt good, and our instincts were telling us to keep pursuing this dream.
After about four months of looking we found a place to call home. We've already learnt a lot along the way but there's still a long way to go. We're not frightened of a challenge. And we love adventure. We can't wait for our new family journey to begin.
image the indigo crew
Friday, 11 December 2015
The last of the books arrived for our advent book calendar a short while ago and the other night I finished wrapping the last of them to put on display as the selection on our mantle was growing smaller and smaller. (You can read about the other books here and here.)
I thought I'd share the last of the books as many of them would make great Christmas gifts even if you aren't or don't plan doing a future advent book calendar.
Paddington and the Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond
Couldn't resist when I saw this in my local bookshop. We read the original book a couple of Christmases ago, and enjoyed the film. I think this should go down nicely.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
We have many of Eric Carle's books and they always seem to strike a chord. This one was bought with the littlest in mind.
Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown
A book I discovered on my search for festive titles. The story is about a tree that's alone from the others in the forest. It seems to be a story with a soul.
Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry
This book appealed as it reminded me a little of my Christmas holidays growing up as a child. Each year my mum and her sister rotated who would host Christmas. We all slept all over each other's homes but created such wonderful memories together that are still some of the strongest of my childhood.
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
Picture books don't hold as much interest to the first grader (soon to be second grade) and this one was for him. I read many good reviews before purchasing it, and hope it holds his interest and imagination.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore
A book from last year which will once again be read on Christmas Eve. It had to be the Classic Edition.
Letters from Father Christmas by J R R Tolkein
We are reading The Hobbit with School Boy every night, and he's hooked so thought this book might appeal to him, as its by the same author.
A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith
While we already have one Christmas story within our collection I spotted this one after purchasing the first and was captivated by the illustrations.
Interestingly, the book that has been read the most so far is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. It's one we've had for years, but the preschooler has wanted to read it every night since it was opened. She's a big fan of Dr Seuss, in general, and recite many of the stories off by heart. It was also popular with her brother when he was younger too.
image the indigo crew
Friday, 4 December 2015
Most of the time we have fruit or fruit and yoghurt for dessert. Sometimes with a dash of maple syrup or honey. Recently we've been fortunate enough to have some honey courtesy of a neighbour's bees. However, every now and then we have a proper dessert - something baked or made from scratch. As a treat the other day, I made custard. Well, everyone wanted to help! Delicious with slices of juicy ripe nectarines. It is based on this recipe.
1 cup milk
1 cup thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/3 cup caster sugar (optional - we had it without sugar this time and sometimes we only have 1tbsp)
1. Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan. Add vanilla extract. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for five minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat.
2. Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in heatproof bowl until well combined. Pour hot milk over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Return mixture to saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 to 15 minute or until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (Do not allow to boil as may curdle.)
images the indigo crew
Thursday, 3 December 2015
This year we might not get the chance to get a real tree. So in the meantime, we have created a craft-inspired one. It all began on Saturday when the children were asking to get a Christmas tree, again. At that stage it wasn't even December so a crafted one seemed more appropriate.
School boy likes to get really involved in these projects so he drew the star and we used that as a template for the rest. The girls helped punch the holes into the paper, and thread the pieces. And together we hung the stars in our dining room.
At this point, the children decided they wanted to hang string lights around it and create a base. It all came together in break-neck speed, but they were incredibly happy, and did individual and a group performance of "Twinkle twinkle little star".
YOU WILL NEED
Raffia paper string
String lights (optional) and masking tape to hang
1. Draw and cut a paper star.
2. Create holes on two sheets of stars.
3. Thread raffia paper string through the holes until they are back on the same hole. However, when you are about 5 holes from the end, fill with paper. Or you could insert rosemary or cloves for a nice fragrance. Tie a knot at the top and leave enough string to hang.
4. Create 15 stars so you can hang in a triangular tree formation. Hang with washi tape.
5. To hang a string light outline, you will need stronger tape, such as masking tape.
images courtesy of the indigo crew
Wednesday, 2 December 2015
I thought I'd share some more of the books that feature in our advent book calendar. I have to admit that the rest are yet to arrive! I had scoured some local bookshops and one had yet to put out Christmas books - this was two weeks ago - and my local second-hand bookshop didn't really have the sort of books I was looking for. So I bought some online and am eagerly awaiting them. However, as it turns out we only really had room on our mantel for about 12 books at a time so we're going to display the books in two acts.
