Archive for Craft for non-crafty parents

Teaching gratitude to teenagers



Big kids. Enjoying a bit of cheese in Paris.


Those of you who’ve followed me for years will have kids the same age as mine. So you are likely to also be mired in the joy of teen and pre-teen children. There’s adjustments to be made at this stage for sure, but generally I completely adore this bit of parenting. The kids are interesting, engaged and independent. But also slowly removing themselves from family life in a heartbreaking way. I miss them and their pestering little ways. The silence is sometimes deafening. But then it’s also pretty nice to have time back. I can read a book. Or sleep in. Or eat grown-up food. Suddenly my life has returned to a version of pre-kid normal. But with added people to love. It’s pretty great.

Of course, while they’re off catching buses and pursuing their own interests (screens, screens, more screens) it’s easy to forget that parenting continues. And that lessons you think are obvious may not be. We somehow assume that being a good human comes naturally. And while they do soak in the world around them by osmosis, there’s also room for a bit of blunt parental intervention. No one expects them to learn algebra without a teacher. And I think a bit of forced guidance over some of life’s more intangible aspects doesn’t go astray. Which is why I’ve created this super-simple gratitude sheet. At first they resisted doing it (of course). But then they got right into it, and we had a really good laugh comparing their answers.

And a little bit of learning may have happened. A reminder that we can be grateful every day, and it’s always good. Crucial life-lesson stuff that no-school can teach.

It’s nothing fancy at all, but feel free to download your sheet here.


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How to get your kids packing their own healthy lunches

That first week back to school is exciting, isn’t it! We’re back into the year with a thud – both my kids have switched schools, so there’s new routines, buses, uniforms, friends, and a new level of independence from me. They are loving it all, and I’m trying to not take it personally that they’re so happy to be free.

Miss F has started HIGH SCHOOL. Something that still freaks me out. She’s also the same height as me and has longer feet, so I guess I’ve had an inkling for a while that she’s growing up. With her new independent lifestyle, comes a new chunk of responsibility – one of which is packing her own lunchbox.

She’s happy to take on this bit of adulting. But it’s interesting to realise that even after years of daily lunches that follow the same formula, she wasn’t too sure of how to go about it. So I’ve done her up a help sheet, to give her a visual cue about the proportions she’s aiming for. You can download one too, by clicking here.


A quick visual cue to help the kids navigate their way.

We’re packing the lunches together this week (I still do my son’s), then she’s away. I’ll check in from time to time, but since there isn’t much junk in my pantry, I know that her choices will probably be pretty good. Any junk she buys from the canteen will be with her money and there’s nothing I can do about that. I remember eating Mars Bars and drinking Coke at school. I turned out ok.

Letting go of the kids is tough, but it’s important to recognise when to stop babying them. For me, it’s time to take on the role of life coach, rather than tyrant.

(Note that this sheet is based loosely on the Australian Government’s healthy eating guidelines – I find these proportions suit my household. Many people don’t agree and if you don’t, then maybe just take the idea and draw up your own helpsheet that reflects your ethos – please don’t email me to correct my nutrition ignorance…)



If you need help navigating lunch boxes for younger kids, check out my ebook!

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All my silliest and most sublime Christmas craft projects…

So it’s the end of November and time to wipe off our cynicism and let ourselves get swept up into Christmas fun. My poor deprived kids have to wait until next weekend to get the tree underway (really, I think you have to wait until December for that one), but there’s no reason that we can’t start ripping through a few of our favourite festive season projects.

These are all silly and fun ideas – good ways to fill an impatient hour here and there over the next month. And best yet – they all recycle come January.

To keep the happy Christmas vibe happening, make sure you get your 10% discount in my shop – it’s valid until midnight Monday November 30. Just use ‘xmas2015’ at the checkout. See all my fabulous products here in my shop.


a christmas fairy made from a toilet roll

Silly and fun – a Christmas fairy made from a loo roll.


Baby Jesus gets a loo-roll makeover, too!


Add to your scene with Mary and Joseph!


This tree will keep kids busy colouring for a bit.


An give & take advent calendar (make them work for their treats!)



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Chocolate balls (both naughty & nice) plus Santa’s consignment notes…

These are the NICE balls... you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

These are the NICE balls… you should see the NAUGHTY ones!

