Tuesday 24 February 2015


"The kitchen is favourite place because it’s the only room close to finished!
 It’s also literally the centre of the home - it really is in the middle - and we spend 
so much of our time here crafting, baking, homeworking, eating, hanging… 
It is also the best spot for supervising the kids in the front and backyards 
at the same time (we live in a fishbowl!) and has the most beautiful warm
 afternoon sun beaming through the back doors every day. It’s my happy place."

I was going to start this introduction telling you about how Belinda Graham and I met*. However, Belinda told me the story behind her portrait for the series and it was another reminder of what I admire about her. She is incredibly resourceful. 

Belinda was home alone with her four young children and so set up her camera on a tripod near the kitchen. But she had problems trying to gain focus and her youngest - not yet a year old - was a little sick and grizzly. It turned out the tripod was broken and so in Belinda’s frustration she threw it onto the front yard. In its place she stacked a bunch of baskets but when she turned around they had gone. Her other two girls had nabbed them for a game. In the end Belinda found a pile of books and had to hold her baby for the photo, and it is little blurry but she did it. And she always does manage to find a way through her busy life to make things happen.

All the while, though, Belinda has a grounded view on life. She is my touchstone on many topics. I admire her lack of materialism in a world that has an insatiable appetite for consumerism. And over the 10 years that I've known Belinda, I believe that her turning the other way has enabled her creativity to flourish.

With each child, my wants or needs for items - for them and for me - diminishes a little more," Belinda says. "They just don't need as much stuff as we are led to believe. And it appears that the less we have, the more creative, smarter and happier we are."

At the moment Belinda is focussed on simplifying her life further, and becoming more organised. “This seems hypocritical when I tell you the other thing I’m focused on is getting our house plans in to council so we can extend and renovate,” she says. “I stick by my comment that we don’t need much to be happy. But in terms of our house, we do need more space. It’s tiny. But with more house will come more storage and organisation, more creative spaces, more places to enjoy our simpler life. Hopefully.”

*It was at Real Living magazine, where we both worked - she as deputy editor before I stepped into her role when she went onto maternity leave and later left the position. That was almost 10 years ago.


1 As a child I used to wear… a lot of handmade clothes, hand-me-downs and matchy matchy clothes with my sisters. My Nana was brilliant at everything and used to make little crochet skirts and vests with our initials, dresses and capes. As an older child I lived for the weekends when I’d visit my grandparents and there in the corner was a huge black garbage bag filled with things from my cousin who had visited the week before. I thought she was the coolest, best-dressed person on the planet - plus there was only one of everything that as the eldest, I got first dibs on. I spent a lot of my childhood matching my sisters in everything from the crochet dresses from my Nana to traditional German dresses from my Oma to hand-painted nightgowns we made with our mum. Obviously, it wasn’t every day, but when you look back through family pictures, you’d think we always matched! We rarely bought clothes - or anything for that matter - for the sake of it. Every season we shopped for a few new essentials, were gifted items at Christmas and birthdays and were bought things as we needed them. But they were never flashy or big-name brands. Just good quality, nice things. I do the exact same thing now with all of us.

2 My bedroom was… all white! I was always - and still am - obsessed with white walls. As a kid, my parents decided to paint the entire house a terracotta colour. I was horrified by this and talked them into letting me paint my room white. I’m still sure the only reason they agreed to this was because I said I’d paint it myself if they let me.

3 When I was a teenager I used to… daydream constantly. I’d even have my own “thinking spot” in nearby bushland where I’d go and sit and daydream - about everything and anything. I’d dream up various scenarios and act them out in my head like a movie - adventure, romance, thriller - they all featured. I’d imagine interviewing Audrey Hepburn, saving the world with information I’d gathered as a spy, being cast as Keanu Reeve’s love interest in a movie, what my house would look like when I owned one. If I’m honest, I still daydream a lot - mostly about my house, which we’re about to extend. My life looks so much more stylish, organised and perfect in my imaginary future!

