A new year, a new country

So we did it.  After six great years we moved ourselves, a lot of luggage and mixed feelings from beautiful Sydney to grey London.  Why? Why? Why? We have been asked a lot…..

The main reason is family, with all the grandparents, great, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins here it is just too hard to imagine our boys missing out on these great people and growing those relationships from a young age.  While technology helps a lot, in my opinion it cannot replace real time together (which I miss as well).  I want the boys to make memories in their relatives homes and understand that families work differently (and that that is just fine).  I want the boys to see us enjoying time with our families so they see families as an important part of their lives as they grow older.  They will always have their Australian citizenship to fall back on but England is a great place to live so the aim of this year is to find our special spot to call home!!!  Wish us luck!

On the subject of families this article was an interesting one about how women mainly pick up the legwork around keeping the family ties tight.  I would say this extends to friendships as well as Mr S invariably leaves me to do the organising of the fun stuff as well!

So whilst the last few months have been spent doing A LOT of admin, I have found the time to do some reading and of course the toddler entertainment never stops (we now have two in the house with our baby turning one and gaining his first pair of shoes!).

To read

I have started trying to make notes of non-fiction books that I have found interesting.  It allows me to absorb the information more and to help me recall it when I want to share a point with a friend.

  • The Savage Garden by Mark Mills – a pick from the in-laws bookshelf.  A good easy read and a little escapist.
  • High Output Management by Andrew Grove.  Interesting read around engaging employees.  Think it works best in a product type environment but the connecting and empowering is relevant to all.  Quite a short read as well.
  • Growing Great Marriages by Ian and Mary Grant – a library find.  Has a Christian slant to it but the advice is worth a read even if that is not your religion.  Has good questions to ask each other, as well as reminders of how in general men and women think and communicate differently and have different needs.

 

Parenting

  • Bit late but a good reminder to make time to enjoy each other’s company, not just the new toys.
  • Peaceful parenting, happy siblings by Dr Laura Markam – I would really recommend getting this while pregnant with number two and reading and taking notes as you go.  She gives great ideas of keeping your older one more content during the arrival of their sibling and how to connect with both children daily to make them better siblings to each other.  I want to study it like a textbook to really implement her ideas.  As both boys are walking now the rules of the game have definitely changed!

 

To listen to

  • Some interesting ones on my to listen to list from Sydney Writers Festival.  One on capital punishment was enlightening.
  • Smart Passive Income – on my list to listen to to help find a way to make money and be predominantly at home with the boys (whilst keeping my brain going and qualifications relevant!)
  • Best of 2015 from Tim Ferris.  He reflects on the interviews in the year and the points he is implementing.  These are the points I took from it
    • More reflecting less ingesting
    • Discipline is freedom.  Use bookmarks of set times for things to allow you to have creative freedom.
    • Using breathing techniques to reduce caffeine intake
    • Going First – little things add up.  Smile and say hello
    • What could you do which will be remebered in 200-400 Years time?
    • Only commit yourself/time to things that invoke a “Hell Yeah” response.
    • If you say you are ‘busy’ then you are out of control – you don’t have the right systems and are not making descisions
    • Reveal a little something before starting to make yourself seem vulnerable and you are likely to get more authentic moments of emotion as a result.
    • Use the Dickens process – think of what your beliefs / limiting behaviour is costing you/ those you love in past/ present / future.  Use this to modify your behaviour.  Can’t just look at the reward of action but need to consider the result of inaction.
    • Recommends Sapiens – on my to read list.
    • What is on the other side of fear? Nothing
    • Conduct year end review.  What have you do right / wrong / could do better?
    • If you say to yourself “But I am making so much money doing something” consider it a warning sign as you will never get your time back

 

To travel

We have done a fair bit of travel with a quick holiday before the big move – long haul flights and some reasonable drives.  With two little ones who are only used to short trips this took a bit of planning.  Here are our tips:

