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December 2016

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies: Elsie in the Kitchen

I’m still recovering from the holidays (I hope you are too), so Elsie has taken over for today’s blog post. She’s making chewy chocolate chip cookies… delicious. Do enjoy her video!

Well done Elsie, they are pretty yummy if I don’t say so myself. I would suggest taking more precaution than she does with health and hygeine though. I’m pretty sure every surface and every cookie was licked at some point in the making of this film. Still, we will certainly be making these again, and I must give a shout out to Hoast the Toast, as we adapted the recipe from Morgan’s great blog. If you can’t remember exactly what Elsie said, here’s the recipe card:

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields 18
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Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
52 min
Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
52 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1 tsp baking soda
  3. 2 tsp cornstarch
  4. ½ tsp salt
  5. 6oz melted butter
  6. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  7. ½ white sugar
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  10. 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt.
  2. Mix in the sugars and melted butter (make sure butter is cooled) using an electric mixer for around a minute.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and continue to mix for another minute.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Refrigerate the cookie dough for 30minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  7. Roll the cookie dough into balls and place on a lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake the cookies for around 12minutes. Keep an eye on them - you want a little color on the edges but still soft in the middle.
  9. Allow to cool on the baking sheet.
Twin Pickle http://twinpickle.com/
chewy chocolate chip cookies

For more video’s of Elsie in the kitchen, check out these on YouTube:

 
 


This post is linked up here:

Mummy in a Tutu

DIY Coffee Cup Hanging Planter

In my post ‘Hanging House Plant Ideas‘ I explore a number of options for creating impressive plant installations, out of the reach of little ones and somehow suspended from the wall or ceiling. Through these ideas I came up with my own project for the wall above my blog station… the Coffee Cup Hanging Planter. 

coffee cup hanging planter

It took a little longer than I had hoped, not because it was difficult, but because I wasn’t prepared with all the right materials and tools. I thought I’d save you the three return trips to The Home Depot and put together some instructions…


DIY Coffee Cup Hanging Planter: Materials 

coffee-cup-hanging-planter-materials

 

  • Wood planks for shelves. I used 2 x pine planks (3ft/5.5″/0.5″) which cost less than $5 each.
  • Wood stain (optional). I used ‘MinWax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain – Classic Grey 271’ which cost less than $5.
  • Steel cable. I used around 14ft of 1/8″ cable, costing under $5 in total.
  • Screw eyebolts. I used 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ eyebolts, the two pack cost $2.
  • S-Hooks. I used 1/4″ x 2″ hooks, the two pack cost less than $3.
  • Wire rope Thimbles. I used 1/8″ to fit the cable I chose.
  • Ferrule and stops sets. I used four sets at a total cost of $6.
  • Stackable coffee cups. I bought two sets from World Market at a total cost of $26. There may be cheaper vessels but personally I feel the coffee cups make all the difference.

Tools needed:

  • Swaging Tool;
  • Wire cutter (alternatively, get your cable cut into two equal length in store);
  • Drill and drill bits;
  • Hole saw drill bit (size to match coffee cups);
  • Stud finder;
  • Sandpaper;

DIY Coffee Cup Hanging Planter: How to…

  1. Cut holes for coffee cups in the wooden planks and sand the holes to a smooth finish.
  2. Drill a small hole at the corner of each plank using a drill bit just a little larger than the thickness of your steel cable.
  3. Stain the wooden planks (optional).
  4. Cut your cable into two equal length pieces (mine were about 7ft each).
  5. At the mid point of the cut cable install a wire rope thimble and a ferrule using a swaging tool. If you have no idea what I’m talking about have a look at this youtube video. NOTE: We want the loop in the center of the cable, not the end as the video shows.
  6. Feed the two ends of the cable through the small corner holes in the planks and use the swaging tool to apply a stop beneath each hole. This step requires careful measuring as it not only affects how low your shelves will hang, but also whether they will be level.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other length of cut cable.
  8. Attach the additional shelves below the first using the same method. Remember, measuring accurately is key!
  9. Use a stud finder to find the joists behind your plasterboard ceiling (unless you have lovely exposed beams of course). You need a good solid connection to hold the weight of the planter. Drill a pilot hole for each screw eyebolt and install by twisting it into the ceiling.
  10. Connect your S-hooks to the eyebolts, hook your hanging planter onto the S-hooks and drop your coffee cups into the holes in the wooden planks.

Complete… Do let me know if you’ve tried it!

coffee-cup-hanging-planter


‘Hanging House Plant Ideas’ if part of a series of naptime makeovers… including these:

Accent Wall Ideas
How to Arrange Pictures Creatively
Modern Interior Door Handles

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Hanging House Plant Ideas: Naptime Makeover

I have been browsing hanging house plant ideas on Pinterest long enough… it’s time to do something about it. Maybe you, like me, are looking to add more green to your home in 2017? You may also have small children and animals that like to dig, chew and knock stuff over. It’s a problem, and the best way I can see to overcome it is to avoid large pots on the floor and stick to hanging hanging house plant ideas.

hanging house plant ideas

I’m making a new year resolution to try and keep some plants alive, something I don’t have the best history with. I’m also trying to bring some more style and warmth into our home that’s feeling a little unfinished. So before I get stuck into another baby naptime makeover, let me share with you some of my favorite hanging house plant ideas.


