Friday 19 June 2015

CARROT CAKE






Sometimes the mood strikes to bake cake. Last weekend, it was carrot cake so I dug out a recipe from Donna Hay that I've used a few times before. It's quite simple but definitely delicious. And the icing isn't overly sweet.

1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil (we used sunflower oil)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts
1/2 cup sultanas

1. Preheat the oven to 180-degrees-C. Place the sugar and oil in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs gradually and beat well.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, cinnamon and ginger over the sugar mixture. Add the carrot, pecans and sultanas and mix until just combined.
3. Pour the mixture into a greased 22cm (9 in) round cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 55-60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Serve the cake warm or cool completely and spread with cream cheese frosting (see below).

250g cream cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cream cheese frosting
Mix 250g softened cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add 1/3 cup sifted icing sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and mix until smooth. 

images the indigo crew

Thursday 18 June 2015

INTERVIEW | JO HANKIN AND ROSIE FLYNN OF HUBBLE + DUKE







Jo Hankin, left, and Rosie Flynn of Hubble + Duke.

Sewing clothes for their own children has taken Rosie Flynn and Jo Hankin on an adventure that they still can’t quite believe. The women behind the Perth-based company Hubble + Duke met through their eldest daughters, and after both took a break from their careers when they became mothers. Rosie had been working in design and interior architecture while Jo’s background is in marketing. A year after they both had their third child, they began creating clothes for their children and the following year - in 2013 - launched Hubble + Duke, creating and selling handmade leather moccasins. Within a week of going on Instagram they had 1000 followers and after just six months they were able to pay themselves a wage. Given the growth of the company, they now have a dedicated studio space and three seamstresses as well as staff to help pack all of their orders. The duo have also located an ethical manufacturer in Portugal to produce wares so they can expand into wholesaling. 

What was behind the decision to start Hubble and Duke? We were sewing for our own kids and identified there to be a gap in the Australian market when it came to handmade leather moccasins and high quality, classic children’s clothing.

What had you been doing previously? Rosie has a background in design as an interior architect and I was in services marketing. When we started Hubble + Duke our youngest had each just turned one and we were at that turning point of deciding whether to return to our previous roles or start a new adventure. Our friend Katie was also part of Hubble + Duke for the first year but has since stepped back to focus on her family this year. 

What is important to you when designing children's clothes? That they look beautiful, are comfortable and are well made from high quality materials. When looking for an overseas manufacturer we were inspired by the high quality of brands such as Tiny Cottons and Mini Rodini to look to countries with high ethical standards and beautiful fabrics such as Spain, Portugal and Turkey. We are so pleased to be working now with organic fabrics and a small, family owned ethical manufacturer in Portugal.

How do you try to differentiate your products from others on the market? We are constantly looking at our own children for inspiration (we have six between the two of us) which styles they love and what fabrics are comfortable on them. There are obviously many moc makers all over the world, but we believe our clothing is very individual and many of the items we have produced have not been done before. We have been very fortunate to have instigated collaborations with some really amazing people, such as working with Kara from Lulu Lucky on our t-shirts, jumpers and swan cushions. We are also currently working on a new fabric project with the very talented photographer Ashley Woodson-Bailey [interview].

What has been completely unexpected since starting your business? We are always amazed at where we send our products – we’ve sent mocs to over sixty countries around the world as far as Finland, Kuwait, Iceland, the UK, New York every week! The volume of orders we take to the post office test each week always blows our minds.

What is something that people often don't realise about your wares? All of our linen and leather items are handmade locally in Fremantle by our amazing team and we test everything out on our own kids. Many people don’t realise we’re based in Western Australia, especially as our customer base is worldwide.

Where do you look to for design inspiration? Instagram has been an amazing forum for inspiration and for meeting so many amazing people all over the world. Obviously our kids are a major source of our inspiration, but we are also constantly researching on social media to find new ideas and to see what is trending and what international brands are doing next.

What do consider when dressing or styling children? We try to style our shoots to be clean and crisp and to make the clothing the hero of the shot. We are lucky that we get to work with so many gorgeous babies and kids so that makes our job much easier. Rosie is amazing at styling shots for social media and just has an innate ability to know what works and will look good.

What role do you want your products to play in a childhood? We have a lot of customers that buy our teeny tiny mocs as keepsakes upon the arrival of a new baby, or for a christening, first birthday, etc. Our crowns are also really popular for birthdays and special occasions.