Of course, even if you're not doing a book calendar, you might want to consider some of these for Christmas gifts.
See the previous post for some more Christmas-themed books.
See our advent activity calendar - which is something we definitely want to revisit again.
The Polar Express by Chris Vans Allsburg
A lovely story that I read a few times with my son last year. I seem to remember even getting a little teary.
Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Stories by Andrew Grey
A new book for the advent calendar. All the children enjoy Winnie-the-Pooh stories - although I think this may now appeal most to my preschool daughter.
The Little Christmas Elf by Nikki Shannon Smith
To keep the cost of the calendar overall a little contained (especially as I wasn't able to find second-hand books as I'd hoped), I bought a few Golden Books. There are many with good stories and they're really affordable too.
The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson
This is another book that I suspect will appeal most to the preschooler - as she's a big fan of Peter Rabbit.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
This is a book that I bought for my son last year as it had fond memories for me as a child. As it has no text, I expect it to appeal to all of the children in some way.
The Christmas ABC by Florence Johnson
Another Golden Book that I bought with the littlest at the forefront of my mind, although I suspect the preschooler will read along too.
The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson
A sweet way to share the Christmas story with all of the children.
Tea and Sugar by Jane Jolly
I came across this book in my local bookshop and was glad to have found it. I had a quick read in-store and enjoyed the story and illustrations. Most of the Australian-themed Christmas books I had found up until then were a little heavy on cheesy observations whereas this one presents itself as a thoughtful and important historical read.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
There are fewer books that are specifically for the school boy as the ones I did find are longer, and anticipate we will read together over several nights, including this version of Charles Dickens classic story illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova.
What Do You Wish For? by Jane Godwin
The illustrations initially pulled me in, but then I read the story and felt it would be one that the preschooler would enjoy. And I've since realised it is by the same illustrator as Dotty Sprinkles, which the littlest loves.
images the indigo crew
Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Last year we created an advent activity calendar that was lots of fun, and I had hoped we would continue this year. However, due to a few factors beyond our control, we have to press pause on this idea for now. Instead, I thought the children might enjoy an advent book calendar.
We have accumulated a few Christmas-themed books over the years and I have gone out and bought some more, and plan to hit a few second-hand bookshops to see if I have any luck there too. (Today I went out and a few of my local bookshops didn't actually have children's Christmas books yet.)
Here are some of the books we mostly bought last Christmas, and I have to say they were all a big hit.
The plan is to wrap all of the books and open one a day. While each book will appeal to different children and different ages, I think (and hope) that the activity will be enjoyable for all.
The Nutcracker by Stephanie Spinner
My daughter fell in love with this book and its accompanying musical CD last year. We are actually going to see a live performance of it, and cannot wait to read the book again.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
We have had this book for quite a few years and it is always a book that gets read over and over again. It's one of many Dr Seuss books that I can recite almost the whole thing - the children too!
The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
My son received this as a gift several years ago and it's been well-loved by himself and his sister. Most pages have a little related activity - such as a jigsaw puzzle - that always get played with too.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jane Ray
Beautifully illustrated and a popular book last year. You can read our review here.
The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert
This was another popular book with my daughter last year. We spoke about it a lot in relation to our trip to Finland.
Madeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans
A beautiful read that was pulled out many times at bedtime over the Christmas period last year.
image the indigo crew
Monday, 23 November 2015
This time last year I was feeling a lot more organised for Christmas. But then this time last year we weren't doing lots of building work on the house, and about to undergo some major life changes (more on that later, if the planets align) with a lot of uncertainty hanging over our heads.
Initially I didn't think I was doing too badly as I had session on Pinterest a little while back and picked out some beautiful toys that I thought would make great presents. I'm still going back to this compilation to consult it, as well as go over a list that I've started to compile in my notebook.
Each year there are some categories that I like to cover off:
PJs - This year I've decided to get short-sleeved sets and nighties given that Christmas is in summer, and the children already have lots of long-sleeved pairs. My daughter has also asked me more than once if she can get new star pyjamas (from G Nancy) as she's outgrown her others. Couldn't resist the cat illustration nighties though. I got the short-sleeved version of the white star PJs for my son.
