Monday 31 August 2015


Recently we bought a large bunch of lavender for spare change from a farmer's roadside market stall. It was a lovely addition to our kitchen, especially as it's one of the preschooler's favourite flowers. She often sleeps with a sprig or two on her pillow for its fragrance. But over the weekend I noticed that the flowers were starting to droop and it seemed a shame and waste to throw it out.

I decided to hang it up to dry. But because I had bought some extra bunches for her birthday, we had quite a collection. I thought it might be a fun game for her to discover them when she comes home from preschool. And they look - and smell - lovely too.

Also, as I'm interested in growing some, I've done a little extra research on lavender. Here are 10 things I learnt:

1. Lavandula (common name lavender) belongs to the mint family and there are 39 known species of this flowering plant.

2. It is the leaves that normally contain the essential oils - which explains why I had to change the water daily.

3. The English word for lavender is thought be derived from the the Latin word lavare - meaning, "to wash". However, other explanations suggest the name comes from the Latin word livere - or, "blueish".

4. The most common form is English lavender - Lavandula anguvstifolia. The scent of lavender is thought to deter mosquitoes, flies and other small pests such as mice.

5. Lavandula stoechas has been declared a noxious weed in Victoria, Australia, as well as parts of Spain.

6. Lavender likes growing in full sun and prefers dry, well-drained soil. Also, the plant doesn't produce seeds - if you want to grow more, you need to separate the roots.

7. The essential oil from lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. And it is English lavender that is most commonly used in cosmetics, beauty and cleaning products due to its sweet fragrance.

8. Bees pollinate lavender and create honey from its nectar. 

9. Lavender essential oils were used in hospitals during WWI. Lavender honey has also been used on uninfected wounds.

10. Lavender can be used to help aid relaxation and sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety.

images the indigo crew

Friday 28 August 2015


When the preschooler asked to have a fairy party, I immediately thought it would be fun to include craft activities. Almost from the start, I wanted to get the children to make their own wings. This would keep them occupied, I hoped.  But I really wanted them to get involved, and to make it easy and enjoyable for them. I also wasn't keen on getting out paint or glue, if it could be helped.

After chatting with my friend Belinda Graham of The Happy Home Blog, she gave me the idea to use clear sticky paper, such as Con-Tact, for covering books. After a little more research on Pinterest, I decided to make the wing frame from wire. When out sourcing I spotted white wire coat hangers and this seemed like a good solution.

Each wing set was created from two coat hangers bent into shape and then twisted into the centre to hold them together. Elastic was knotted onto the wings so the children could put them on and off themselves.

Four templates were created for the wings. A top and bottom left and right. The bottom wings were cut larger to be  able to fold over and secure over the wire.

The wings were prepared the night before the party so that we were ready to go once the girls arrived.

Adults needed to apply the sticky paper but then the girls were left free to create their flower arrangements.

When finished, the top layer of sticky clear paper was placed on top.

Each girl created quite a different design from the other.

Because we had estimated the length of the elastic the night before without a fitting model, some of them were too short. We added two long white pieces of ribbon - bowed into hoops - so they could wear the wings comfortably.

Four days later and the flowers are still looking quite fresh. The flower fairy wings are a hit.

images the indigo crew

Thursday 27 August 2015


In the past we have used balloons en-masse to decorate our dining room for at-home birthday parties. However, as the four-year-old's party was themed "flower fairies" it seemed the obvious choice to use nature-based decorations. After finding wax flowers in abundance at the markets, I wanted to use them in some way. Because they have sturdy stems, I went with the idea of attaching them to the wall using masking tape. Breaking them into smaller stems meant that the weight of them would hold easier and after initially considering an archway of the flowers, the less traditional dispersed effect was more appealing.

As it turned out, it was also easier for little hands to help. When they saw me attaching the flowers to the wall, they wanted to do this too. They did it in a random way, with some stems upside down, which they thought was funny. I quite liked the effect, and they were having such fun, I didn't want to dampen their enthusiasm. In the end, my mum was cutting the stems, I was applying tape and the girls were sticking them to the wall. It was such a great activity to do together.

I quite enjoy decorating this wall in our dining room for 
parties. It helps to transform the space into a special place, and it's also a fun backdrop to take photos against during the party.

images the indigo crew

Wednesday 26 August 2015


While preschool had book week activities, it seems that only since the boy has been going to school has it taken on some sort of seriousness. All the children participate, and last night he came home talking about costumes. The only problem was that he changed his mind a few times about what he wanted to dress as. At first it was Inspector Bubble Wrap from The 65-Storey Treehouse then the boy from the Paper Planes book followed by Captain Hook from Peter Pan. This morning his final request was for badger from The Wind in the Willows, which is his current night-time book. 

Thanks to an overflowing craft cupboard, we were able to whip something up in about 15 minutes over breakfast. Then little miss preschool wanted to dress as a zebra - with a little improvisation we made that happen too!

Badger costume
1. Cut out the letter "B" from a piece of felt and sewed it onto a t-shirt.
2. Drew a badger face on a piece of cardboard, cut it out and created eye holes using a scalpel knife. Stapled elastic to the sides to fit over the head. 

Zebra costume
Existing mask with lots of stripes!

Happy Book Week!

Tuesday 25 August 2015


This cake recipe is worth sharing. We've made it for 12 children's birthday parties, and every time it all gets eaten - even by the children, who often only eat icing on some cakes.

Every time we decorate it slightly differently, though. One time we created a large star on top out of chocolate sprinkles. Another time we made the shape of a cat's face from liquorice and a pink marshmallow nose.

For our most recent birthday party, for our four-year-old, we created a star out of raspberries and decorated the plate with flower petals.