  • Invest in a portable DVD player.  It really helps with the downtime which busy toddlers do need.  It also allows you to more easily control the amount of TV time if you agree up front how many episodes they can watch; we find YouTube videos of diggers and construction games are great, but they always want another one.  Our favourite DVDs are playschool, Thomas, Peppa, Dora and Mister Maker.  A mix of semi-educational and stories is good.  We didn’t have a TV at home in Australia and this allows us to control the screen time a lot more than just seeing what is on the kids TV channels when staying with family. Would recommend one with a car mount and this was great for the seven hour road trip.
  • Use packing cells for children’s clothes if you are using large cases.  They make it far easier to find things.
  • Books, books, books – read them or just tell a story that you remember reading before.  Embellish, talk about emotions, examples that link to what they already know.
  • Snacks, snacks, snacks (don’t forget some for you too)!
  • Play eye spy an object/ something yellow/ beginning with..
  • Play rainbow spotting – e.g. find a red car, orange cone, yellow truck…..
  • Let’s pretend to be a vet, fireman, doctor etc… Use what you have to create a story and keep it evolving and their imagination working!  The more mock acting and silly voices the better.  The first time we did this Mr S made up a basic story around Fireman Sam, our toddler has now taken this into his own imagination and embellished it beyond belief – each day a new detail is added.  It is lovely to encourage and see his imagination grow.

Air travel

  • Use books and stories to prepare children for going through the airport.  Peppa Pig goes on holidayBrian Floca’s Five trucks (stunning illustrations and love his other book Locomotive but for an older reader), and Maisy goes by plane were all great for starting the discussions about what will happen with simple language and allowing a reference point back during the journey “do you remember when Maisy did…?”
  • Assign tasks if travelling with more than one adult – one person does children, the other passports and tickets etc.  Strap smaller children to you or down!  Research if there are any strollers/ trolleys that you can use in transit at airports.  Make sure you both know where the toiletries/ electricals/ baby food/ wipes etc. are.  And update each other if this needs to move around during the journey.
  • Give your toddler a task – ours had his own carry-on suitcase which he felt responsible for getting through security etc. which made him more involved with what was happening.  And obviously make sure they have their special teddy/doll safely stowed.
  • Put stickers with individual’s initials on the back of passports to speed up airport transit.  We had two passports each and this made matching passports to boarding cards much easier!
  • Make a small card with consolidated names, passports number, DOB, expiry date, place of issue on it so one person can easily fill in the arrival forms!
  • Check what food / liquids you can take with you – raisins and crackers/biscuits can solve lots of mini-meltdowns.
  • Lots of little lightweight books – our boys love the small Thomas stories/ Mr Men and Little Miss.
  • Few small electric toys that make a noise and hold / divert attention.  E.g. small toy phone/ v-tech toot toot vehicles.
  • Pack an activity bag with lots of different little bits.  Stickers with pictures, plain white ones, some snap cards (halve the pack so you have another activity if any get lost), some felt with some bits cut out into different shapes (sticks to itself), washi tape, post-its, washable pens, tape measure (sewing style) etc.  Do some research of small ideas that you can keep in your pocket to help yourself when you feel you are losing control!
  • Carry a large, light tote bag in an accessible pocket to allow for a fast clear away at the end of the flight and for a repack when off the plane.

Visiting family

  • Have some small activities to keep them amused.  Balloons, few books, stickers etc. all work well if you are visiting older family with lots of lovely (but fragile) ornaments and knick knacks.
  • Take some toys if there are children of a similar age so some ‘trading’ can be done.
  • Talk about who they are going to see and what they might like to tell them – provide conversation starters.
  • If you are staying for a few days use a collapsible crate/ large bag to collect your things in one spot (preferably by the door) as getting out the house can be a mission when you can’t find their glove/hat/waterproof trousers etc.
  • Do some research of what to do with children in the area in different weather conditions.  We found the days without a clear plan the hardest.  Are there any local playgroups to visit, a library to borrow some books from etc?  If you can do some things that are similar to what they enjoy doing at home it can make it easier when you are staying for an extended trip.

