Friday 30 January 2015


Something I used to love making as a child was "perfume". This usually meant picking up fallen rose petals from my garden and some of the others on my street and swishing them around in a tub of water. It kept me busy and happy for hours. When I had a bunch of rose petals leftover from a photo shoot recently I didn't want to waste them and thought it might be fun to make some perfume with the girls.

Note: There are a few different ways to do this. Some involve using alcohol or oil, which I didn't want to do with children involved. This project is more about having a little fun; playing with flowers, learning about their fragrance and keeping little hands busy. However, I did see one recipe to make rose water using petals, which I hope to do one day. It's lovely to sprinkle on your pillow.

Rose petals
Chopping board
2 glass jars with lids
Tea towel or similar
Vessels to hold "perfume"

1. Collect petals from flowers and divide into half. Chop one group and place into a glass jar with lid.
2. The second group place in another jar or bowl and cover with water. Cover with a lid or cling wrap.
3. Store both jars in a warm, dry place overnight.
4. The next day place a tea towel over a jug and large pouring container. Place the dry leaves onto the fabric first then pour the water solution over the top. Allow to drain. 
5. Now you have "perfume" - pour into a jar, and if want to (like my little one did) add a few extra petals for colour and fragrance.

images the indigo crew

Wednesday 28 January 2015


Over the years we have received about three or four copies of The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle as a gift. And while it's a story that I remember from my childhood, and was enjoyed by my son as a toddler, it does not compare with the response that my 18-month-old daughter has had to Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle.

It is a book that she enjoys reading together as there is a lot of word play on animals and colour, although she always wants to flip to the back page. This is where we engage in a question and answer scenario - her trying to find the animals that I'm talking about. But she has also started to ask to take the book into her cot at night. Last night she even woke during the middle of the night asking for it. This gives you an indication of how much of an impact it has made on her.

The book was published in 1967 and while it has no plot, the narrator asks a series of animals what they see, which is usually another animal. There are three spin-off books: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do Your Hear? (1991), Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do Your See? (2003) and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? (2007).

images the indigo crew 

Tuesday 27 January 2015


For Australia Day this year I thought it might be fun to make lamingtons as one of our activities. They are an Australian sponge cake that's coated in chocolate and coconut. I took inspiration for the Australian shape from my friend Belinda Graham of The Happy Home blog. The kids loved the activity element of the process - dare I say more so than eating them. The Classic Lamington recipe we used from the Australian Women's Weekly was perhaps a little too sweet. Next time I might seek out a sugar-free version, or cut the amount of icing sugar used. Below is a slightly amended version of the recipe, but still using the original icing sugar quantities.

4 eggs
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
1/4 cup (35g) cornflour
25g soft butter, chopped
1/3 cup (80ml) boiling water
3 cups (270g) dessicated coconut

4 2/3 cups (750g) icing sugar mixture
1/2 cup (50g) cocoa powder
20g soft butter
3/4 cup (180ml) milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Line a 20cm x 30cm lamington pan with baking paper.
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light in colour. Gradually add the sugar; beat for about 8 minutes or until the mixture is thick. Mixture should form thick ribbons when the beaters are lifted.
3. Meanwhile, sift the flour and the cornflour together three times. Combine butter and boiling water in a small heatproof bowl.
4. Sift the flour over the egg mixture; using a balloon whisk or a large metal spoon, gently fold the flour into the egg mixture, then fold in the butter mixture.
5. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a skewer comes away clean when inserted in the centre. Turn cake onto a wire rack to cool.
6. For square lamingtons cut into about 20 even pieces. For the Australia-shaped version, use a cookie cutter to create the shape. Use a knife to cut Tasmania from leftover sponge. This recipe made 6 large Australias.
7. CHOCOLATE ICING: Meanwhile, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a large heatproof bowl; add the butter and milk; stir over a medium saucepan of simmering water until icing is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. 
8. Place coconut in a shallow bowl.
9. Using a large fork, dip each piece of cake briefly into icing until cake is coated. Alternatively turn in the chocolate mixture. Hold over bowl to drain off any excess. If the icing becomes too thick stand it over hot water while dipping, or reheat gently with a little more milk.
10. Toss cake gently in coconut. Transfer to wire rack and stand until set.

* Make the sponge cake the night before so it has time to cool.
* If making square lamingtons consider halving the chocolate icing into 2 separate bowls to prevent crumbs thickening the mixture.
* You can buy and use pre-made/packaged sponge cake and just do the chocolate decorating.
* You can freeze the lamingtons

Friday 23 January 2015


It always amazes me how children respond to objects that aren't toys. We have a cardboard box that's getting great use at the moment - it's currently a "popcorn machine" and filled with about 50 sheets of scrunched up paper - popcorn, of course. Something similar happened when this sleeping bag from Fabrik arrived. 

I won a gift voucher to the online store through an Instagram loop giveaway by Hubble + Duke. For my prize, I chose one of Sarah Hardie's beautiful kids sleeping bags. I had been coveting one for a while.

