Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bright Pink Doily

I made this doily using 4 ply cotton from Bendigo Woollen Mill and a 2mm hook. I used the same pattern I used to make a pair of green doilies for my sister in law, which is by Maggie Weldon and is available for free on I'm not sure what will become of this doily, I'm thinking I might make a set of them to put in my online shop which is currently empty. It's been a real challenge to know what to make for my shop, and especially taking the adequate photographs, but maybe I've conjured enough steam in my sails to try again!
bright pink doily on an angle
the pattern for this doily is available for free

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gluten Free Mini Quiches

We're planning a gluten free party for Tom's 3rd birthday which is in December, it'll just be a small gathering for a family get together. My brother is a diabetic coeliac so whenever he visits we try and provide as much gluten free food as we can. The extra difficulty this year is now we're in the new place there's not enough seating for everyone to sit around a table, so knives and forks are out. So not only are we looking for gluten free diabetic friendly recipes, but also ones that make good finger food for when you aren't sitting at a table.
these gluten free mini quiches are super easy
Although the get together is still 7 weeks away, we've started planning the menu in earnest to try and reduce the stress on the day. We just did a practice run of these gluten free mini quiches which were very easy and super yummy. I think these will be making it onto the menu! I found the recipe for crustless ham and cheese quiche at Kara cooks. For this to be gluten free you need to be sure you choose a gluten free ham or bacon, as sometimes processed meats can contain gluten.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is this a Lilly Pilly?

This tree in our backyard is looking so beautiful right now I just had to share some photos of it. We're not quite sure what it is yet but we suspect its a lilly pilly, we'll know for sure when it fruits. The blooms are a-buzzing with bees, and the tree is completely covered with flowers. If it is a lilly pilly there's going to be a lot of fruit! And we won't be able to pick it all, its quite tall!
the tree is covered in these flowers
the tree in our backyard is quite tall
more flowers, could they be a lilly pilly?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rescuing an Old Rose Bush

I wish I'd taken a photo of this old rose bush when we moved in 6 months ago, then you would really see just how much its perked up. It used to be just a stick in the ground with about a dozen leaves on it! This is by our front letterbox, and looks to be a very old rose with a gnarled base and trunk. Someone has pruned it as roses require that, but that was before we moved in.
a flush of new growth on our old rose bush has given it a new lease on life
Since moving in, I've been applying blood and bone every 2 months, then replacing a layer of mulch. Last application I also added some premium potting mix to the blood and bone. Last weekend we put an extra layer of sugar cane mulch. Its been very dry here for the last 2 months so a few weeks ago I started watering it every day. This is obviously just what it needed because this week there is a flush of new growth, much more than what was there last autumn. I wonder if we'll get a flower this year, or if we have to wait until next year? Although its still spring here at the moment, its so hot it feels like summer already!
the old rose bush has perked up after applications of blood and bone every couple of months and daily watering

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Three Easy Toddler Activities

Here are three more easy toddler activities that I've tried. They're good for fine motor development and don't make a lot of mess, which of course I love!

Sorting Breadclips

I've kept a small plastic recycled honey jar filled with recycled bread clips waiting for an opportunity to use them with Thomas. For some reason he really enjoyed playing with them, scooping them into my hands and spreading them across the lounge. We played sorting them into the small plastic coloured bowls we have, sorting them by colour at this stage seems to be appropriate. This is an easy little game to play with recycled materials. I wouldn't use this with a baby though, because I worry the small pieces could be a choking risk.
sorting recycled bread clips is an easy toddler activity

Mr Potato Head and Playdough

I saw this idea on Teaching 2 and 3 years old and thought right away we could give it a go. Its a great variation on playing with play-dough that's easy to throw together if you have the play-dough already made up. I like to use this recipe for making my own home made play dough.
play-dough with Mr Potato Head parts is easy if you already have the play-dough made up