Hanging House Plant Ideas

Glass Terraniums

hanging-glass-terraniums
source: brit.co

These hanging glass terrariums are all the rage at the moment so you can get them from a number of different mainstream stores and even buy them ready filled on Etsy. 

Hanging Pots on the Wall

living-wall-white-pots
source: shoppigment.com

Made from recycled milk jugs, these ‘living wall planters’ are self watering and are perforated with air vents. The fantastic plant arrangement was designed by plant artists at Tend Living, and I think it’s just perfect. More on the design, with tips and tricks for creating something similar over at San Diego based Pigment.

Macrame Hangers

macrame-pots
source: tapasnalingua.com

Whether you make them yourself or buy in the skills of someone else, there are endless unique designs for macrame hangers. I love the warmth of the crafted look, and particularly enjoy the bronze beads and the dip dyed ends on the centre pot. These particular delights are available as DIY kits or made to order from Casulo, the online shop of Spanish blogger Ana at Tapas na Lingua.

Mason Jar Stacked Hanger

stacked-suspended-shelves
source: constantcontact.com

Is there anything you can’t do with a mason jar? Designer Susie Frazier has come up with yet another use for them here with this suspended vertical shelf using metal rods and small pieces of wood. More about Suzie and her ‘Earthminded Style Tips‘ here.

For the Adventurous…

hanging-trees
source: vtwonen.nl

I just love this image. It has a kind of modern Hobbit feel about it. I found this idea at Dutch design blog/shop vtwonen. As the site is written in Dutch, I used my best Google translate skills to find out how we go about creating such a masterpiece…

“Remove the plant from its pot and loosen the soil around the roots around. Then tie a big lump of damp moss with wire around the roots and hang the tree with sturdy rope to the ceiling.”

It’s a simple as that, apparently. Go on, I dare you… and send me a pic of the tree, and the carpet below one week later.

For the Traditionalist…

hanging-baskets
source: thedesignfiles.net

Hanging baskets… they’ve been around for years. No need to invent the wheel, just do it really really well. That’s what Korean floral designer Wona Bae is doing at her workshop in Collingwood, Australia. Wona describes Loose Leaf’s studio space as “a jungle of plants suspended from the walls and ceiling” in her interview with The Design Files.


Naptime Makeover: Hanging Plant Ideas

I’ve got to say this has been the most fiddly makeover to date. In principle the idea was simple, in reality it was one of those projects that involved going back to the Home Depot three times and calling in a lot of man strength help from Husband. Did it fit into naptime? No. Would it have fit into nap time if I had all the materials and equipment ready when I started? Maybe. Nevertheless, I am super excited about it because it turned out even better than imagined. I keep stopping and staring at it as I pass by the kitchen… 

coffee-cup-shelf-makeover

For instructions on how to build what I’m calling the ‘Coffee Cup Hanging Planter’ visit my other post from today. 

coffee-cup-hanging-planter
I’m loving my new workstation!

If you missed my other naptime makeovers, take a look at:

Accent Wall Ideas
How to Arrange Pictures Creatively
Modern Interior Door Handles

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There’s a Portal to Santa’s Workshop in Flagstaff…

It’s my birthday today so I’m taking it easy because I’m feeling a bit old. I think I might need some champagne… so for today only, there will be no heavy reading, wise cracks or sarcasm. No rants, advice or wise words. Just some photos from our magical trip to Santa’s Workshop in Flagstaff, Arizona, taken last weekend.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

 

mom-kids-on-bus
On the trolley, ready to enter the portal to the North Pole.
dad-baby-on-bus
George is pretty excited about meeting Santa!
north-pole-compass
Santa’s elf gives us a geography lesson.
santa's workshop in flagstaff
Elsie helps make toys for other children (which go to charity).
twins-stroller
We can’t build toys but Dad’s pretty good company.
elf-classroom
Graduating from Elf University.
santa-portal
Santa’s elf explains the ins and out of the portal control room.
santa-with-girl
Santa gets a freshly written letter.
santa-three-kids
Arthur officially likes Santa more than Pumpkins.

Have a glass of bubbles for me 🙂

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Parents Helping with Homework: The Diorama Dilemma

How do you feel about parents helping with homework? We’re into our second year of school, and I’ve got to say it generally sucks. Considering I am someone with experience in setting and marking homework, I’m surprised what a torment it has become. I really had no idea how much parental involvement was…  involved. This has thrown up many questions: 

  • What is the purpose of homework?
  • Does parents helping with homework contribute to positive parenting?
  • Does parents helping with homework support successful teaching?
  • How much help are other kids are getting at home?
  • Is parents helping with homework even fair?

Whatever your thoughts, there is no doubt that to do it properly you need some serious mom skills.

parents helping with homework title

The tale of a diorama:

Elsie is on Winter Break,  and I was thrilled to receive an email last week that read “no new homework going home this week”. Brilliant, I thought, Winter Break can actually be a break. But them I remembered the hedgehog diorama project… yes that’s actually a thing.

If you don’t know what a diorama is (I had to google it), it’s a model scene of something, usually housed in a box. A quick browse of google brought to my attention that there are two types of diorama. The ones your kid makes, and the ones parents helping with homework ‘contribute’ to. And dioramas aren’t just for kids you know, it gets quite serious. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London featured an exhibition of them back in 2014. They were all lovingly built by local designers, actual grown-up ones. Here’s my favorite – check out more at ELLE Decor:

underwater-diorama
“I Always Dreamed of an Underwater Aquarium Bathroom” by Katy Christianson

Is this homework for me or her?