When it arrived there was much excitement to put it to use straight away. And everyone wanted a turn. Since then it has gone in the teepee, been on various beds, used as a pillow and something to climb on, and now the bag that it comes in has become a sleeping bag of sorts for panda bear.

The actual sleeping bag has two layers of fabric so while it's not technically reversible (because it doesn't have the necessary zip) you can turn it inside out easily for a different look. The fabric is soft and the print should keep it looking clean. It's also quite light-weight so while it ended up getting kicked off during Sydney's recent run of warm summer nights, it will be perfect the rest of the year. More than anything, it's a little bit of fun.

The only problem is that Fabrik has sold out of its current range. A new delivery is arriving soon though. Fingers crossed.

images the indigo crew

Thursday 22 January 2015


The Sydney Festival always seems to come and go so quickly. It's on over the peak period of the summer season and many times I've missed it all together. However, this year we managed to get along to a few of the events. Inside There Falls I wrote about here was the highlight for us, but there were two other stand-outs, which I wanted to share. You will have to be quick though, as the festival ends January 26.

At the northern end of Hyde Park - not far from the Archibald Fountain - was the installation Higher Ground by Maser. It is a two-storey structure that plays with geometry and colour on a grand scale. The kids loved it. The design of it meant there were a few surprises along the way. However, the attendants were concerned about children staying close to parents because while there are railings, there had been an incident of a child falling (how far they didn't say) the day before. 

* All-day parking in the Domain Car Park and the car park under Cook + Philip Park is $10 all day - and you could double-up your visit to the Australian Museum or Art Gallery of NSW.
* Higher Ground is installed right next to the Sydney Festival Village, where you can buy food and drinks, and there's an outdoor library there too.
* The installation is also close to the Archibald Fountain - always popular with children - and on the day we visited a street performer blowing giant bubbles. He is regularly in this location, and this was a lot of fun for the children to see too.
* After visiting Higher Ground but before returning to our car, we played hide and seek in the grounds behind Cook + Philip Park, and picked feathers, which we painted inspired by the colours we had seen at the installation. The children always seem to have fun in this forgotten pocket of the city.

The scale of Sydney Buddha is what strikes you most when you first see it. The sculpture is 5m tall, and there are two facing parts. The first is an aluminium cast which was used to create the second part - a Buddha formed out of 20 tonnes of incense ash. The children were impressed with the scale of the sculpture, and getting to see the cast up close lead to many questions and explanations about how it was made. The work is by Chinese artist Zhang Huan. I love how these types of artworks can starts conversations about all sorts of topics with young children - what is incense, why it crumbles, who is Buddha...

* Sydney Buddha is installed at Carriageworks, which is a 10 minute walk from Redfern Station. There is timed on-street parking in the area (no tickets needed).
* On Saturdays from about 8am to 1pm the Eveleigh Farmers Market is held on the adjacent site to the Carriageworks building, and you could double-up your trip and have morning tea or lunch at the markets. Although expect the events to be much busier during this time.
* Catch a lift to the second floor within Carriageworks to get more of an aerial view of the Buddha.
* Inside There Falls is also located in the same building, however, expect to queue, especially on Saturday.

Wednesday 21 January 2015


While searching for ideas on how to make a teepee, I came across steps on how to make paper pom poms. This seemed like a fun and easy exercise for everyone until we went to the hardware store to get supplies. Our first attempt didn't work because we were using regular printing paper not tissue paper (although the project I found had used the latter). Also, when I doubled the amount of tissue paper used, the pom poms came out a lot fluffier. 

We made the pom poms while listening to Eucalpytus Dreaming by The Elsoms. Occasional dance breaks were required to complete this project.

Tissue paper

1 Draw a flower shape about the size of your palm with a pencil onto a piece of paper or card - this will be your template.
2 Draw around your template onto a wad of folded tissue paper.
3 Cut out the shape and staple into the centre.
4 Separate each leaf of paper then crinkle and fluff.
5 Tie string around the centre of the pom pom and hang.

images the indigo crew

Tuesday 20 January 2015


When I first started reading Once upon an alphabet by Oliver Jeffers to my six-year-old son I wasn't sure if I'd made the right decision buying it for him as a Christmas present. He had just finished his first year at school in Kindergarten and was devouring home readers, and wanted to read chapter books every night. This picture book almost seemed a step back. 

My concern continued as we were reading the story. He didn't laugh at any of the jokes, and looked a little puzzled. But when we finished, he asked to read it again. And he picked it up several times himself over the next week. He started to laugh more and talk about the characters. 

I think on that first reading he was absorbing all the word play. While it is a picture book, it is aimed at an older reader. The woman in the bookshop told me it's best suited for children from about age five to eight. (Although on the Amazon page it states ages 3-5 with customer reviews stating they feel it is too dark and complex for this age group.) Take, for example, the story behind the letter V:

"Victor was used to being victorious.
But recently he was defeated
and retreated into hiding under
the stairs, where he now sits,
plotting his vengeance.
One day they'll all be very sorry."