Painting with Watercolour

I've been keeping these water colours aside for a long time, they came inside a transparent bag I bought before Thomas started day-care last year. I've found that painting with these water colours does not make as much mess as the other paint and is really easy to clean up. I whip this out when Thomas asks for painting and I'm just not feeling up to dealing with the mess!
painting with watercolours is not as messy as other paints

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Straw Painting

I gave this straw painting a go, but it was quite messy I don't think I'll do it again for a while! Using an old medicine dropper, we dropped watered down paint onto paper then blew it with straws. Because I used the poster paint we did it out on the lawn to reduce the mess, rather than stain the conrete. The watered down paint made the paper all soggy, too. Thomas had fun though! He keeps asking for painting and gets quite excited!
blowing the watered down paint with a straw
dropping the watered down paint onto the paper with a medicine dropper

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plastic bag keeper, free pattern

This plastic bag holder or keeper is my own design, I first made them early last year. I've had a couple of people ask for this pattern so here it is! Please be respectful of my original design and do not copy this pattern, you can make and sell items you make with this pattern, please just link back to this page.
the plastic bag keeper is a tube with a drawstring at each end
The plastic bag keeper is a tube with a drawstring at each end, pull the top drawstring tight and use the loop to hang the keeper. Keep the bottom drawstring loose so you can slip bags in underneath, pull the drawstring to close if needed.
weave the drawstring in between the stitches

Plastic Bag Keeper Pattern

you'll need less than 100g of 8ply yarn for this, I used acrylic and a 4mm hook
1. ch 60, sl st into 1st ch to form loop, ch 3 (counts as 1st st of round 1) dc into ea ch to end, sl st into top of 1st st (60 st)
2. ch 4 (sk 1, dc into next st, ch 1) repeat to end, sl st into 3rd ch (30 ch spaces)
3-34 sl st into next ch sp, ch 4 (dc into next ch sp, ch 1) repeat to end, sl st into 3rd ch (30 ch spaces)
repeat round 3 until round 34
35. ch 3 (dc into next ch sp, dc into next st) repeat to end, sl st into 3rd ch
36. ch 60, fasten off and tie a loose knot, starting at the 1st st of round 35, weave the 60 ch in and out of the stitches, cont. to end, undo the loose knot and sl st into 1st ch of 60 ch to form drawstring, fasten off and weave in ends.

To form drawstring at beginning end, start a new ch 60, fasten off leaving enough yarn to complete last sl st, and tie a loose knot. Starting at the 1st st of round 1, weave the 60 ch in and out of the stitches, cont. to end, undo the loose knot and sl st into 1st ch of 60 ch to form drawstring, fasten off and weave in ends.

Please leave a comment if you found this free pattern useful, I'd love to hear from you!

Playing with Pompoms

Surprisingly, Thomas really enjoyed playing with the pompoms, especially pushing little ones through holes in an old toothbrush holder. I thought this activity would be more suited to a younger child, but Thomas kept asking to do it again and again. I found this idea on Teaching 2 and 3 year olds. I only got around to buying a $2 packet of pompoms last weekend, I didn't buy them when he was younger because I was worried they might be a choking risk.
pushing pompoms through the holes in a toothbrush holder
He also enjoyed picking up pompoms with kitchen tongs, and sorting them into small plastic coloured bowls. We also revisited the sticky collage from last week, and he stuck pompoms onto the contact and then removed them.
sorting pompoms using kitchen tongs and small coloured bowls