Christmas is THIS WEEK! Yep, I know, crazy – we’re just moments away from the joyous frenzy of gifts and turkey and fun (and plastic things from China).

Possibly you’re still needing a little something to take to a BBQ on boxing day, or maybe a food gift would be the perfect thing to give to your Auntie, so I’ve got easy recipes for both traditional rumballs and booze-free, healthy, chocolate bliss balls. Both are simple and quick to make. If nothing else, they’re great recipes to keep the kids busy (I find their little hands perfect for the rolling, which is sticky & fun). Both recipes can be found in my Kitchen Collection e-book, which you can download instantly (for 40% off) from my newly revamped shopify shop! Code ‘xmas2017’ will get 40% off everything until Dec 31!

Since I’ve been on a bit of a blogging break, my annual unforgettable-Christmas-craft printable never quite made it to fruition this year (of course click here, if you’re desperate to make a nativity scene out of loo rolls). Knowing that you’ll all be massively disappointed(!), I’ve pulled my finger out overnight and popped this little treat together for you.

Fear not loo rolls, you are safe this year, instead, I’ve opted for a bit of parent-craft, designed to give the kids a thrill. It’s a genuine consignment note from the North Pole. Just download the PDF, print it onto card or sticker sheets and affix to Santa’s stash (remember to tick your location on the map). Guaranteed to bring an extra smile on Christmas morning.

I've hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

I’ve hacked into Elf-central to grab this for you!

Finally, have a fantastic Christmas and new year! I’ll be back in January. If you want to see which drink I’m sipping over the break, you can always catch me on instagram, which I’ve become quite fond of.



xmas discount-01

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Shhh! It’s an apology letter from the tooth fairy!

The Sylvanian dude gives you an idea of the scale.

The Sylvanian dude gives you an idea of the scale.

From time to time I like to chuck a bit of craft or a free printable thingy up on the blog – something that will make the plight of parenting that little bit easier.

And I’m feeling a bit honored today, because I’ve got something extra special to share. You see, I’ve been contacted by the tooth fairy who asked me to pass on this PDF printable.

I don’t know about the tooth fairy in your neighbourhood, but my one is an extremely busy, multi-tasking fairy who sometimes can’t make it to all the houses scheduled in a night. It is devastating, first thing in the morning, to see your upset child as they realise that rather than a shiny coin in the spot where their tooth used to be, there’s just… well… the weird old tooth still sitting there. So this letter can rectify that situation. Invariably, the tooth fairy always remembers to stop by the following night – often with an extra dollar and this little apology letter.

A magnifying glass may be needed to read the text, which says sorry for the delay and encourages them to brush their teeth a little more thoroughly each morning and night.

Download it here! – vegie-smugglers-tooth fairy

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Well hello, Mrs Claus!


For some reason, I’ve gone all lavish this Christmas. Things that I’ve resisted in previous years are suddenly my new best friends. I’m not sure if I’ve been worn down after years of pestering, or if I’ve got a special dose of Christmas fever, but this year when the kids wrote down ‘iPod or 3ds’ or their Santa list, I just smiled and nodded.
In the past I’ve kept the material side of this holiday in the background, focusing instead on family and food and love. But this year, neither kid received much for their birthday. And the oldest is now a geriatric nine-years-old and still device free. So I’ve caved in, the deed is done (and the credit card groaning) and now I can’t wait to see the excitement on Christmas morning.

Each year the kids have also hassled for a shiny shop-bought advent calendar. Because I’m a scroogey bah-humbug, poo-poo mum, I’ve never let them have one. AS IF they need any further excitement (and sugar) pre-Christmas! But with the special fever attacking my brain, this year I’ve not only given in to the whole materialistic-lolly-manufacturer-driven debacle, but I’ve MADE them an advent calendar.

But even in the midst of the mayhem, I’m essentially a meanie. They can HAVE a lolly each day and enjoy a big countdown, but they have to give me something in return. If they want to unclip their bag and each take out their lolly, they have to have a drawing or piece of writing to leave in it’s place. Something that they’ve had to sit and think about. Maybe a drawing or sentence about their favourite things, something they’ve learned this year, a portrait of someone they love, or something that they’re grateful for.


I figure by Christmas I’ll have 24 cute pieces of paper that I can staple and store – a perfect snapshot of each of them in 2013.