What was the last great children's book that you read?
Jo - My son has a dinosaur obsession so we read Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman every night. 
Rosie – My mum recently bought Once Upon An Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers for my girls and they love each little weird and wonderful story.


images courtesy of hubble + duke

Wednesday 17 June 2015

STUCK BY OLIVER JEFFERS







If it wasn't for books, I might not have noticed that the three year old is entering a new developmental stage. She is starting to enjoy many of the books that her brother read in preschool. She's not a baby or a toddler anymore. And while she still has an appreciation for "pretty" things and "princesses", she is more willing to read a range of topics now too.

I realised this after we recently read Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. She had never really got into his earlier series How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found and The Way Back Home, which I was almost able to recite after reading them to her brother when he was a toddler. 

But she finds Stuck funny, and has asked to read it several times. She understands its humour, and can see the silliness in the situation.

It's so wonderful to see some books have universal appeal.

images the indigo crew

Tuesday 16 June 2015

10 QUESTIONS WITH... ANNABELLE HICKSON





















































“This is our new ‘commercial kitchen’ in the shed where I am in the process of putting together pecan products to sell online. It is my favourite spot because what was a dim container with faux wood vinyl panelling was transformed in two days on a non-existent budget into what I think is an incredibly beautiful room. It also has glorious natural light and under the guise of a working kitchen, I have managed to nab myself a quasi room of my own for my blog.”

“I have this awful tendency to focus on the things that could be rather than see the beauty in what I actually have, so I started The Dailys as a kind of tool to help me see what is in front of me,” says blogger and photographer Annabelle Hickson. “I was also yearning to have a creative focus that was beyond being a mother and the concept of a blog as a virtual Virginia Woolf Room of One’s Own was very appealing.” 

Annabelle was born in Madrid while her parents worked there when she was a young child, but grew up in Sydney. At university she studied arts and commerce and majored in Latin and finance - “which probably gives you some indication as to how confused I was then”, she says. After months of interning at The Australian newspaper she was offered a cadetship and worked in the Sydney office before being based in the Brisbane bureau. It was then that she met her husband, a cotton farmer. 

“He lured me into a life in the country, which I initially hated, but several kids later and after a whole lot of growing up, I have come to cherish my life in the bush,” Annabelle says. They are now based in the Dumaresq Valley near New South Wales’ border with Queensland. It is from here that she photographs food and flowers, and shares recipes and stories of life in the country on her blog The Dailys.

“It is important that the photos I take are of the ordinary and daily moments of my life - not too tweaked, not too constructed - but then it is also important to me to present them as beautifully as possible,” Annabelle says. “Best foot forward.”

1 As a child I used to wear… beautiful hand-sewn party dresses complete with sashes thanks to mum. My sister and best friend wore matching ones. I also adored wearing my Brownie uniform and ran an unsuccessful campaign to be allowed to wear it to school on Thursdays.

2 My bedroom was… upstairs with three large windows looking over the garden flanked by long, drapey Colefax and Fowler floral curtains. All I wanted to do was stick posters of Jason Donavon up on the wall but mum wouldn't let me.

3 When I was a teenager I used to… sneak into the secret attic room accessed through a tiny door via a cupboard in my bedroom and smoke heaps of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, read Jack Kerouac and listen to The Cure on repeat while wearing light brown corduroy pants I had crudely modified into flares.

4 After high school I wanted to be… a journalist, which luckily I was, although that came after phases of wanting to be a publisher, an investment banker - I thought the cash would be nice, but didn’t even make it into the first round of interviews - and then really anything at all, just as long as it was something not to do with waitressing in mediocre cafes or delivering unwanted pamphlets to suburban letterboxes.

5 A seminal moment was... having my first child who cried a lot for a long time. It was a long, rather intense period where I eventually had to accept I couldn’t fix everything or bring about a happy ending and control the outcome whenever I saw fit. Some things often take time and they are often out of your hands.

6 I never thought I would... live in the middle of nowhere married to a farmer. But the big open skies and the kookaburras and the crisp air and the simple world of limited choices, I wouldn’t swap for the world. Well, maybe Paris. And actually Sydney also looks pretty good, but with young kids this is where I want to be.

7 I’ve learnt to… say no when I mean no. It dawned on me that I could either spend my life baking for school fundraising events or seconding motions in dreaded committees - I sound like Betty Homemaker here, but there is a lot of pressure to be involved in these things in country towns, and especially when there are only 15 kids in the entire school - or I could put a limit on time spent on this stuff and do something that was more meaningful to me.