My daughter’s six, and is a pretty talented First-Grader. But she has the attention span of one of the paper fish featured in the above diorama, so there’s going to need to be some parental input to get beyond an up-cycled Pampers box decorated with a Sharpied hedgehog.

six-year-old-with-sharpie
She’s a six year old with a Sharpie and she’s not afraid to use it.

A couple of days ago I’m staring at the empty box, thinking “how involved do I get here?” A few considerations came to mind:

  • Do I want my daughter to have the coolest diorama that ever lived to show off to her friends?
  • Should I take this an an opportunity to get stuck into a one on one activity with my daughter over the holiday?
  • Do I want teachers and parents to be impressed with our mother daughter team work?
  • Am I secretly excited about making cardboard models, years after graduating from Architecture school? Yes… making models was the best bit.
  • Should I be concerned that most of my reasons for wanting to help are shamefully selfish, morally questionable, and have very little to do with my daughter’s education?

I decide to put my her creation on hold and really think about the purpose of this exercise. 

What the experts say about the purpose of homework:

According to Data Works Educational Research homework should aim to prepare for, practice, extend or apply classwork. They go on to say:

“Homework can help establish communication between parents and children; it can be used as a form of discipline; and it can inform parents about school topics and activities.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I stay informed of what Elsie’s learning about, while improving our relationship and bringing general structure to home life. Unfortunately, if you’ve read ‘Organizational Skills: A Tale of Two Ninjas‘ you’ll know that I am currently failing at the latter, and if we had nothing else going on in our lives, homework would be just great. In reality, outside of school Elsie has dance class, cooking club and swim club. We like to have the occasional play date, visit the library, and walk the dog in the park. We often do chores after school like visiting the grocery store, shopping for endless birthday party presents, and the weekly Target run. Elsie is learning the piano and the recorder, both of which require practice. She also needs to eat and wash but I hope that’s not too much to ask.

The truth is, although homework may be useful for supporting school work and enhancing parenting relationships, children do not have time to do it properly without side effects.

“Assigning excessive amounts of homework may result in unneeded stress and pressure on the child, which affects the student’s emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health.” (dataworks-ed.com)

What’s more, I’m dealing with a major case of disinterest in school work, and homework is not helping:

“It can lead to boredom if the student has already mastered the skills, and it can lead to loss of interest in school due to burnout.” (dataworks-ed.com)

I would really rather avoid burnout, especially before we hit the Second Grade.

What experts say about parents helping with homework:

Harvard Family Research Project published a review of current research on ‘Parental Involvement in Homework‘ and reading between a lot of waffle I can summarize the advantages of parents helping with homework as:

  • Helping to structure time, space, and materials;
  • Supporting challenges in ability, effort and motivation;
  • Rewarding effort, completion, correctness;
  • Encouraging kids to break tasks into discrete, manageable parts;
  • Modelling appropriate learning processes and problem solving strategies;
  • Checking for understanding;
  • Encouraging kids to self-monitor and self-motivate;

All positive contributions parents can make to a child’s learning. Where the Family Research Project goes all kinds of wrong is when they include statements like:

‘Structure homework within the flow of family life; ensure parental “availability on demand”’

Oh come on Harvard… ‘availability on demand’? Do you have any children? If so, I’m presuming you only have one. Elsie has two younger brothers, are they expected to have ‘availability on demand’ too? You’ve got to be joking.

My thoughts on helping with homework

If you haven’t seen the movie ‘Bad Mums’, before everything goes horribly wrong, she is living the perfected life of the ‘super mom’. In amongst soccer practice, PTA meetings, her job and making dinner, she’s also ‘helping’ with homework. Here’s a picture of her son’s history project, a huge paper mache bust of Richard Nixon:

bad moms movie nixon head

As you can see, it’s expected that parents helping with homework not only have the time to do so, but also graduated from Art school… no pressure. I do think it’s a little unfair on kids with busier parents, I can see it getting competitive and no-one wants to be the kid with the crappy diorama. At the same time, as much we try to avoid it, school is a competitive environment and always will be.

Despite my general loathing for State standardized homework (the crappy timed Math worksheets in particular grind my gears), I do see the purpose of project work. It’s also particularly suited to parents helping with homework. It helps us organize appropriate timings, discuss, inspire, demonstrate and check for understanding in the process. 

Back to the hedgehog diorama…

Elsie’s been super pumped about it, research has been integrated into our library visits and we plan to find some extra materials while out on a dog walk (twigs, leaves etc).  I can honestly say, the project homework has encouraged motivation for school work and created opportunities for positive parenting. So… how much did I help?

After considering the positive and negative impact of parents helping with homework, I came up with a strategy:

  • Discuss the project and share ideas;
  • Encourage making an ‘ideas board’. ie draw the diorama and what she wants it to look like;
  • Create the bits she won’t be able to, while explaining what I’m doing at all times;
  • Support her in making the bits that she can;
  • Reward her efforts and correct where appropriate;

So, that’s what we did. And I know you are just desperate to see the hedgehog diorama itself…

hedgehog-fox-diorama

hedge-fox-diorama

What can I say… I was born for this stuff.