Books - Every year I like to buy each child a new book. My son's school class started reading Charlotte's Web recently but they only read the first few chapters. It's one of my favourite books from childhood so I bought it so we can read it together. The four-year-old has the other Ruby Red Shoes book, and so I thought she might enjoy Ruby Red Shoes Goes to Paris. And the two-year-old is a big fan of the other Eric Carle books, and The Bad-Tempered Ladybird is one of the few that we don't already own.
Socks - While not perhaps the most exciting presents for them, new socks are required from time to time and it's a great stocking filler. Recently, we were one of the winners in the Smallable birthday prize competition so I've picked out these socks for the girls.
Clothing - I always think it's nice to have some clothes associated with Christmas, especially if they are items that can be then worn on the day. Over the weekend, I'm going to log onto Printebebe and maybe get the girls these dresses.
Games - Overall, I'm not a huge fan of games and toys. I find that they don't get used a whole heap (certainly not at this age with my little ones) - nothing in comparison to our art and craft supplies, which we already have ample. However, I do like the educational element of this Cuisenaire set, and my son is obsessed with numbers and fractions.
Something practical - My son needs a new bike helmet and I like the look and sound of these Egg helmets as they're suitable for multiple sports.
Stocking fillers - Every year Santa brings a mango and some nuts for the children. No chocolates, though. He's very health conscious! (And grandparents seem to supply enough of those for everyone.)
No doubt there will be some other little bits and pieces that we will pick up along the way, but this feels like a good start.
images the indigo crew
Friday, 20 November 2015
My son has an ability to create a project out of almost anything. Last weekend while my husband was renovating, he got his sisters to help him collect some sawdust and they turned it into an art project. They really loved creating these artworks - I think it had a lot to do with sticking their hands in the pot of sawdust! Sand or some other dry material would work equally well too. It was just as much fun for the seven-year-old as the two-year-old. Of course, the results were quite different. I have to admit that there was sawdust all over the kitchen floor but they had a lot of fun. Next time I will set up a craft station outside.
YOU WILL NEED
Sawdust (or sand)
1. Use a glue stick similar to a pencil and create a design on the piece of paper.
2. Sprinkle sawdust on top - quite generously.
3. Up-end the paper so the excess saw dust falls off.
4. Allow to dry.
images the indigo crew
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
There is no doubt that Vicki Wood has a magical touch when it comes to creating children's books. She is the co-author behind the popular Sippy & Sunny book and the publisher of Unclebearskin Productions, which has created three more titles, with others in the works. Part of her inaugural book's success stems from her ability to speak the language of children, and track down talented illustrators who are able to bring her dream worlds to life. (You can read our review of the first book here.)
Vicki is also a Nana, and seems to have a genuine love and fondness for the magical world of childhood. This idea is played out in her follow-up title Poem for Sippy.
The book takes the character of the magical dragon Sippy, and tells his story. It is illustrated by Brigitte May, who has managed to take the character that Bec Winnel drew in the first book and make him recognisable but add her own dream-like touches. It's another beautifully illustrated book, and that is part of its appeal.
The cover and format of the book is the same as Sippy & Sunny, and so was instantly recognisable to our four-year-old. She was delighted before she had even opened a page. And, of course, Vicki's signature gift was within the inside cover - a white feather covered in silver glitter. This made my daughter even more excited. Magic was really about to happen.
The book is written in a rhyming poem format. It's quite a simple story about a girl who has a secret dragon. Her Nana has seen him, though. She used to fly with him, but isn't able to anymore. And while the girl gets sad, she's told not to worry, that the joy of growing old is to watch others "fly away above the clouds, safe in the land of dreams".
While the narrative thread is more whimsical than Sippy & Sunny, the mention of "Nana" drew the preschooler into the story. She has a Nana too, and this made for a strong connection with the characters.
And just as with the first time, when we got to the end, she said, "Again." We've read it several times more since then too.
She was also interested to see the French translation on the flip side of the book too. A similar feature to the first book - and which started a great conversation about language.
We are very grateful for Vicki allowing us into her magical world.
images the indigo crew
Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Sometimes you hear or read news that stops you in your tracks, and makes your heart sink. This is what happened over the weekend on learning of the latest terrorism attacks in Paris.
