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. 

Sawdust (or sand)
Glue stick

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

Wednesday 4 November 2015


Amelia Fullarton has fast become a go-to photographer in the beautiful area of Byron Bay. She’s known for her portraiture work - mainly for weddings and also with children. But she’s also gaining quite a following for capturing her own sweet family - two girls Arlo and Agnes - in and around their beachside home. Amelia is originally from Sydney though. She grew up on the outskirts - in Dural. Her family had land there and she and her sister rode horses growing up, and had a real taste of country life. About seven years ago Amelia moved to Byron after travelling through Europe with some of her best friends. “We just didn’t want the holiday to be over,” she says. “Byron was the next best thing. I’d like to eventually settle in the hinterland, on some land so the girls can enjoy what I had. I love the simplicity country life has to offer.”
Because Amelia’s youngest daughter is still a newborn, she is enjoying some time out from her busy wedding photography schedule. Once Agnes is a little bigger though, she anticipates having to work a lot at night while the girls sleep. “The juggle is tough and like most working mums some days I feel really stressed,” she says. “But I’m one of those people who loves the chaos of family life; I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

1 As a child I used to wear… the same outfit every day. Well, at least I tried. Mum said I used to cry when it was getting washed then go down to the clothesline to wait and watch while it dried.

2 My bedroom was… painted more times then I can count. Now I’m a parent, looking back I love how relaxed my folks were about it all. Pink, blue, different shades of purple. It was amazing; I realise now how that creative freedom is just so great for young children.

3 When I was a teenager I used to… be trouble. Having two girls, I’m already having serious concerns about what we might be in for!

4 After high school I wanted to be… an interior designer. I studied at Enmore in Sydney, straight after high school.

5 A seminal moment was… most definitely when Arlo, my first daughter, was born or more so that first year of her life. I was finishing up a degree with a newborn and starting to apply for jobs within that field. Every interview l went to - and there were a few - l walked out feeling like absolute crap, like l knew l wasn’t going to get it. My heart wasn’t in it and if l did get a job, I’d have to work five days to earn enough to pay for daycare and miss out on watching my daughter grow up. It’s this sad reality for women that we are faced with now, to be able to live off one income is tough and we feel pressure to wear many hats. I knew l had to find what it was l loved to do. l’d take photos of Arlo on my little film cameras and these images would bring me so much joy but l couldn’t think of one person who would take some “non-cheesy” photos of my family. l thought l could do this for people; l would love to do this for people. I guess it grew from there. Thanks to her, l pushed myself out of my comfort zone. l had someone l needed to think of now that was more important to me than myself and that can make a woman do some pretty powerful stuff.  

6 I never thought I would… be the first out of my friends to have children. I fell in love with my partner when I was 21 and was pregnant with our first daughter at 23. Before I met him I never imagined this is where l would be. l loved the freedom of being single, the travelling and boozy nights. But l’ve found a great man and l’ll willingly give up all my boozy nights for breastfeeds in bed. Ha!

7 I’ve learnt to… not be too hard on myself. Well, at least I’m trying. It’s a real struggle for me to never feel like I’m doing good enough. Whether that be with work or being a mother. For my work it’s important that l be critical so I can improve but some days I think I just need to pat myself on the back and say, “hey, you’re doin' okay!”. 

8 I know… that this life is short. That we live in an incredible country where anything is possible. I hope my kids never lose perspective on just how lucky they are for those reasons alone.

9 I share because… there’s something l really enjoy about documenting life, especially the good moments. I know a lot of people say it gets a bit too much all the pretty pictures but for me not so much. I try not to take it too seriously, all you have to do is pick up a newspaper or switch on your television to see how much war and sadness there is in this world. For me, if l can share what might just be a moment of happiness in my day then it’s worth sharing. Cause we all know it aint’ always peaches and cream, behind every pretty picture is a pile of mess. 

10 If I had an unexpected morning to myself I would… read, go for a drive, take a long walk without any rush to get home, be lazy, drink champagne, go to breakfast and order pancakes - knowing they aren’t going to get eaten by someone other then myself - have a proper conversation with all of my best friends without being interrupted every five minutes. I could keep going but l might bore you.

image courtesy of amelia fullarton 

Monday 2 November 2015


Life is a continual learning curve with children. I've learnt so much about my strengths and weaknesses, and my values. For more than 12 years we haven't had a television in our home. And even though I've had moments of questioning this decision - usually on movie nights or when the children were at the stage of dropping sleeps and tired and cranky in the afternoons - I'm glad I've persevered.

For all of our children, we've avoided screen time in the first two years of their life after reading several studies on the detrimental effect of brain development during this period. Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina is an interesting example. And following on from this age, we've tried to cap screen time to two hours maximum a day. But while we might reach this limit if we watch a film, we don't come near this on a daily basis.

When our son was younger we went through a stage of letting him watch an hour or so of children's films or programs (via ABC for Kids online) on our laptop when he stopped having a midday nap at age two. At the time it seemed like the best solution as it would pacify him for a little while otherwise he would get frustrated because he was tired and couldn't concentrate on other tasks. Also, we sometimes let him watch programs when our second child came along, and I needed to focus on settling a newborn to sleep.

However, once she got to the age that they could play together, our reliance on screens slipped away altogether. While we had never had an excessive reliance on them, it felt good that they weren't a regular part of our lives. Soon afterwards I deleted the few kids "educational" apps I had on my phone and decided that it was only a tool for my work, and not a toy. That felt good too.

Now that there are three children actively playing in our home, they hardly ever watch films or kids programs. It's been interesting to observe because each one of them has progressively watched less than the previous child to the point that the youngest actually has no interest in films when they are on. She's up and down on her seat and in and out of the room.

And the other two hardly request to watch anything either. They are usually too busy playing.

Of course, there are days when the lure of the screen appeals - usually when I'm not feeling well, or I'm tired or perhaps parenting solo, but I often realise that it's for me, not for them. And I think that's okay, too. But it's interesting to observe why we make these decisions.

Yesterday, while my husband was doing some DIY on the house, the thought crossed my mind that I might suggest a movie. However, by the time I had cleaned up after lunch all of the children were playing together upstairs. Shortly afterwards they called out to me to see what they had created. It was a "scene" for the youngest to play in. It really made me so glad that I'd given them the opportunity to find some way to occupy themselves. It was one of those beautiful moments as a parent, and one that made me realise that, for now at least, when their imagination seems to be in full flight, our life is better without screens.

image the indigo crew