4 After high school I wanted to be… a journalist. It was all I ever wanted to be growing up. I was going to write these amazing investigative pieces from behind enemy lines for TIME magazine and fantastic adventure stories for National Geographic. I did become a journalist, but covering depressing stories constantly wore me down and I realised hard news wasn’t for me and that I was better suited to lighter things - like Cosmopolitan magazine apparently which was my next job! And then I dreamt of taking over from Deb at Real Living eventually. But then babies were born (and born and born and born!) and the media changed and I’m not sure I want to be a part of it at all anymore.

5 A seminal moment was… moving back to Sydney after living on the NSW Central Coast for seven years. When we first moved to the Coast, I expected it to be temporary and that eventually we’d move back to Sydney and buy a beautiful terrace house in Balmain. In 2011 we moved back rather quickly for Steve’s new job - he was a governmental media advisor and had to be on call. But his job was full on and we all realised pretty quickly that we didn’t really like living there. We missed the quiet, the water, the adventures and the slower style of living that we had on the coast. So a year later, we moved back! Instantly our mood lifted - it was like we could breathe properly again. Plus, we were happier, healthier and felt right at home - even though we were renting. After a year we bought the worst house in the best street waiting for us to transform - we’re working on that now. When I think of that year in Sydney, it’s how I imagine life in the middle ages - no colour. It’s just dark. I don’t regret doing it though; it made us realise who we were and where we wanted - and needed - to be. 

6 I never thought I would… yell at my children. Honestly, I would cringe when people would do it and I would judge them so horribly as The Worst Parent Ever. Then I became a mother and I think I made it to three children and school mornings before it happened regularly. I cringe and curse myself every time I do do it, but my Godfather they can drive me crazy sometimes and after asking them several times nicely to stop/do that or this/eat up/put their shoes on/brush their teeth/bring their hat home, the niceties run out pretty quickly and that wave of frustration just rolls on over and out it comes. I’m working on it, because I still think it is such an awful thing, but it happens. If anyone has a solution to children not listening, no one would ever hear me yell again. Anyone?!

7 I've learnt to… trust my instincts, my heart, my head and my children as to what is best for all of us. From the moment you’re in a serious relationship, people’s questions, opinions and advice on falling pregnant/giving birth/raising children seem to hit you from all sides. It’s overwhelming. When my son was a few months old and I had tried everything in my power to make him sleep longer than 20 minutes at a time, I took him to the clinic and told the nurse my concerns about his cat-napping. When she said “he needs to sleep more” but had no other solution, I went home angry and threw away all the baby books - he wasn’t in any of them. I sat down and thought about it - he was happy, he was healthy, he was growing, he was totally fine. He obviously didn’t need any more sleep. So I just went with it. Zak still now doesn’t need a lot of sleep. And you know what? He is the second smartest person I know (his Dad still knows a little more bit more!). I’ve learnt to ignore all the noise from outsiders (within reason, obviously) and do what works for each child, for me and for all of us. 

8 I know… I’m doing a pretty good job as a mum. And I think it’s ok to say that to yourself occasionally if you are, rather than wait for someone else to acknowledge it. I rarely self-praise but I do believe I’m doing ok. Aside from the yelling. 

9 I share because… it’s in my nature! I’ve always been a sharer - from toys with siblings to information in my career to tips to friends and ideas with the world wide web. If I don’t share things I enjoy, have learnt, have found or have made, I can’t happily take from those who do. It’s a two-way street. 

10 If I had an unexpected morning to myself I would… sleep. That is all. 

image courtesy of belinda graham


  1. Thanks for having me! And for all your support, advice, help and friendship these past almost-10 years! Xx

    1. Always a pleasure. Had to stop myself from writing an essay above, and should have emphasised more how much I get out of your craft projects - and that was a big part of why I wanted to share your feed too. The balloon animal faces, the play dough, Australia Day lamingtons... xxx