To connect

These few months have been hard work for Mr S and I.  We have really had to work on our communication to try and avoid things falling through the cracks and to deal with the emotions we are both feeling with the big move, not to mention give our little ones lots of support through the big change.  These ideas helped:

  • Create some code phrases which you can use to stop and reset.  We had “Can I have a ‘P’ please Bob?” for when more positivity was needed.  “Snap snap goes the crocodile” for when we were being unnecessarily snappy with each other.  “I’m having an ‘O’ moment” for when the overwhelm was taking over for Mr S.  He reaches a point when there is no point adding more to his plate or giving more information, best to save for another day.
  • On a Friday night use a piece of paper to categorise things to do.  I view weekends as  the time to get things done, Mr S views them as time to relax.  By having a joint to-do list (including fun things) we made our weekends more of a balance.
  • Conversation starters

 

To eat

 

Toddler activities

Extending the Messy Tray that I mentioned last time these have worked well:

  • Rice crispies and small plastic creatures
  • Custard powder, water and utensils (or dinosaurs)
  • Shaving foam and paint for marbling and printing
  • Some ideas for textured water play

On my to do list:

Near London:

  • RHS Gardens, Wisley – great garden to explore with all ages.  The Butterflies in the Glasshouse are stunning.  We also really liked the teepee building from long logs – particularly frightening how big a log our older son can lift!

 

I am thinking about what to write about this year; I really like sharing things that have worked well for me and my family, and hope that they are helpful to you.  I’d be grateful for any feedback on the content/ format and detail in my updates!

Have a great 2016.

Eleanor

topickwisely@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

October 2015’s picks

Where did September go?  My free time seemed to disappear to decision making, de-cluttering and reviewing the local playgroup accounts (which took longer than I anticipated)!  Still managed to fit in quite a bit of reading and creating, which was nice.

Please let me know what you would like to see more of/ continue with the list format or do more in depth posts (e.g. expanded book reviews/ how we do craft and limit the mess etc.)

To read

  • Girl on a Train – good easy read – thriller of the suburban variety.
  • An old novel but very compelling reading in an odd way – Geek Love.
  • Happier at Home – I want to read this one again (and make notes).  Lots of great quotes and ideas to make your space yours.  Makes me want to read her first book as well.
  • One to make you think or rethink – The 4-hour work week.  I liked some aspects: building in mini retirements/ adventures into life rather than slogging through a job just to retire and not enjoy the time/money then; challenging yourself to approach those who inspire you; and being stricter with yourself and your time.   But didn’t like: the implied heightened value placed on his time as opposed to those used for outsourcing; or the deception suggested to demonstrate that you are more productive working from home.  But as this is a 2011 edition some of the suggestions of how to ‘test’ your ideas seem a bit dated.
  • Interesting article on the Diderot Effect.

To listen to

  • Enjoying The World Tonight from BBC Radio 4 – more in depth analysis of some topics
  • Meet David Sedaris – very funny well told tales.  Limited time available though.
  • One from Mr S, Gray’s Donation made me think about all the different ways in which a donor’s cells and organs can be used – I hadn’t appreciated the variety before listening to this.
  • Chat 10 Looks 3 – two Australian journalists talk cooking, books, TV, films etc. and anything else they find interesting.  Marvel at their ability to recall linkages and details!

Toddler activities

These have worked well:

  • Using a deep plastic tray (9-litre, 3inch high – looks like a cat litter one) for messy activities.   Placed on our toddler height, oilcloth covered table with a small towel underneath to catch the worst of the mess.  Current favourites (normally get 15mins of play which is huge!) are:
    • Cloud dough – nice when it is made with scented baby oil.
    • Dyed Rice pouring and sorting.
    • Practicing pouring water from a jug, then dyeing it with food colouring and talking about colour mixing (caution hands can pick up dye).
    • Shaving foam in containers and mixing in hard corn kernels and bottle top lids.
    • Making foam in a blender with dishwashing liquid, water and food colouring for scooping, pouring etc.
    • Glue and glitter on paper, then rolling playdough around in the excess glitter to add some sparkle and reduce the mess factor!
  • Having special time with Daddy playing with ‘little bricks’ also known as LEGO!  Including making outline shapes (e.g. numbers) and then filling them in.
  • Repeating the fire safety messages from our playgroup visit – “Get down low and go go go”, “Stop drop and roll” and “000”.  When was the last time you checked and hoovered your smoke alarm?
  • Filling a bedtime box with PJs nappies etc. during the day so it is ready to go after bathtime.
  • Creating small world play situations inspired by this lovely website.

