Monday, 26 November 2012


Dance Kids is a fantastic program which engages children by learning through movement.  It is always fun to just be there as Sue takes the kids on an interactive scientific adventure complete with dressing up, educational discussion, dance, music and role play.   We have enjoyed the classes on the water cycle, butterflies, dinosaurs, bumble bees, camouflage and under the sea.  We all thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.  They are currently taking donations and selling packages for their new Creative Classroom Kits.  To purchase for your school or support their efforts please go here.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Salicylate Friendly - Rustic Beef and Vegetable Pie

This isn't a recipe that's great to cook with children but my children love eating it and it is low in salycilates.

1 tbsp canola oil * 2
400g beef finely sliced and chopped into a rustic mince
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
2 baby potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
1 medium vine ripened tomato, finely diced
1 large leek, finely chopped
1/2 cup peas
125 g butter
1 chilled egg
1 tbsp chilled water
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp milk

  • Prepare short crust pastry.  Rub butter into flour with finger tips until it resembles bread crumbs. 
  • Add the egg and chilled water and bring together with a fork until well combined.  Dust with a little flour if the mixture is too wet to knead.  Use hands and knead lightly adding a small amount of flour if needed.  Wrap in baking paper and place in the freezer.  
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large fry pan over high heat and sauté the beef for 5 minutes, breaking up any large clumps. Strain the beef and discard liquid from pan. Place the pan back on heat and add 1 teaspoon of oil.
  • Add the garlic, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomato, carrot and potato to the pan and cook for an additional 3 minutes stirring often.
  • Return beef to the pan. Remove from heat and stir through the parsley, season to taste with salt and pepper and let cool for 7 minutes.
  • Remove the pastry and separate 2/3 it.  Roll out the larger portion of pastry to approx 2mm circle and using fingers, mold to a 20cm circular diameter baking dish, removing all air bubbles.  Blind bake for approx 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Roll out the pie lid to approx 2mm thick.  Cut out decorations before covering the pie.
  • Fill the dish with the pie mixture.  Place the lid on and pinch the sides down, remove excess.  (This is great for adding small amount of grated cheese and using to make savoury snacks.)
  • brush with a little milk.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.
  • Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Felt Solar System

Like the moon landing but possibly without the extraordinary hype, the Curiosity has ignited the imagination of children and adults around the world.  We are lucky to live close to one of the three global NASA satellite sites and control stations, I had the opportunity to work for them and on my last day walk across a massive satellite dish, climb a rickety viewing tower and see the underbelly of the dishes.  Whilst there I met some great people who's passion and excitement for science and the exponential progress of humanity was still strong on their day of retirement and the message this one particular person left me with of the wonders that he knew I and my children would experience in our lifetimes will always be with me.  Back to space, along side the internet, the wild west of modern times, the human brain and DNA, the last frontier of discovery.

I am not sure which came first the Solar system booklet at school or the fuss and buzz at home about the Curiosity landing on the seventh of August this year.  When my little Mr started showing lots of enthusiasm for space we thought we would encourage it as much as possible, astronomy and geography were always destined to be topics covered in excess as the desire for my children to be more than the sum of their parts (parents) drives me to give them a depth of knowledge in areas that I am still lacking in.  So that is where the following craft project began.  A cute and tactile introduction to astronomy and our solar system.

It's all pretty easy stuff, and all of the sizing and colouring was gathered from the NASA site or the Britannica Kids Solar System App.  By sizing I mean this one should be bigger than that one, that ones about the same size as the other one, this one needs to be the biggest and these are comparatively small.  The next thing I would like to do is get a nice big piece of dark blue or black felt and draw the nine (the threat of planet coke hasn't made us give up on you Pluto) orbits of the planets in our solar system with the children.  This is why I ended up making a felt Sun rather than just the fabric one that is on what became the carry bag for our felt solar system.  I turned what was the background of the solar system into a handy bag with some space print fabric and a long jacket zipper.

Felt, wadding, cotton thread, dark blue fabric, patterned fabric and a long jacket zipper.

Blanket stitch tutorial at Stitch School.

Britannica Kids Solar System App rates a five out of five in my house.  We try not to have much on the IPhone but this App, the Animal Drop game for little Miss Two and some episodes of Curious George are the occasional life savers we need when in a jam.

Beautiful Felt Solar System
Montessori Print Shop
Solar System Banner

Other great felt stuff from Jane Talbot.
Felt Continents Project.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Sew Sweet Giveaway

Gorgeous craft book giveaway from too, too sweet Sew Sweet Violet.  Mollie Makes Christmas is packed with step by step instructions to recreate some beautiful Christmas craft designs from ten hand made artisans including two from Sew Sweet Violet.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

How does our garden grow?

Some times fast...
and sometimes slow.

 This patch of garden has been softened and is specifically for little hands and shovels to dig through.