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our New Lemon Tree

Yesterday was our 3rd wedding anniversary, and to celebrate we finally planted a lemon tree! We decided to get a dwarf Eureka because they have good fruit that you can harvest almost all year round. The dwarf variety will grow up to 2 metres, if we didn't get the dwarf it would have been 4 or 5m! We had to search for our chosen lemon variety at 3 different nurseries before we found it, they had a lot of meyer and some lisbon trees which we decided we didn't want because of the fruit, we want an acidic fruit that you can use in cooking. We ended up getting the tree from Turner's Nursery in Rochdale.
dwarf eureka lemon tree planted out with mulch
digging the hole was quite a difficult task that took 2 weekends
David worked on digging the hole for a couple of weeks, he also removed the last of the callistemon that was growing near where we decided the lemon tree needed to go. We chose a sunny position with a slight slope so the water should run off well. Lemon trees don't like to be in soggy ground. The ground had a lot of clay in it so we dug a large hole, which turns out that might not have been the right thing to do. We filled the bottom of the hole with some gravel and we put some of the local soil back in, we also put some dynamic lifter in the bottom.
mixing soil and compost in the hole
removing the lemon tree from its bag
We put a bag of rich compost and a bag of potting mix in the bottom mixed with some local soil. We mixed some blood and bone into that. Then it was high enough to put the lemon tree in, we tried to mound it up a bit but the mound turned out not to be very pronounced. We filled the holes around the tree with more potting mix and compost. We watered the tree and covered it with a thick layer of mulch.
adding more soil to build up a small mound
Here's to hoping we didn't waste the $46 it cost to buy the tree, not mention the cost of potting mix and compost. We did a lot of research, like this site that had diagrams on how to plant citrus in heavy clay soils. But the lady at Turner's nursery suggested it wasn't necessary to fuss and to just 'dig and hole and stick it in' while mounding it up. Let's hope we've done it right and lots of home grown lemons are in our future!
nearly 3 year old Thomas beside the new lemon tree

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Games with Straws

Last Tuesdays I bought a packet of 150 plain white straws from coles online. I researched activities I could do with Thomas using them, and here's what we did! Most of these ideas I found on pinterest, with a couple of our own thrown in! These activities made for a pleasant afternoon for my nearly 3 year old son and me.

Matching Straws and Lines

I found this idea on Teaching 2 and 3 year olds amongst a collection of tray activties. I carefully cut straws of different length and drew matching lines on a piece of paper. Thomas, who is nearly 3, could do this activity, it seemed to be just right for him.
matching straws to lines of different length

Blowing a Cotton Ball

I got this idea from a photo I saw on pinterest, its from the Eyes on the Source where there's a post on inside winter games. We didn't play races with it though, we just practised blowing the cotton ball with the straw. We did this for a few minutes, Thomas loved how the ball would move but he did get frustrated sometimes when he couldn't make the cotton ball move by himself. I just encouraged him to keep trying!

its fun to blow a cotton ball using a straw

Egg Carton, rings and straws game

This idea is from Mummy Musings and Mayhem, if you have straws its a cheap game to throw together with recycled materials. I poked holes into the recycled egg carton using a small pair of scissors. I started with the straws already in the holes, then when it came time for Thomas to play with it, I helped him remove the straws which he put back in. Then using the rings I made from cut up toilet rolls, he threaded them onto the straws. This game might be a little too easy for him, it only occupied him for a few minutes.
an easy game that doesn't cost much can be made from an egg carton, straws and empty toilet rolls
another shot of the egg carton, rings and straws game

Poking Straws

I got the idea for poking straws through the holes in a basket from a picture on pinterest which links to No one has more fun than the Adams. Thomas had some fun poking straws through the holes into the basket, sometimes poking through two straws at once. I also had an idea to poke the straws through holes in a kitchen utentsil which were just the right size.
you can poke straws through holes in a basket for a fine motor activity
you can also poke straws through other things like this kitchen utensil

Scooping Straws

Because I had the kitchen utensil out, Thomas then proceeded to try and scoop up straws with it saying 'I'm cooking!' I then cut some straws into smaller pieces and let him catch them as they popped! I put them into this recycled honey bucket and got a spoon that would fit better and he enjoyed playing pretend cooking with that. He scooped the straws out of the bucket, this is a great activity for his motor control.
pretend play with a spoon, recycled honey bucket and small pieces of straw

Threading Straws

We then ended the straw activity afternoon with some bracelet making by threading the small pieces of straw onto pipe cleaners. I got this idea from Toddler Boredome Busters. The pipe cleaners threaded easily through the straws, this is a great fine motor activity.
threading small pieces of straw onto pipe cleaners

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sticky Tissue Paper and Feathers Collage