The butter cake recipe is by Donna Hay, and in the Donna Hay Modern Classics Book 2.

125g (4 oz) butter, very well softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), sifted
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) milk

1. Preheat oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Place the butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on a low speed until combined.
2. Increase the speed to high and beat the mixture until it is just smooth.
3. Grease a 20cm (8 in) round cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper. Spoon in the mixture and bake for 1 hour 5 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack. Serve plain or spread with basic icing or butter cream frosting, below. Serves 8

Butter cream frosting
Place 250g (8 oz) softened butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add 1 cup sifted icing (confectioner's) sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Spread over a completely cooled cake and refrigerate until set.

image the indigo crew

Monday 24 August 2015


The Sydney Flower Markets have always been a favourite place to visit. I have fond memories of going to source tea roses for my wedding many years ago, and I've been back several times since. I usually visit on a Saturday morning, when you're not jostling against florists and you don't have to pay for parking. While the selection is not always as good, it's still ample choice for selecting fresh cut flowers for the home, or some special occasion. Florists often get to the markets at about 5am and by about 9am most stalls are closing. Sometimes this means you can bargain a little, although the prices are wholesale.

It can get quite soggy under foot, so it's worth wearing all-weather shoes. Also, it's a good idea to take containers to carry your flowers if buying in bulk. You can take a bucket or tub, or grab one of the cardboard boxes that the florists discard into the recycling.

The girls enjoyed stopping to (gently) touch the flowers and smell their fragrance. Some flowers are imported, depending on the season. 

Flowers are one of those lovely reminders of the seasons, and what is to come. Jonquils are synonymous with spring. And flowers such as lavender can be dried out and kept in small calico pouches to keep in drawers filled with clothes at home.

Even fallen flowers are given a home. The children enjoy watching them float in water. The jasmine was picked from a local bush. It's fragrance always reminds me that warmer days are on their way.

images the indigo crew

Wednesday 12 August 2015


You can never be entirely sure when you buy a gift for a child, especially a young one who can't express their thoughts and feelings yet, how they will take to the gifts that you buy them.

Earlier in the year, we bought the two-year-old the Kiko Oekaki House - or "drawing board" house, translated from Japanese. We got it from Fabrik and it is her absolute favourite toy. I often catch the three-year-old playing with it too.

The little one loves drawing, but also putting all the little magnet pieces back in their spot. It's lightweight that it can be carried around and has many colours on the board so is engaging for her. It comes in a calico carry bag.

You can also buy it here.

images the indigo crew 

Tuesday 11 August 2015


With so many wonderful picture and chapter books for children, it's easy to forget that they often enjoy non-fiction and reference books too. Before arriving at Bundanon I was reading about Egypt and Aboriginal Dreamtime to the seven-year-old.

When I recently bought Siteworks: Field Guide to Bundanon - which is about the flora, fauna and topography of the property - I knew it was going to be something I could read with my son.

It has a chapter showing cross-sections of the earth and includes topographical maps. There is a page on cicadas - which he loves - and monitor lizards. There are also botanical illustrations on dandelions and other flora that is common in many parts of Australia.

I'm sure there must be many other great resource books such as this, and would love any recommendations, especially ones that relate to Australian flora and fauna.

Monday 10 August 2015


I came to Bundanon to work, but I never expected to see so much that I wanted to share with my family. For the past week I have been staying here as part of the Artists in Residency program, and will give talks to school children as part of their book week education program. And while it has been a wonderful opportunity to stay here, I have also somewhat unexpectedly been blown away by the surrounds.

Every day I go for a walk on the grounds, and every day I see something new.

Bundanon is the name of a property that famed Australian artist Arthur Boyd left to the Australian people via a trust that he established with the Australian Government - Bundanon Trust. It is a place that preserves his home, and works, and provides the opportunity for artists to complete residencies for art, music, writing and performance.

The property is open to the public on Sundays. You can take a tour of the homestead, where Arthur lived, as well as explore the grounds. 

A short walk from the homestead is the Singleman's Hut. This is an old colonial-style building where farm hands would stay. Smaller exhibitions are held here.

The original homestead has been preserved in keeping with when Arthur and Yvonne Boyd lived there. Older children might appreciate viewing the works on display, as well as seeing inside an historic home. Arthur's art studio is quite an amazing place to visit, regardless of age. Close to the homestead are picnic benches, where you can sit with a packed lunch. The Trust encourages people to bring along a picnic (as they don't serve food - although you can get a cup of tea and a biscuit for a gold coin donation).

Behind the homestead is a formal-style garden, adorned with sculptures, which would be interesting to show children. There is a kitchen garden too. It would be a lovely activity to get them to identify flowers and herbs. Maybe even draw them, if you took along pencils and paper.

Day and night there are kangaroos everywhere. It really is worth stopping in one spot for five or more minutes and just observing them. Some of the kangaroos have joeys in their pouches. Others get into fist fights with each other or just laze around. 

One of the installations is by a former Artist in Resident, Brook Andrew. These cool caravans had been part of the Sydney Festival.

Wattle and wild flowers were in abundance during my visit. You could make flower crowns galore with all this foliage!

You can take a walk to the Shoalhaven River from the property. On a few occasions I spied kangaroo and wombat tracks in the sand. 

The walk back from the river takes you in-between fields of cows and kangaroos. You might have to dodge wombats - and wombat burrows (lots of them!) along the way. There are many easy bush walks you can take around the property, including to a bush-style amphitheatre and a track called Cedar Walks.

During my stay I bought the Siteworks book from the office - open to the public on Sunday - and plan to bring it back with me on my return. There are photos and botanical drawings of the native flora and fauna, and want to give the children the challenge of finding it all.

images the indigo crew