8 I know… now that drama is not as important as I thought it was. I operate in cycles of borderline manic productivity followed by depressive slumps and life is better when I aim to steady the keel rather than hang off either side of the rocking ship.

9 I share because... it makes me feel alive to connect with like-minded people and because it gives me a semi-official framework in which to be creative, but if I am honest mostly because I am a little girl that is still looking for validation.

10 If I had an unexpected morning to myself I would... stay in bed and read - I am reading Karl Ove Knausgrad's My Struggle series at the moment, and cannot get enough - and then cook something new or with lots of chopping that would otherwise flip my lid if the kids were around.


image courtesy of annabelle hickson

Monday 15 June 2015

EXPLORING WOY WOY




One of our favourite places to visit pre-kids used to be Hardy's Bay on Sydney's Central Coast. We would often drive up there to have lunch and just relax while watching the boats bob on the bay. I realised that I had yet to take all three children there and thought it might be a fun day trip (while more work was being done on the house). However, as we had a late start to our trip, which takes about 1.5 hours, lunch time was beckoning and I decided to stop at Woy Woy. I've been there quite a few times too. However, I've never had fish 'n' chips at The Fisherman's Wharf, and thought that might be fun with the children.

As it turns out, we didn't end up leaving this laid-back town on the Central Coast. It's one of the bigger towns in the area but not huge, and is located on a beautiful section of Brisbane Water. It's all quite flat and has several good-quality bike and walking tracks that hug the coastline. There's also a fair amount of wildlife too - from pelicans to ducks and marine life.

While we stayed in the area near The Fisherman's Wharf, it's a place you could spend the whole day - or longer - exploring. It's a popular place to take kayaks out onto the water, as well as boats, as the waters are calm and protected. You can also catch the train there from the city, and it is quite a beautiful journey in itself.

A local told me that if you hang around at The Fisherman's Wharf at about 3pm you get to see the pelicans being fed. I think they were getting ready for their treats when we were there.

images the indigo crew

Friday 12 June 2015

LEAF PLAY







Sometimes I want to throw all of the children's toys out. They frustrate me on many levels. First, I should say, that I know that they are usually given with good intentions. And, secondly, sometimes it's even the ones that we as parents have chosen that need to be added to the pile. So this is not about pointing the finger. It's more about what children actually enjoy playing with. And how we sometimes lose sight of that - or get sucked into believing that a product can replace what they really want.

Take, for instance, our recent trip to the Southern Highlands. After a morning walk through the bush and a rest-stop for afternoon tea in Kangaroo Valley, we found a bountiful collection of autumn leaves. The children started to look for the largest one, and soon we were creating a giant circle of them. Giving focus to the activity excited them, and soon they were gathering as many leaves as they could then placing them in the centre or on the boundary of the circle. 

At the end they decided to run around the circle singing "Ring a ring o' roses". It was so lovely to watch. They were running and laughing, and completely immersed in something so simple. All it took was our participation. To be there with them, playing with them, engaging with what they were doing. And the funny thing is, that after the initial participation they no longer needed us to take part. It was then their activity, and they had taken it to a whole new level of imaginative play. But, it's as if they needed the comfort and reassurance that we were near them to get there. And once they felt secure, they were able to play unencumbered.

Of course, its not always possible to drop everything and play all of the time with your children. But it's nice to make the effort when you can. These are times that we remember. 

images the indigo crew

Thursday 11 June 2015

INTERVIEW | EMILY MCMASTER OF MABO KIDS







It was when Emily McMaster opened an old chest full of 
clothes that she wore as a child that the seed of an idea was born. She had been working in New York City in the film industry when she had her first child. Both her daughters were born in the city and it was where Emily started to make clothes based on the timeless designs in that cedar chest. When she launched the company Mabo Kids in 2010 its original collection comprised about six pieces, with lots of tweeds and wools. But it was when she added organic cotton basics that the brand took off. At about the same time as starting Mabo Kids, Emily and her family moved back to Salt Lake City, the place where she grew up. “It’s a beautiful city surrounded by mountains,” she says. It’s her hope to open a brick and mortar store in her hometown later in the year. She also plans to introduce a line of shoes, socks and knitwear. 

What was behind the decision to start Mabo Kids? My mom had saved all of my most “special” childhood clothes in a cedar chest, and when Ruby, my first daughter, was born, we opened it to see what might fit her. I think seeing how long some of the beautifully classic styles lasted and how they represented the fleeting nature of childhood really put an importance on children’s clothing for me that I hadn’t previously had. Living on a budget in NYC, I found it frustrating that the most simple and timeless clothing was the most expensive, and started making similar styles for Ruby myself. People seemed to like them as my passion for creating grew, so after we had Mabel and moved back to Utah - and had a little extra time and money, I found a pattern-maker and manufacturer and decided to go for it.