This was a great activity for my 2 year old son which at first engaged him for 40 minutes straight. This is a fairly common idea you can find on the net, here is a blog that had this idea in a list of 70 fine motor activities for toddlers where the sticky collage idea is a fairly long way down the list. I prepared the small squares of recycled tissue paper the day before when Thomas was at day-care, I just used wrapping tissue paper I had saved from receiving gifts, I didn't buy the tissue paper. I ordered the contact from coles online and cut it into 3 pieces so we'll be able to repeat this activity on another day. I'll leave the contact up on the window for a few days I think so he can go back to it if he wishes.
sticking tissue paper squares onto contact
sticking a feather onto the collage
This was a very rich language activity for Thomas, by talking about the colours, and saying things like 'put it here' and 'its sticky! Thats funny!' while poking the contact with his finger and removing it quickly to make a popping sound. I kept the squares of tissue paper in a large plastic envelope and Thomas loved playing with that, digging into the pile of paper with his hands. "I think you like the sound" I said, then he quickly went back to the contact again and said "sticky sound".
'That's funny!' Thomas thought the popping sticky sound was hilarious
This was also a good fine motor activity as he was enjoying scrunching the paper between his fingers and sticking them onto the contact. He threw a pile of tissue paper onto the floor a couple of times, and when he picked up the tissue paper he scrunched up the pieces tightly in his hand.
Thomas loved playing with the tissue paper in the large plastic envelope
Thomas squealed with delight when I brought out the feathers in another big plastic envelop but they didn't make a nice crunchy sound like the tissue paper, I guess that's why he wanted to play with the tissue paper again pretty quickly. He stuck a couple of feather on, took them off, stuck them on again. Then he started ripping off the tissue paper delighting in the sound of the "rip!" Right now he is banging on pots and pans in the kitchen, a musician in the making!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our New Herb Garden

As promised, here are some photos of our new herb garden which we planted in the space vacated by the old tree stump we removed. We started by adding about 4 or 5 handfuls of dynamic lifter and watered it in the day before we were to be planting out. The next day we lay out some absorbent coconut fibre soil called easy wetta garden soil. Then we lay down 3 x 65 litre bags of potting mix on top ready to receive the herb seedlings.
oregano is one the herbs we planted in our new herb garden
a layer of coconut fibre underneath premium potting mix
laying down a thick layer of mulch to protect the seedlings from heat and help with moisture retention
We planted out a chilli bush in the centre, and some parsley and chives in the side that gets half a day of shade. Then we put the oregano and sage in the side that gets full sun. I lay down a thick layer of mulch as its a very hot sight, and what with the hot weather lately the young plants will need protection from the heat. I planted out some aloe vera in the corner underneath the patio because it won't get rain there and the aloe vera can tolerate being a little dry. There's space left for some basil cuttings to go in, they are still on my kitchen window sill sprouting new roots.
a chilli bush in the centre of the herb garden
Hopefully these herbs will like this spot we've chosen for them, which is nice and handy to the kitchen. We'll have to keep the water up to them daily, lets see how they go!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Queensland Waratah

We recently discovered one the trees in our front yard is a Queensland Tree Waratah, otherwise known as a Red Silky Oak. According to Wikipedia, its an Alloxylon flammeum. We were able to identify it because it's covered in distinctive red flowers, apparently they flower from August to October. They are vulnerable in the wild, its thought there are more in cultivation than in the wild.
the Queensland tree waratah has distinctive red flowers
red flowers against a blue sky
To look after it we don't need to do much, just mulch underneath it. If we fertilise it, it needs the special fertiliser for Australian natives as this is native to northern Queensland. Its nice to know we have a specimen of an endangered species in our yard so we promise to look after it.
our specimen of the endangered Queensland tree waratah