How much do you help your kids with their homework?

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Modern Interior Door Handles: Naptime Makeover

Modern interior door handles – sleek, sexy, cool – everything my current door handles are not.  My home was built in 1987 and I am unsure whether my existing handles are original to the house or lovingly installed sometime in the 90’s. Either way, cheap faux bronze with a Celtic twist is not a good look in 2017. It’s one of my interior design pet hates- bad door handles – so today we’re going to sift through some serious hardware porn and get the creative juices flowing.

modern interior door handles FB

Where do you start if you are wanting some modern interior door handles? I started by doing what most people might do… I went to the Home Depot for a browse of the door hardware isle. I’ll save you the trip, the selection is awful. I’m pretty sure they haven’t updated their shelf stock since my faux bronze Celtic numbers were on sale. They have a much better selection online but if you’re going to shop online we might as well do this properly… Let’s see what’s really out there:

Modern Interior Door Handles: 

Brushed Brass:

brass-lever-handle
Image source: remodelista.com

Brass may be what you’re replacing, but don’t underestimate the available designs in this finish. A high quality brass fitting will bring warmth and class to your home, and with all the mid century brass light fittings and lamps around, why not keep up to date with your door handles too? I’ve picked out this beautiful handle from Japanese architect Uno Tomoaki. For more of his bespoke hardware designs check out this article on minimalist glamour from Remodelista.

 Crystal Knob

crystal door knob
Design and image from emtek.com

I few years ago I would have never considered installing crystal knobs on my doors. But with the explosion of the Art Deco revival, those glass fixtures are back on trend. The simplicity of this ‘Modern Disc Crystal Knob‘ with square rosette from Emtek is perfection.

Stainless Steel:

Stainless-steel-handle
Image source: dezeen.com

You can’t go too wrong with stainless steel hardware. It’s what people expect to see in an updated home, and there is a vast selection of modern interior door handles in brushed and polished finishes. I particular love this design by MAD Architects, based on the design of their Canadian skyscapers. More on that here at Dezeen.

Matt Black

Square black lever handle
Image source: thelockandhandle.com

The Thor Square handle is oozing bachelor pad to me. Boys, you’re going to feel like a real man grasping the ‘Thor’,.. I can’t help myself, apologies. Aside from Thor, I’m a fan of the matt black finish because it’s modern, yet works with a farmhouse style too. I see it as an upgrade on the ever popular antique bronze finish. It’s also suggestive of all the dark iron details you see in industrial loft apartments, so it pretty much works anywhere!

Wooden

wooden door knob
Image source: modknobs.com

Mary & Jeff of ModKnobs say “Down with lame door knobs”, and I’m totally with them. This delightful walnut knob is the tame option… ModKnobs make these in rubber in a spectrum of colors! You just have to see them, they were featured here at Better Living Through Design.

Something with Flair

sculptural brass lever handle
Image source: pittella.com.au

Let’s not play it too safe… If you have a super cool oversized white washed apartment, these handles are perfect for you. The ‘066’ handle designed by Architect Sergio Asti is featured in the MoMA Museum of Modern Art. Go on, you know you want them.

 And maybe just one more…

polished stainless steel lever handle
Image source: pittella.com.au

Proving stainless steel still looks great polished, the ‘H5023 ViceVersa‘ is designed by Italian Architect Cini Boeri. It’s playful yet simple; modern with a touch of mid century retro. When I win the lottery, I think I might fill my swanky pad with these.

Naptime Makeover: 
Modern Interior Door Handles

Going from the large scale last week with ‘Accent Wall Ideas‘, I figured I had it easy this week. “I’m just going to swap a door handle” I thought. However, I did decide to go with the matt black finish, which meant the existing hinges didn’t match. I considered replacing the hinges with new black ones, but what a waste when I have perfectly good hinges already. So I sprayed them, it worked a dream, and will save me a bunch of cash as I work my way round the house replacing the others.

So… here we go, it’s time to get some modern interior door handles for myself:

handles-makeover

black-door-handle

black door handle baby
Arthur wanted a piece of the action…

I went for the Schlage F10 V LAT 622 which I consider modern, affordable, yet fairly classic in it’s shape.

I’m pretty pleased with it… what do you think?


If you missed my other naptime makeovers, take a look at:

Accent Wall Ideas
How to Arrange Pictures Creatively

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Who’s on Santa’s Naughty Nice List 2016?

Santa’s naughty nice list 2016 has been a hot topic of conversation at home this week. The air is filled with excitement over the possibility of presents, with a hint of panic that maybe, just maybe she hasn’t quite made it. Following ‘Banned Google Interview Questions: Smashed by a Six Year Old‘, I thought I’d see what Elsie thought about people of power; and whether Santa had them on his naughty or nice list. 

santa's naughty nice list 2016

In reflecting on the year, I had a look through the Forbes’ list of ‘The World’s Most Powerful People‘ and Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People.’ I picked a selection from these lists that I believed Elsie, my six year old daughter, may know. So, who made the cut?

Who’s on Santa’s Naughty Nice List 2016? Interview with a Six Year Old

It was explained to Elsie that she would be given some names (no pictures) of famous people, and decide which side of Santa’s Naughty Nice List 2016 she thought they were on…

Barack Obama

barack-obama
source: biography.com

“Nice list. Because he’s been a really nice president and it’s made all of America a nice place to live.”