What had you been doing previously? I have a masters degree in cinema studies from NYU and had been working in the film industry for a few years before having Ruby. I worked in independent film; the company that I was with made Little Miss Sunshine and a lot of other great indie movies. It was really my dream job for years until I had a daughter and my priorities completely and surprisingly changed.

What is important to you when designing children's clothes? A classic style that will still be stylish years forward, simple design without a lot of fuss, with fabrics that are strong and durable. Ideally I like to create things that both children and adults will like enough to want to wear every day and incorporate into their daily lives.

How do you try to differentiate your products from others on the market? I’d say through the combo of quality and price. I really feel strongly that you shouldn’t have to be extremely wealthy to be able to buy things that are made responsibly and with nice natural fibres. It is expensive to create a product made in the USA and with great fabrics - we aren’t able to wholesale very much because our margins just don’t account for it, but it’s so important to keep our prices down as low as we can, so I focus on our own online sales and those special local neighbourhood stores that we want to support and be a part of. I try to keep the designs simple, which I not only prefer aesthetically, but makes it more affordable. I prefer to use nicer fabrics and strong construction for longevity sake than details that might drive the cost up.

What has been completely unexpected since starting your business? I think how much I would enjoy the parts that aren’t as “creative”. I actually enjoy the logistical and technical details of pattern development and the businessy-y Quickbooks-y stuff. There’s very few parts of the job that I dislike.

What is something that people often don't realise about your wares? I don’t feel that there’s much, besides maybe how expensive it is to produce clothing with nice fabrics that are made in responsible factories. I do feel this is changing and that people are really starting to appreciate this, but it’s tough and, as I said before, makes wholesaling really difficult.

Where do you look to for design inspiration? Quite a few styles have been inspired by my own clothes as a child, that my mother very carefully chose and saved. I also draw inspiration from classic films - both the childrens’ and adult styles, and from adult clothing that I love. I also try to draw inspiration from the fabrics themselves, because often that’s what I fall in love with first. I read a quote on Patagonia’s (one of my favourite companies for their ethical focus and wonderful products) Instagram that I loved and come back to quite often: “Let the materials shine in their own light. Don’t fight them, let them do what they naturally want to do.”

What do consider when dressing or styling children? It’s very important to me that my own children and the children we style for the Mabo photo shoots look natural and unfussy. While I do (obviously!) feel that children should have nice, quality clothing for this magical and fleeting period, the whole point is to be able to run, jump, play, spin, and to do it in comfort and feeling confident. I want the clothing to be comfortable and unprecious enough to be able to move between school to the playground, and even to special events. I also think it’s important that they have a say in their clothing choices and don’t feel “styled” by parents - style is such an important way of expressing yourself throughout life and cultivating a healthy sense of identity through style, rather than following trends or brands, can be such a nice lesson to learn early on.

What role do you want your products to play in a childhood? Oh, just to be there for all of the amazing memories. It’s so bittersweet and poignant how quickly this time passes. I can’t tell you how heartwarming it is to get photos people send from all over the world and just feel so lucky that I have some small moment in those special events, photos, and everyday moments. The addition of the pyjamas was a super sweet new example of that - all of a sudden I was getting these precious photos of babies and children sleeping in our little dotty jammies - how amazing is that?

What was the last great children's book that you read? We read Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep all the time - it’s my all-time favourite.


images courtesy of mabo kids

Wednesday 10 June 2015

BEAUTIFUL BIRDS BY JEAN ROUSSEN & EMMANUELLE WALKER






One of the benefits of having siblings seems to be that one person's present becomes everybody's present. This book - Beautiful Birds by Jean Roussen and Emmanuelle Walker (Flying Eye Books) - was a recent gift to the two-year-old. While we have read it together, it is her older sister (by 20 months) who has taken a real shine to it. The book is colourful and full of beautiful birds. There are also little facts woven into almost every page. For example, "H is for Hummingbirds beating their wings, at 50 beats a second they're fast lil' things."

images the indigo crew

Tuesday 9 June 2015

EXPLORING NARRABEEN LAGOON







Every time I drive up to Avalon and its surrounding areas in Sydney's Northern Beaches I drive past Narrabeen Lagoon and want to stop and explore. But usually there's never time. However, this long weekend we made a trip of going there and took bikes and scooters in the hope that the little ones could have a little fun exploring.