Now I think about it, I think my Christmas fever is triggered by awareness of how quickly the years are going by, and how nice it is to be SO excited about Santa and family and food and love.

Maybe you want to join in? You can download the printable with everything you need here.

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“Dull women have immaculate homes.” True or false?

For those of us who love a little visit to Officeworks.

A gift today, for those of us who get excited at Kikki K.

I read the other day that “Dull women have immaculate homes.” Which seems a little harsh on those of us who don’t mind a bit of order amongst the chaos of daily family life. There seems no harm in finding joy in a bit of neatness when it’s such a hard-won feat.

Although more accurate in my house would be, “Organised women used to have moth problems in their pantry.” Which is why I went a bit crazy a couple of months back finally getting everything into containers. Throwing packets of food away was depressing, and endless moth traps, while fascinating for the kids, weren’t such a source of joy for me.

As you can see, I store a few things in glass, but most of my pantry is BPA-free plastics. Please don’t e-lecture me about the evils of it – for someone as clumsy as myself, it’s a blessing. There’s only so much shattered glass that I can clean up (and stand in) in a year. If you are more co-ordinated than myself and are a glass-only household, then I wish you well and let’s leave it at that.

Luckily these cute labels will help keep things ship-shape no matter what your jar. Sure, you know what brown sugar looks like, but if you’re going to bother organising all this stuff, why not make it look as pretty as hell. It only takes a few minutes to print them out and stick them on.

See! Not dull, just making the mundane more interesting.

See! Not dull, just making the mundane more interesting.

When I had ingredients out to bake yesterday, I was LOVING MYSELF SICK. Besides, you can jot down the use-by dates on the back of the label, blue-tack it on and just admire yourself for being so damn together.

Download the 3-page pantry labels PDF here.


And if you like these, you’ll also like my printable shopping list.

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Ideas for a fun Easter

Ready and waiting

Ready and waiting

Lordy me, wasn’t it just summer? Looking at the calendar I see that Easter has rolled around again! Bit early this year and not wedged into the middle of school holidays.

The bright side of the unusual timing is that there’s an Easter bonnet parade to enjoy at school this year. Odd celebration isn’t it. Apparently it started when the tradition was to have new springtime clothes to parade about in. The lovely new threads would guarantee you luck and abundance over the coming harvest.

Of course in Australia that tradition is ridiculous (especially since it’s Autumn), so we celebrate instead by sticking cardboard chickens on our kid’s heads and taking a heap of incriminating photos.

Easter baking is more something I can relate to. You can find my hot happy buns recipe here. This year I’ve got a couple of new things I want to try. This Easter bread looks interesting and I’m keen to try this Russian kulich recipe. Although I’m not sure what they mean by citron – I guess it’s lemon rind and then I’m planning on adding in some dried fruit too. There’s no citron in the kulich recipe listed on the ‘Orthodoxy and the World’ website, but there is saffron and vodka, which sounds a bit irresistible. And for ridiculous cuteness, it’s hard to beat these Martha Stewart chicken cupcakes.

Staying with friends a couple of years ago, they introduced us to their family tradition of drawing a picture and leaving it for the Easter bunny. It’s a tribute picture of course, featuring the magical rodent himself. It’s a cute idea and one that leads to a nice record of how your kids change and grow each year.

If it’s just a bit of colouring you want, then I’ve done up an Easter colouring-in page. There’s not a vegie in sight, but hey, there’s only one Sunday in the year when you’ve got permission to eat as much chocolate as you like, so let’s enjoy it.

A bunny, eggs and cute stuff to colour.

A bunny, eggs and cute stuff to colour.

What happens at your place? Are you campers? Is there a particular feast? Or maybe you’re one of the fabulous people who head to church and understand was the whole celebration is really about.

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Joseph and Mary join the party

Last Christmas, I took a break from Santa craft and produced a lovely little loo-roll baby Jesus.

Away in a (paper) manger...

Away in a (paper) manger…

This year I’m adding to the scene, with Mary and Joseph joining in, along with their trusty donkey transport.

Add to your scene with Mary and Joseph!

Add to your scene with Mary and Joseph!