Donald Trump

donald-trump
source: michaelmoore.com

“Nice list. Because he’s the president now and he won. And he deserves a present from Santa for winning.”

“What kind of present do you think he’s like?”

“I think he’d like a bow tie. A red one or black one – those are ones that famous people wear, at like tea parties and stuff.”


Hilary Clinton

hilary-clinton
source: nbcnews.com

“Umm… I don’t know. I have no idea.”

“Why wouldn’t she be on the nice list?”

“She might be on the nice list… if she is she might like some new clothes from Santa. If she is on the naughty list she will get coal.”


Kim Jong Un

Kim-Jong-Un
Source: mirror.co.uk

“I have no idea what that guy is.”

“Where do you think he’s from?”

“France?”

“What do you think Kim Jong Un might like for Christmas?”

“A beret. Because he’s French, and French painters normally wear berets.”


Leonardo Di…

leonardo-dicaprio
Photo by Victoria Will. Source: hollywoodreporter.com

“Wait. I know…
Leonardo da Vinci! Are we talking about that guy?”

“Well… do you think Leonardo da Vinci would be on the naughty or the nice list?”

“Nice list. Because I know he’s a painter from Art class. And I think he would really want a new paintbrush or maybe a beret.”

“To match Kim Jong Un?”

“Yeah.”

“So they could hang out together?”

“Yeah.”

“But is he still alive?”

“Well… no. So maybe not.”

“I’m glad you know all about Leonardo da Vinci, but I was actually going to ask about Leonardo DiCaprio. Do you know who that is?”

“Er… no.”


Usain Bolt

usain-bolt
Source: biography.com

“I do not know that guy.”

“Have you ever seen someone running, and they go like ‘that’ at the end (Mom does the Lightning Bolt).”

“Well… Deacon just goes like that over his eyes like ‘this’. But instead he just does it when he sneezes.”

“I think he might have got that from Usain Bolt.”

“What is a Usain Bolt?”

**Wikipedia Interlude**

“That’s Usain Bolt??”

“He’s a super fast sprinter. He’s the fastest human of all time and the first man to break both the 100m and 200m World Records at the same time. So do you think he’s on the nice list or naughty list?”

“Nice list. Because he’s a super fast runner and I think he’d really like some new shoes coz sometimes he might even go into the mud.”

“No-one likes muddy shoes.”

“No-one.”


Lady Gaga

lady-gaga
Photo by Steve Granitz. Source: huffpost.com

“Oh yeah… I like that girl! I know some of her songs but I think she’s going to be on the nice list because she’s my favorite singer. And I think everyone likes her.”

“What do you think she might like for Christmas?”

“She might like some new sparkly shoes in silver. Or a new microphone?”


Mark Zuckerburg

mark-zuckerburg
Source: Forbes.com

“I don’t know who he is.”

“Mark Zuckerburg is the person that started Facebook. Do you know what Facebook is?”

“No.”

“You know… It looks like this (scroll through Facebook feed). When I take a picture I can put it on Facebook and show all my friends and family.”

“OK… How did he make it?”

“On his computer. He’s super clever.”

“So… it’s like he made his own website? Like you did?”

“Yeah, kind of. But a lot more people go on his website than mine. There are 1.79 billion Facebook users.”

“And you’re one of them?”

“I’m one of them, yes.”

“I might want to be one of them soon.”

“I think you might have to be 16.
So do you think Mark is on the naughty or the nice list?”

“I just don’t know.”


Summing up Santa’s naughty nice list 2016:

“Well, we have a lot of people on the nice list. Can we think of anyone that might be on the naughty list?”

“I know… someone from Kindergarten. Sammy doesn’t believe in Santa so he may just definitely be on the naughty list this year.”

“So what do you reckon Sammy’s gonna get?”

“Um… maybe coal? Or an orange or a tangerine?” 

“Aren’t tangerine’s good?”

(Shoulder shrug and all round unimpressed look at tangerines).

“I might be going on the naughty list.”

“Why might you be going on the naughty list?”

“Because you said I keep being rude, a lot.”

“Oh dear. Do you think you’ve made up for it?”

“Yes.”

“You think you’ve done enough?”

“Yes.”

“And what would you like if Santa puts you on the nice list?”

“A giant silver Shopkins kit. Because I love those. I think that big giant present under the tree might be it though, so I might have to ask for a pink Brightling… I don’t know.

“What about your brothers?”

“Oh I know!
George is definitely going on the naughty list coz of all his screaming.”

“What about Arthur?”

“Arthur’s going on the good list because he doesn’t scream that much, and goes like ‘eh’ a lot. And it really makes people happy.”