The drive takes about 40 minutes from the centre of the city and there was (paid) parking on site. Alongside the lagoon is a bike trail and while we didn't walk the whole way, I've read that it takes about 1 hour 40 minutes.

It's a beautiful walk through bushland that is almost always within view of the lagoon, which has a variety of birds, including pelicans and ducks. There are lots of sports facilities in the vicinity too - we spotted an abseiling wall and an archery range, as well as kayaks.

A new bridge opened on the site in March and the area was popular with a cross section of locals - from seniors to babies being pushed in jogging prams.

images the indigo crew 

Friday 5 June 2015

FELT MOSAICS







Two Christmases ago the almost seven-year-old received a box of felt mosaics as a gift. It does tend to get used more when the weather is cooler, such as the other weekend when we were all happy to sit around the kitchen table in our pyjamas for that little bit longer and just take time to enjoy the warm indoors. One interesting development is that the three-year-old has started to develop an interest in it, although the packaging does recommend from ages 5+.

Eeboo's Felt Mosaics comes with a set of cards that suggest different patterns you can make based on different themes - such as people or transparency. Of course, you can just make your own patterns too.

It's a fun way to play with colour, patterns and shape. And counting and sequences. Whenever we play with these types of games, it's a good way to throw in questions about multiples or addition/subtraction.

We bought ours from a local children's shop, Shorties, but you can also buy it on Ebay.

images the indigo crew  

Thursday 4 June 2015

INTERVIEW | PHILIP THOMPSON OF WADDLER







Philip Thompson was born and raised in Cork, Ireland, but now lives on a small island called Boipeba in Bahia, Brazil. In 2008 he moved to South America with his wife and young son and at first they lived in the foothills of the Andes mountains, where they got to live a carefree life of picking fruit from trees and riding bareback on horses. Initially Philip worked as a print journalist after a career as a documentary producer in London, however, when his wife couldn’t find warm clothes for their children she tracked down a local artisan in Peru. Soon afterwards they launched Waddler, a childrenswear range using organic pima cotton from Peru and alpaca made in Bolivia. They have been conscious of creating their wares using fair trade and leaving a low eco footprint. Alpacas don’t over graze like sheep or goats, Philip says. More than four years later Waddler is sold across the world, but they always find a way to give back to the local communities where the materials are sourced and made.

What was behind the decision to start Waddler Clothing? We were living in South America and my wife could not find warm cosy clothes for our son so she had a local artisan in Peru make up some of her designs. They were so nice we decided to start Waddler - it also gave us a good reason to stay in South America!

What had you been doing previously? I worked in documentary production in London and then as a print journalist in South America. 

What is important to you when designing children's clothes? I think it has to be fun and inspired. Inspired by real life experiences with kids or from stories and always thinking why kids will like it.

How do you try to differentiate your products from others on the market? We don’t. We just make what we like and think looks good. I think it’s more important to be true to yourself than attempt to be “original” in a market-driven sense. 

What has been completely unexpected since starting your business? That we sell globally - from Kazakhstan to Argentina. We thought our primary market would be the UK. 

What is something that people often don't realise about your wares? That we use the finest materials available and that everyone is every stage of the process is paid properly

Where do you look to for design inspiration? Kids stories, the nature that surrounds us, things that happen on our travels, what our kids like...

What do consider when dressing or styling children? That the kids are comfortable and happy and that they like what they are wearing.

What role do you want your products to play in a childhood? To inspire children to make their own adventures whether real or imaginary.

What was the last great children's book that you read? The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I never liked her Famous Five stories as a child but someone recommended these for us to read to our kids and they are fantastic.

images courtesy of waddler

Wednesday 3 June 2015

BONJOUR CAMILLE BY FELIPE CANO AND LAIA AGUILAR



























I can never be sure which books will strike a chord and which ones will be pushed to the side. This book seemed cute based on viewing the cover alone. I am a little bit of a sucker for French words, too. When we received Bonjour Camille, the book was shorter and more graphic than I expected. Although now realising that it comes from the people behind Bobo Choses it all makes sense. That's not to say that I didn't like the graphics, but it was more about whether they would hold the interest of the three-year-old who tends to go for books with ever-present protagonists. 

However, after we read the first page, she was hooked. She liked the premise of the girl jumping on the bed and all the things she had to do. And when we got to the end, she asked to read it again.

An unexpected blessing of this book being shorter than some of her others is that it's a nice complement to longer books as we always read two at bedtime.