The fairy garden is new and we still have some fairies to finish and paint.  These little tea light candle glass pots make this tree look like a christmas tree.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


This morning was greeted by my little Mr pulling out a dinosaur book saying he had resaearch to do.  He opened the book at a protoceratops and wanted to draw it, we were both excited when we remembered Bix from Dinotopia was a protoceratops (Joy!).  He wasn't sure where to begin with his drawing and frequently I find myself offering too much information and he loses ownership of his project so I brought out a great bit of children's art from his room, How to Draw a Dragon.  I started him off with a big egg shaped body and deliberately stepped away. 
Today his inspiration was falling like snowflakes and each idea unique and beautiful.  He ran and grabbed a children's encyclopedia and searched through until he found the page on snowflakes.  So snowflakes it was.  I am looking forward to helping him turn these into little decorations.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Cooperative Instinct

I have a child in a Montessori school and try to absorb as much of the method as I can to better understand the education my child is getting.  I spend time at the school, involve myself with decision making processes (short of trying to become a member on the board),  try to build relationships with other parents for the ties this helps build between our children.  I am continually coming across opinion based literature which states a belief that Montessori children exhibit these special traits that people thought impossible from such young children like cooperation and responsibility.  The fundamentalism behind these ideas that Maria Montessori somehow unearthed this capacity is astonishing to me.  Human societies have grown to their magnificent capacity and capability through cooperation and early exposure to responsibility placed on the shoulders of the young and strong.  The Montessori method is indeed a great revolutionary approach from the place we have arrived at in modern times, where we try to protect the child from any consideration outside of imagination and play, to what I believe is the detriment of their ability to care for themselves.  It is at face value easier to tell a child to go and play so that you can achieve a task than it is to involve them but in my experience it is a much happier child and environment that takes that bit of extra time to involve the child by given them a task they can do to feel they are helping and achieving.

Men can nurture, cook and clean, women can do complicated mathematical equations and children can be responsible and in fact flourish with responsibility.  This is not an exclusively Montessori domain.  I would hope that the approach of gentle and respectful parenting with delegated responsibility to the level of the child will become a wide spread parenting methodology, not needing the label of Montessori which I increasingly feel is bandied about like a social panacea.  At the school I see an environment where some children thrive and others are spoken down to by their peers as if they are at a lower level to them.  I had my son tell me that one of his school friends finally liked him because when he asked she said he was allowed to hold the class pet.  Why should one child control another child's access to anything in the classroom?  While waiting for the child led cafe to open I saw one girl ask another student to watch this one boy because she did not think he could be trusted not to eat any of the food.  What gives one child the right over another to pass prejudicial judgment of his ability to control himself?  By granting this role of student aids student it seems they have somehow lost the message of cooperation and instead fallen into the less attractive social behavior of denigration and bossiness. 

To me the Montessori method is a wonderful basis for a new approach to learning which gives the child more of a chance to embrace a love of learning, this is not always the case in practice but it does seem to aspire to this end.  Unfortunately the teachings of Maria Montessori are outdated and too readily followed like the word of an educational prophet who cannot be questioned.  She was a scientist and as such I'm sure could not object to embracing new information on the best way to educate and nurture a love of learning in children.  There is a cooperative instinct amongst children which is too easily destroyed by their experiences with other children and adults.  Once they discover a sense of ownership it is a matter of leading by example, hopefully good example.  Even in the parent toddler program on one of my first visits I had a parent tell my daughter to move along because her son was playing with that station.  It seems to be an approach that travels with them.  In the classroom children are discouraged from grouping together to accomplish tasks, rather they can work alone or in small collectives of two or three.  I can see how this would make the class manageable but not how this aids in a cooperative spirit amongst the children.

Montessori is what the community of families make it.  In this way I suppose it is like a church or religion.  If the family do not subscribe holistically to the preaching of Maria Montessori it is a more difficult experience for the child to assimilate as they are completely new to the very stringent rules they are expected to follow within the classroom.  Where there is an aspiration to change for the better there will be growth, where there is a belief that perfection has been attained development will stagnate.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Advent bunting and alphabet tiles

Inspired by Sew Sweet Violet and her advent bunting.

I cannot remember who gave me the inspiration for these tiles but when I saw their beautiful and whimsical tile I immediately wanted to make them as fridge magnet porcelain tiles.  I had some little help with these.  Two little helps if you count one trying to feed them to the dogs.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Sewing for Children - Free Patterns

This weekend has been filled with sewing.   Both of my little ones have had growth spurts, particularly my little Mr, so it started with a search for boys clothes patterns and ended with four dresses, a pair of super cute box pleat shorts and plans to get around to trying some of these boys clothes patterns and learning screen printing as a collective (team little miss, little mr and me).

Of the resources below I have used Angela of Crafting Zuzzy's beautiful Box Pleat Shorts tutorial with the pattern made from a pair of shorts that fit well.

Here are some great resources for free patterns and tutuorials:

Sewing in No Man's LandFantastic range of childrens, womens and miscellaneous patterns. Printable PDFs.
No Big DillThese are gorgeous tutorials with wonderful ideas for ways to make unique and beautiful clothes for boys and girls.
Crafting ZuzzyGreat easy to follow instructions and tutorials for a range os sewing projects. Love these box pleat shorts.
Oliver + SA small range of free printable patterns and some downloadable PDF patterns for sale. The free patterns are high quality and easy to print off and use.
Online fabric shops:
Umbrella Prints
Wrapped in Fabric