This post is linked up here:

Poor George. Already on the naughty list Age 1. Let’s hope he can redeem himself in the next seven days.
What side of Santa’s naughty nice list 2016 would you put these ‘people of power’?
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Toys for Twin Toddlers or Young Siblings

When my twins turned one something happened. Suddenly they discovered that sensation we all experience from time to time… The overwhelming ‘I have to have it now’ feeling. Yes, at the grand old age of one my boys have started tug of war over pretty much anything cool. If you want to see a real fight, give one of them my phone, the TV remote or their personal favorite… the baby monitor. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, or at least immoral, but if it wasn’t I’m sure twin toddler fighting would make a great sport. So, what toys for twin toddlers (and of course young siblings) can help avoid the fighting? 

toys for twin toddlers

How to shop toys for twin toddlers and young siblings:

Whether you’re buying one present for them to officially share or a present each, twins and siblings will want the other one’s toy, so you have a few options:

  • Buy two of everything and watch them fight over one of them anyway;
  • Assign them each their own toys and optimistically try to teach them about sharing and being kind to each other;
  • Separate them;
  • Just let them work it out between them, they’ll soon learn and respect which one is more ‘Thug Life’.
  • Buy toys they can use to play together. No fighting, it’s actually MORE fun to get along and share.

I would recommend the latter choice. Buy toys for twin toddlers that encourage sharing and interactive play. Those are best toys anyway aren’t they?

My thoughts on toddler toys that are boy/girl defined:

Slight side note… the best toys for toddlers are unisex. If you read ‘Boys Playing with Girl Toys‘, you’ll know that I am not a fan of limiting my children to the girl or boy isle of the toy shop. It’s ridiculous and totally goes against everything we teach them as teenagers about equality of the sexes. Just a short pep talk but I had to get it off my chest.


*This post contains affiliate links. This means I get a small commission from Amazon if you decide to purchase from them. This does not affect the price of the item.*

Top Ten Toys for Twin Toddlers and Young Siblings:

Kiddey Children’s Dual Play Tent with Tunnel

It’s massive… I hear you. But it’s awesome, and they’ll love it. It does break down into pieces too, so you don’t have to have the whole thing out at once if you want to still access the rest of your house. My twin boys have a similar set up from IKEA which you buy in separate pieces and they absolutely love it! They love chasing each other though it… even the cat likes it. Not everyone has an IKEA at hand, so if Amazon is your thing I’m certain the Kiddey Children’s Dual Play Tent will be a hit!


LEGO DUPLO My First Deluxe Box of Fun

It’s a timeless classic… everyone loves Duplo. I would recommend a big box of classic blocks over a fancy school bus or the like. My boys have my daughter’s hand-me-down Duplo airplane and they fight over the crate of bananas and the propellers, apparently they’re the best bits. However, they also have a LEGO DUPLO My First Deluxe Box of Fun and even at age one, they love just carrying the blocks around and smashing down towers built by their big sister. There’s plenty of blocks to go around, no arguments.


Anatex Deluxe Mini Play Cube

My boys are really enjoying their smaller bead maze at the moment. They play together with it well because there are multiple bead runs to interact with. The only trouble is, occasionally Arthur decides he wants it to himself and tips the whole thing over. They stand together very well at their Fisher-Price Learning Table but as they get older they are now less interested in the sounds and buttons. The Anatex Deluxe Mini Play Cube would however prevent the bead maze sabotage and work well for a wide age range. Plus it’s wooden and a bit retro, gotta love that.


Little People Wheelies Stand ‘n Play Rampway

It’s a classic and still going strong… long live the Fisher Price Rampway. Who doesn’t love to run cars down ramps? And don’t even go there if you’re going to tell me this is a boy’s toy. My brother is five years younger than me (to confirm: I am a girl) and I remember playing together with something very similar. It’ll last for years and it has two ramps – you know what that means? RACE!


LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical Mat

I have seen kids play together with something similar in an indoor play park. They love giggling over the sounds together – it is definitely more fun with two! The trouble I would have is my six year old would love it too and I’m not sure there’s space for three! One Amazon reviewer says her two young children love the Learn & Groove Mat “because sharing is out of the question for them.” You see? The struggle is real and you are not alone.


Step2 Finding Dory Swim & Swirl Water Table

It may be a little cold outside for water play at the moment, but in case you’re in the market for some summer fun, check out the Finding Dory Swim & Swirl Table. Water play is one of those activities that is more fun when you have someone to splash, and there’s plenty of space to move around it without getting in each other’s way. And who doesn’t love finding Dory?


Playmaker Toys Turtle Family Floating Bath Tub Toy

My boys were given the matching Shark Family for their birthday which they absolutely love. But I couldn’t resist featuring these cute turtles… might be filling the bath with yet more toys at Christmas. The babies are matching so they can have one each without arguments, and there’s even a spare one for big sister. Of course if you’re shopping for triplets this is beyond adorable and perfect!


Play-Doh Cookout Creations

My boys are little young for using Play-doh molds, but I’m including Cookout Creations because… well I want a go! It looks so much fun, and creating the perfect BBQ together should keep them busy for some time. There are plenty of different molds to allow sharing, and the set comes with one burger bun and one hot dog bun. As long as your siblings can agree to swap every now and again things should run smoothly.


Foam Building Blocks – 104 Pieces Different Shapes and Sizes

As you can probably tell, I’m all about timeless toys. You really can’t go wrong with building blocks, and these foam blocks are great for a wide age range so big sister can help too. You can buy a 52 block set or the 104 block set but the larger set is considerably better value.


Aquadoodle Draw N Doodle Mat with BONUS Pen and Cap

This one was picked by my six year old. She thinks it is the perfect present for her twin brothers, and I’m sure the choice has nothing to do with the fact she is desperate to have a go herself. Do note that Aquadoodle make the Classic Mat and the Classic Mat with BONUS Pen. If buying toys for twin toddlers… make sure you get the bonus pen!