While it's challenging in some ways, it remains a picture book. But with Oliver Jeffers as the illustrator, it's not just any picture book. There are layers of detail and meaning in each drawing. And there's plenty to talk about while reading it.

It will be interesting to see if my son stays with the book over the next couple of years. Chapter books are what he returns to most at the moment. But this book still provides him with plenty to think about.

On the whole it is a beautiful and clever book that he has enjoyed. And I think it is good to read books that make us stretch, and talk about words and their meanings. Above are pages that he selected as his favourites.

images the indigo crew

Monday 19 January 2015


Over the weekend we created a makeshift teepee from garden stakes, builders line and a bed sheet. The kids liked it so much that they wanted to sleep in it that night.

This is how we did it.

Note: There are a few no-sew teepee tutorials out there, but this version is even easier (although, perhaps, a less permanent solution). Rather than weaving fabric through the posts we just wrapped a queen-sized flat sheet over the top and kept it it in place with safety pins. Obviously, if you are worried about them as a safety hazard you could tack-sew or use a hot-glue gun.

 8 garden stakes
Builders line
Queen-sized flat bed sheet
Safety pins or a hot-glue gun

1 Arrange your stakes/poles against a wall and weave the builders line under and over until it reaches the beginning again then tie a knot.
2 Gather the stakes/poles together.
3 Wrap more of the line or twine around the bundle as you fan them out from the bottom.
4 Once in position start weaving the builders line around each pole to hold the frame in place. Leave a gap at the front opening. Wrap more line/twine around the top of the front opening.
5 Wrap a bed sheet around the frame, leaving a gap where the opening will be. Tuck the ends back near opening and safety pin in place. Decorate! We used some garlands from Nomades.

images the indigo crew

Wednesday 14 January 2015


It might not be so obvious to see but in the images above are a floor lamp, high-backed wooden chairs, windows, a guitar and garden sun lounger. These objects all furnish The Obliteration Room, a space that Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has created in Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art. Also known as GOMA. Her work is regularly exhibited around the world, including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

What you also don't see is a fireplace, kitchen setting, dining table and a hundred other children sticking colourful dots all over the room. We visited during the school holidays and the place was busy, and the room really had been obliterated but that didn't stop everyone from managing to find somewhere to put their sheet of sticky dots. Even if it was on their body - although you are searched for remnants of stickers when you leave.

It was a great fun (and free!) experience, and wonderful to see children allowed to create at free-will. The exhibition has been running in this space at GOMA since December 6, 2014 - and will go on until April 19, 2015.

images the indigo crew  

Tuesday 13 January 2015


When I spied a movie poster for Paddington Bear about a month ago, and then spotted a copy of the book on holiday recently, I felt a great deal of nostalgia. But after opening the pages and reading it to my son, I realised that I didn't recall the story at all. Perhaps as a child I had watched the BBC television series instead. It didn't matter though, I was immediately transported back to a more innocent time. 

The book itself is quite short. A handful of chapters with Paddington's misadventures in each one. It was suitable for my six-year-old son, but he wasn't ready to read it alone yet (whereas he is quite comfortable reading other books such as The Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl and The 13-storey treehouse series on his own). I wouldn't say he was as captivated with the storyline as these previous titles, but he was interested to know more.

The film is still a fresh experience. Our son laughed and watched attentively, and said he enjoyed it afterwards. (Although I find that how long it stays in his mind over the weeks that follow a better indication of his enjoyment.) It didn't hold the interest of our three-year-old, though. Certainly, it had high production values with beautiful sets and costumes, and the bear itself was endearing and as real as you could hope. There were moments of sadness and suspense, and overall it had a warm fuzzy glow.

Monday 12 January 2015


When we left Inside There Falls, a installation as part of the Sydney Festival, I asked my six-year-old son what he thought. "Awesome," he said. 

We weren't sure what to expect. The posters said it was a labyrinth of music, voice and dance.

First of all we entered a "blue room" where we had to put on white overalls and listen to a voice coming from inside a paper ball. The kids loved this part. Then we entered the labyrinth - a series of large-scaled paper sheets hanging from the ceiling. This was also popular. There may have been a dance performance in the middle but we spent most of our time making our way through the maze. In the centre was a large installation, which both intrigued and engaged the children.

* Get there early. We visited on Sunday and the first performance was at 12 noon. Each session lasts about 10 minutes and we were told 23 people are admitted at a time. We arrived a little later and so had to wait at least 20 minutes (two sessions before us viewed the performance).
* It was suitable for a three year old but I held off taking my 18 month old. We left a stroller outside of the performance space.
* There were children-sized overalls available.
* Toilets are located in Carriageworks and there is a ramp from street level down into the building.

images the indigo crew