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Golf Ball Painting

We had a go at golf ball painting because my husband fished a bunch of balls out of his golf bag for us and it reminded us of this video on youtube we've seen many times. I just set it up like she did, with paint and spoons for each colour in seperate plastic jars. I only had yellow, white and black though as my paint was quite old and I had to throw the other colours out. I didn't make the home-made flour paint for this as I didn't think it would roll as well, its quite sticky and gooey.
Thomas couldn't wait to try the golf-ball painting
The non-toxic paint was easy enough to clean if I didn't let it dry, thankfully the activity was short lived so there wasn't much mess. We only did one golf- ball painting, then I let Thomas do some normal painting on paper with a paint brush using the left over yellow, white and black paint. I think I will need to buy some more non-toxic paint in brighter colours in the very near future! Thomas couldn't wait to try the golf-ball painting, knowing what to do as soon as I handed him the basket! Next time, I will have different colours with golf balls ready to go so it will be easier to do a 2nd golf-ball painting in the one session, I'm thinking 6 colours at least!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pasta and a Box

I found this simple activity at One Perfect Day, it was something I could quickly whip up while we were waiting the last 10 minutes for daddy to come home from work. I just poked some holes with a pair of scissors into a biscuit box I found in my pantry, and used some macaroni pasta. Thomas enjoyed this activity, being occupied with it for 10 minutes and then going back to it again later to show daddy. Sometimes after he pushed some pasta through he then picked up the box and shook it to hear the sound of the macaroni rattling around inside. Pushing the macaroni pasta through the holes is an excellent fine motor activity for a 2 year old like my son.
pushing macaroni paste through holes poked into a biscuit box
this is an excellent fine motor activity that keeps a toddler busy for 10 minutes

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Footprint Ghosts

I tried this craft activity last Tuesday based on a couple of activities on Toddler Approved. I started by tracing out 6 footprints which Thomas enjoyed saying it tickles! Then we talked about some emotions and I drew happy, sad and surprised onto the 3 pairs of footprint ghosts. We then played some matching games with the ghosties for a few minutes, Thomas was able to identify the emotions on the ghosts. We spent a little time ripping up white tissue paper and rolling some into balls, then we went outside to glue the paper onto the ghosts. We also glued on a little of the home-grown cotton, I just need some straws to turn these into puppets!
gluing tissue paper onto footprint ghosties

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coconut Cupcakes

My husband helped me make these cute little coconut cupcakes last weekend, they turned out so nice and were very yummy! I need his help to carry out the electric mixer as its too heavy for me. I found the recipe on = yummy! As usual, Thomas sat at the kitchen bench on the stool and watched us make them, helping us place the patty pans in the muffin tray. He was a little scared of the mixer though!
these coconut cupcakes turned out to be delicious!
fresh out of the oven still in the patty pans

Friday, October 11, 2013

Removing a Tree Stump

When we moved in 6 months ago, there was a small tree near the edge of the patio and we soon decided it needed to go as it was too close and obscured our view of the garden. We pruned it back and turned it into mulch, but left behind was a very stubborn looking stump! We knew from the start it was going to be a lot of hard work to get it out, but it was a nice surprise when it turned out to be not as difficult as we first imagined.
the offending tree stump was removed by chipping away at the shallow roots with a small axe
Along the surface there were several large thick roots firmly established around the tree stump. I imagined there were many more large thick roots waiting for us underneath the stump. I just couldn't imagine how we were going to chop through the stump to get underneath it to get at the large roots that were obviously waiting for us there. For two days (or two afternoons) we scrapped away the dirt from the roots around the stump. On the second day, we decided to buy a small axe from Bunnings, and continued to chip away at the large roots that had grown along the surface. To complicate matters we discovered the drain pipe underneath the tree stump, we couldn't believe someone would thoughtlessly put a tree on top of a shallow pipe like that.
the stubborn tree stump suddenly gave way
Finally David started kicking the stump and it started to budge. All of a sudden it was really moving and it came out! There were no deep roots underneath at all, the whole thing was shallow rooted, and thank goodness for that! It was a nice surprise to be proven wrong and have the stump come out a lot easier than I imagined. Now its the perfect spot for our herb garden, which I plan to blog about very soon!
the space left will be perfect for a herb garden
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