At these times I often find myself needing to share the news with someone - perhaps in an attempt to understand it better. Or just unburden myself.
While the children are often the ones closest to me, I want to be considered rather than impulsive with what I share or how I react.
However, when tragedy strikes - whether on the news, or closer to home - I sometimes want to find ways to discuss matters with them. Obviously, the four and two year old are too young to understand many concepts. But I do believe that we can make a difference by teaching our children how to love and have empathy and be compassionate.
The seven-year-old's level of knowledge and understanding about the world we live in is growing all of the time. On the simplest level, he is interested in the environment and health. Ways that we can make the world, and ourselves, better. Global events are another matter, though.
However, following the Syrian refugee crisis I did want to share with him a positive news story out of the events. I showed him the video of German people clapping and welcoming one group of refugees into their country.
After the news in Paris, I wanted to share with him the peace symbol, and what it means. As it turns out, he was more interested in building a teepee in the garden. The timing was not right. But the intention remains.
Whenever we have discussed global matters with our son, we talk about research, and how it changes all of the time. And how different people can have different view points on a particular matter. We don't want him to see the world in black and white. And we want him to question what facts and information is presented to him. An early form of analytical thinking, in a way.
Overall, though, our children aren't exposed to the news. We don't have a television, and don't listen to the radio or receive newspaper deliveries anymore. As adults and parents, we digest news out of sight from the children - generally after bedtime.
In a quest to find some guidelines on what is appropriate for different age categories, I found this article by PBS, which was an interesting read.
Do you watch or share news with your children? What guidelines do you follow? Have you discussed any recent global events - such as the Paris terrorism attacks or the Syrian refugee crisis?
images the indigo crew
Wednesday, 11 November 2015
It is a sure sign that your child enjoys a book when they can recite almost all of it. They are engaged and, hopefully, learning.
The two-year-old read I am Bunny by Ole Risom and with illustrations by Richard Scarry regularly a few months back, then took a break, and now we're back reading it every night.
The difference is that this time around she can say almost every sentence on every page. Given her age, this is clearly from memory rather than reading, but it's great to see that she is expanding her word count and sentence structures from a simple daily reading activity.
images the indigo crew
Monday, 9 November 2015
One of the things that I love about Instagram is getting ideas from other parents. Sometimes these can be recipes or a beautiful item of clothing, but I always appreciate seeing something that I can translate into action for my family. About a week or so ago Andrea from Izegu Tribe shared an image of an encyclopaedia that she had created with her son. Her idea was to write down topics that he was interested in, and research them together. She has gone to a lot of detail, and it's worth looking at the entry on her feed. It is of a megalodon, an extinct species of shark, and shows the word written in three languages, includes a drawing and facts about its size and theories on why it became extinct.
This idea of personalised encyclopaedia really appealed, and over the weekend I set about creating a "book of questions" for each child. My son is often asking questions that I don't know a good answer on the spot - certainly not a detailed one enough for his enquiring mind - so to be able to write down the questions and look them up later seems like a great solution.
Of course, the girls wanted one too. And so we had fun with some drawing and questions more related to their interests.
I used a small Moleskin notebook that fits easily in my handbag and means that any question can be recorded on the spot. It is also a nice why of acknowledging a child's interests and showing them that adults don't know all of the answers to life's questions, and that research can be worthwhile and interesting.
image the indigo crew
Friday, 6 November 2015
The weather has turned wet and cold again in Sydney so it seems a good time to share our sausage roll recipe. We have made them for all of the kids birthday parties - based on a Bill Granger recipe, and they always get devoured. The girls also enjoy making them during the week too. In fact, they enjoy making anything to do with puff pastry. It's like edible play dough!
Puff pastry, frozen
Sausage mince (or homemade stuffing, below)
1 egg yolk
Sesame seeds, optional
1. Preheat oven to 180-degrees-C. Defrost puff pastry. Squeeze the meat out of a sausage onto one end of the pastry.
2. Spread egg yolk along the length of the other end. Roll pastry, enclosing meat.
3. Brush tops with egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).
4. Cook for about 25 minutes in the oven, or until golden.
500g minced meat
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 grated carrot
1/4 cup shredded cabbage
1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp thyme, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Mix all the ingredients until well combined. Apply to pastry, as above.
images the indigo crew