Download the PDF here to create your own loo-roll nativity scene. Weird? Maybe a bit. I’ve admitted before that I’m not religious, so perhaps this project isn’t as reverential as some of you might wish for, but I do like to remind my kids that Christmas is about more than Santa, and this is a nice, fun way to do that.


Do you like this project? Then you might like to check out my Craft for non-crafty Parents e-book. There’s a bunch of quick and easy (and often silly) little projects that will keep the kids busy over the Christmas holiday.

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Fat bum? Empty wallet? Try these cheap school holiday ideas.

DISCLAIMER: This is a Levis curve ID ad, NOT my ‘ass’.

Bracing for the chaos of school holidays, I scheduled in a bit of ‘me’ time this week. I planned a long overdue hair appointment and time afterwards for a masochistic quest for a new pair of jeans and a vaguely flattering cozzie.

With the kids dropped off, I made it to the shops just in time to dash to the loo and discover that my period had started. Profusely. Obviously, it was a bad sign. But we all know how precious and hard-won a few hours to ourselves is – NOTHING was going to stop me.

Three hours and $250 later I left the hairdresser feeling drab. Stuck in that female twilight land between young and cool and old and forgotten I looked like a nice sensible newsreader. But I persevered. It was my ‘me’ day, after all.

Searching for swimmers was no more gratifying. I’m too stretch-marked for bikinis, but about 25 years too young for one of those scary pre-shaped nanna cozzies.

Feeling my nerves fraying, I gave up on that and headed for jeans. With only an hour until pick up, I grabbed several pairs and headed for a change-room where I analysed my arse up close for the first time since I last bought jeans. It wasn’t pretty. I tried to remember if the rule is that small back pockets make your arse look fat, or if it’s big pockets will make your arse look fat and then realized that actually my arse just looked fat because it IS fat. Despairing, I chucked my own old favourite jeans back on, only to discover that they indeed ALSO MAKE MY ARSE LOOK FAT. Sigh.

I bought a scarf. Abandoning all hope I headed to the car only to discover that I’d slipped over into hour 5 and now needed to pay $25 to get my crappy old car released from this hellish torture centre known as Chatswood Chase.

On the bright side, after a terrible day of focusing on myself, I’m now more than happy to shift over to simpler places and focus on the kids for a couple of weeks. I’ve done some planning and researched a few free, fun ‘Spring’ activities to keep us busy. Which is lucky, considering in my unsatisfying vanity quest, I’ve spent all our money.

Miss F will be delighted to combine her two favourite things (pressing flowers & rock collecting) in this project to make a decoupage paperweight. Once that’s gotten boring, she can move onto making coasters for Nanna (sorry Nanna, we won’t mind if they disappear after a couple of visits).

More on the flower theme, girls of all ages will enjoy whipping up these Martha Stewart tissue pom poms.

Boys might want to skip the florals and head straight for bugs, with these cool critter craft ideas. And here’s a weird little spider to make. You need an empty soft-drink can for the last one, which you’ll have after you’ve introduced your kids to the joy of a spider you can drink. Not healthy, but hugely fun, place a small scoop of ice-cream in a really big tall glass, then pour over enough soft drink (lemonade is the least offensive, but traditionally you should use creaming soda) to get a good fizz going. Serve with a big long spoon. Your kids will not believe their luck. Ice cream AND soft drink all in one dish.

While they’re on a treat theme, why not astonish them with your awesomeness by helping them make honeycomb. Practically sunshine in your mouth, you make it by boiling up sugar and golden syrup, then popping in some bicarb. There’s a nice easy recipe for it here.

With sunshine in your mouth and sugar in your veins, it’s time for a holiday YouTube disco (with a sunshine theme of course). Go retro with Katrina & the Waves – Walking on Sunshine, Stevie Wonder – You are the sunshine of my life, The Animals – House of the rising sun, Len – Steal my sunshine or Dario G – Sunchyme (remember that video clip with all the people being animals? The kids will love it).

And if they’ve still got energy to burn, then head to the park for some running about. There are some great activities to choose from here. (I particularly like the ‘giant, wizard, elf’ game, which is a whole body version of ‘scissors, paper, rock’ that ends with chasings).

And with all that to keep you busy, you won’t have to go anywhere near a shopping centre. Praise the lord.


For more school holiday ideas, visit here (with the psychedelic marble cake) or more ‘on the cheap’ ideas here.

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