So there you have it… ten unisex toys for twin toddlers, young siblings, or just about any kid that likes to have company! And in case you’re looking for some twin cuteness… here’s a short video of the boys hanging out in their tunnel!

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Accent Wall Ideas: Naptime Makeover

There are limitless accent wall ideas that can bring contrast, texture and detail into your home design. An accent wall allows a room to look highly styled with little impact on the rest of the house; no need to move out, or cover your entire home with dust sheets. Despite being localized, the transformation to the feel of your home can be quite spectacular. Let’s take a look at some inspiring accent wall ideas…

Accent Wall Ideas for Home Makeovers


Accent Wall Ideas I Love:

1 – Wallpaper

Rosedale Attic Bedroom transitional-bedroom

 

There are some pretty bold and impressive wallpaper options on the market now. I love this print from Schumacher, it feels whimsical yet modern. Birds and butterflies are trending at the moment and this light wallpaper is perfect!

2 – Planks

Potrero Hill Bohème southwestern-living-room

 

Unless you have never watched HGTV, you are very familiar with the current craze for shiplap and reclaimed pallet walls. Behind, the headboard, in the bathroom, around the fireplace… it seems to work everywhere. Go painted shiplap for the farmhouse feel or exposed weathered boards for the rustic upcyled look. Alternatively, for an ultra-sleek modern take try spacing thin planks like this house in Denver…

Rowhouse modern-nursery

 

3 – Painted

Maneli Wilson Interiors contemporary-living-room

 

Dark contrasting shades of blue, grey and black have been a staple for the accent wall for some time, and don’t look like they’re leaving us anytime soon.

4 – Decal Mural

Gioi Tran contemporary-kitchen

 

Unless you have a skilled artist handy, you probably want to install your mural in the form of a vinyl stickers. Wall decals are big business now, from adorable nursery designs to serious stuff for grown ups. Check out the watercolor murals from Pixers.

5 – Exposed Concrete, Brick or Stone

Brick Wall scandinavian-bedroom

 

I am not promoting the installation of faux brick walls, however much it’s scraping for a come back from the 70s. However, if you are blessed with concrete, brick or stone construction, have some fun and expose some of it. 

6 – Tile

Park St contemporary-bathroom

 

It’s OK to mix up your tiles and have a feature wall in your bathroom, play around with colors and patterns! The tiled fireplace is all the rage at the moment too… I’ve got to say I’m not the biggest fan. Some trends just don’t float my boat.

7 – Stenciled/MURAL

Bruce House transitional-nursery

 

If you’re a bit more Arts & Crafts than polished concrete, stenciling or creating a mural with masking tape may be for you. If you haven’t quite got the skills, think about hiring a professional!

8 – Living Wall

A Sacred Space to Bathe by siol and Habitat Horticulture contemporary-bathroom

 

Oh go on… impress all your friends with a fantastic vertical garden! I would love to do this but don’t have the best history with house plants, and I’m pretty sure it’s outside the realm of naptime. I said I’d give you accent wall ideas, I did’t promise they were all going to be easy.


Accent Wall Ideas: Continuing Naptime Makeovers

Following the success of How to Arrange Pictures Creatively, I got a little more ambitious this week. I confess, it took a little longer than one naptime. We (I called in husband help to hold the ladder) started at morning nap and finished during afternoon nap. It’s a tall large wall…excuses excuses.

accent-wall-results
Why is my new lamp wonky?
accent wall
Excuse the animals… they are sleeping, not taxidermy.

That’s it for this week. I think I need a nap…

What do you think? Too bold? Not bold enough? Totally disappointed I didn’t go for a whole wall of ferns? I’d love to hear from you!

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Kids with Phobias: A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Have you ever wondered where we get our phobias from? If you were mauled by a giant poodle as a child I can understand your fear of dogs; but where do kids with phobias get them from?

kids with phobias title

Yesterday at breakfast, my six year old daughter, Elsie, was sniffling with yet another cold she’s brought back from school. I decided to have a chat about hygiene and check that she was washing her hands at least when she uses the bathroom and has lunch. 

“Oh I don’t go to the bathroom at school. It’s too scary so I hold on until I get back.” She said.

We leave for school at 7.15am and get back at 3.30pm… That’s a serious hold. I ask more about this fear of the bathroom and it turns out sometime back in October the fire alarm went off mid-pee. It gave her such a shock she’s been unable to enter the bathroom since. She was even quite upset that the alarm had gone off just as she sat down so she “didn’t even get anything out.” We had a little pep talk and she promised me she was going to use the bathroom the following school day. The trouble is, knowing my daughter, she will go first thing so that she can say she’s done it, while knowing the alarm is unlikely to go off as everyone is bumbling in from the car park. She’s a sneaky little thing.

Unlike Elsie, I am a fairly fearless person… here’s me age 18 jumping out of a plane at 15,000ft…

tandem-sky-dive

As a kid I was into horse riding, rock climbing and roller-coasters. I am still yet to find a roller-coaster that makes me want to walk the other way. I just love them, the bigger the better. Elsie was carried kicking and screaming out of the Minions ride at Universal Studios because she didn’t like the look of the ‘scary’ entrance and got fixated on it.

So why does my daughter have a fantastic fear of everything? Is it from her father? Is it something I’ve done or not done? I question this all the time – multiple time a day in fact, because that’s how many times I’m dealing with a total FREAK OUT. Yesterday again, on the way to ballet, I’m driving along a fairly main road when my eardrums nearly explode from the screech coming the back row of the minivan.

“Aaghhhebarhaaaaeeeegglllle…” She screams.

“What  is it?” I say in mild panic. Has she lost a limb? Gone blind? Just discovered Donald Trump is President?

“Spiiiideeerrrr…” She wails.

I continue to drive until I can pull over, by which point her twin brothers are also screaming because when she crys, they cry. That’s a lot of crying. She leaps to the front of the wagon in tears and I climb past her to assess the scale of the beast. A little black spider scurried across the window, soon to be squashed by a Mom finger and a Walmart receipt… sorry buddy, your time is up.

You would think that was the end of it, but we had floods of tears all the way to ballet, wailing about how she can feel it crawling all over her and how she’s going to have nightmares tonight. It was beyond being a little jumpy, she is genuinely one of those kids with phobias. 

I tried to talk her down, but she was so focused on the spider I couldn’t divert too much or I wouldn’t have been able to keep her attention. So I asked her what three things in the world she was most scared of.

“Being alone in the dark.”

“The dark.”

“Spiders.”

Why do kids have phobias?

Elsie has many phobias and her chosen top three are some of the most commom. ‘Child Therapist’s List of Top Worries by Age’ includes fear of the dark, loud noises and bugs as classics for ages 5-7, so it seems Elsie is not alone. Even I remember being pretty terrified of Daddy-Long-Legs when I was her age. So why are we so scared of certain things as children? 

‘Fears develop when a child is old enough to have an imagination, but is not yet old enough to distinguish fantasy from reality.’ says Dr. Sue Hubbard in the Chicago Tribune.

As we all know, toddlers and young children can have a very active imagination; and it seems their brains go up a gear when they are plunged into darkness. There are less distractions, leaving their minds to run wild, and then of course the monsters come out to play. This is why so many of our little ones suffer from a fear of the dark.

So if imagination is to blame for the fear of the dark, what about the fear of bugs. This is a tricky one to tackle and can often lead to the phobia continuing into adulthood. It seems as humans were are inherently uncomfortable around insects. In fact, In Chapman University’s 2016 Survey on American Fears, 25 percent of respondents said they were afraid of insects and/or spiders.  I am the spider removal service in our house, but if one crawled up my leg I’ll jump as much as the next person. There are some theories behind why this phobia is so common:

  • The fear is justified by some insects actually being harmful;
  • Insects, unlike bears and lions, trigger a ‘rejection response’ (the need to instantly ‘get it away from me’). This response is linked to disgust which is a built-in mechanism, designed to keep us safe.
  • Their physical form is unlike ours, ie they look weird (unlike most mammals).
  • They are often found in ‘armies’, something we find inherently threatening.

So it seems there are slightly different reasons behind different fears and they may all need to a slightly different approach.

So, what can we do as parents for our kids with phobias?

  • Discuss your child’s phobias with them – acknowledge it and help them see you take it seriously.
  • Help your child draw pictures of their fears and ceremoniously throw them away;
  • Teach your children positive self-talk e.g. “I’m not afraid of the dark.” “That spider is not going to hurt me.”
  • Empower your child with tools and special powers e.g. an emergency flashlight nearby, ‘monster spray’ or a ‘lucky charm’ to keep them safe when they visit the dentist.
  • Arm them with knowledge – help kids with phobias learn to identify which spiders are dangerous so they understand the others are not.
  • Transform the negative into a positive – get them interested in what it is they are scared of e.g. get a book on snakes and find out some cool facts about them.
  • Share you own fears with your child and how you deal with them.
  • Exposure therapy… don’t force it, but try to encourage them to face their fears while in a safe environment.

Some phobias are easier to tackle that others. I’m not suggesting torturing your child by repeatedly exposing them to sudden loud noises. However, you can sit with your child in the dark for a while to show them it’s OK. You can give them something to say and focus on when they feel scared.

A success story:

When my daughter was 18months old a very large fighter plane flew overhead when we were on holiday in France. She was so traumatized by this experience that she would get upset every time we went outside. When we made her join us in the back yard at home, she would spend the entire time staring up at the sky, waiting for a plane to come. This went on for over a year, and when a small plane would go overhead, she would go into total melt down. It was a nightmare for all.

We tackled this fear by talking about how cool airplanes were, a lot. We gave her a Duplo airplane for Xmas, and I would encourage her to draw them when she was in an artsy mood. When we did go outside and a plane came overhead we would wave to it…

“Have a nice holiday!” we would say together while waving.

And slowly, it worked. To begin with it was more of a panicked broken record, “have a nice holiday…” said over and over again as quickly as she could until the plane passed. But it was definitely helping her get through it, and she learnt that the plane would pass and nothing bad would happen.

Kids with phobias: Last words of wisdom…

You are not alone. My kid has a fantastic fear of everything, from cutting fingernails and hand-stands, to owls. It is challenging and slightly traumatic for all of us on a daily basis. So if you’re a Mom of kids with phobias, try not to blame yourself, and take time to process the fact you may not to be riding roller-coasters together… ever. Sob.


In case you haven’t seen the movie, here’s the trailer. It’s fantastic!

I found these articles super interesting when researching kids with phobias:


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