I experimented with a mind map of how I think about ideas for play.  Hope it inspires you/ saves some time.

Parenting reads:

To eat

  • I learnt how to pickle by watching a demo from the lovely Cornersmith at an Eco festival.  Email me if you want very detailed notes.
  • Very easy mini quiches – take sheet of frozen puff pastry, thaw slightly, cut into 9 squares, cover 9 holes in 12-hole cake pan holes with a square each, put in oven for 5 min, with a spoon gently press softened pastry into the holes, cook again until slightly crisp, fill with egg/milk mixture and some cheese and 1/2 a cherry tom, bake until set!
  • Want to make this Indian gelato – oranges, cardamon and pistachios, YUM!

To organise

  • Currently photographing birth and birthday cards to turn into photobooks and save on space.

To craft

  • I had a great time teaching our friends’ two older girls (10 and 8) how to use the sewing machine this month.  In an evening we managed to make one bunny and one mermaid’s tail (I made up the pattern) plus a few practice mini cushions.  Mr S. helped too.
  • Other completed projects include another whale, quilt, more bunnies and a fold-away felt world (with vinyl pocket for storing pieces).

In Sydney

  • Cant’t wait for the Noodle Night Noodle Markets – October 8 – October 25, 2015.
  • Good summary from TimeOut of the spring highlights.
  • The Fanny Durack outdoor swimming pool is open again for summer!  Great for toddlers with water jets and a small fenced pool plus new sunshades!

Until next time…

Eleanor

topickwisely@gmail.com

August 2015’s picks

I started writing this thinking it would be a short post but despite visitors and a long weekend away with friends I seemed to sneak in quite a few things.  Again please visit the website (topickwisely.com) if you are reading this on email so I can see what you are interested in by the links being clicked.  I seemed to do a lot of reading on parenting this month so have moved that into the toddler activities section.

This month I have been thinking a lot about creating good habits and by building little things into your busy day it can make for more restful evenings (rather than two hours of jobs after the little ones are in bed).  I’ll let you know any tips next month once I have given a few things a try.  I will be bearing this quote in mind “Stress is the difference between expectation and reality.”.

We also really enjoyed an early arty morning at Harbour Sculpture last weekend – Sydney friends catch it before it closes on Sunday 9th August.

IMG_7940IMG_7941 IMG_7942

 

 

 

To read

To watch

  • A chance spot at the library was I Wish, a Japanese film.  Recommended if you like stories about families (one son living with each parent and the dream of the elder son is to reunite the family) or learning more about daily life in Japan.
  • This film made me think of a few other films relating to growing up that we have enjoyed: Beneath Clouds; Satellite Boy and Samson and Delilah.

To listen to

  • Recommended by a friend – The Living Room.  Can’t tell you too much without spoiling the story!
  • Eye in the Sky – good for sparking debate over dinner – what level of surveillance is OK for society to be safe?  If you enjoy that follow on with this on the Stingray device.
  • Lovely chat about inspiring little ones to dance without the focus on their appearance too young.
  • Episode 331 on Working Motherhood stood out.  Lots of ideas to take on board:
    • Concept mapping things that you repeatedly think about to see how you can bring creativity into your life – using this tool to mind map was recommended.
    • Timing how long the little jobs take so the mental hurdle to get the dishwasher done at the end of the day is less.
    • Using Pinterest to create vision boards of your 5 and 10 year plans.  I need to put a holiday home near the beach on ours after a lovely weekend at Pearl Beach.

Toddler activities

These have worked well this month:

  • ‘Quiet tools’ – photocopying pictures of tools from a word picture book, mounting on card and then sandwiching in sticky back plastic/ laminating.  Good for allowing lots of ‘fixing’ without the risk of poking the baby’s eyes and without the noise of an actual play hammer.
  • Taking a microfibre towel to the park on dewy mornings.
  • Going on a PJ hunt when bedtimes get difficult – pretending to look all over the room to find them and turn it into a game.
  • Setting up a ‘Shop’ using the whiteboard on the easel for names/ pictures /prices of daily specials.  Think we will use it for other play ideas e.g. vets/ doctors/ restaurant etc.
  • Setting up the IKEA kitchen wedged between the wall and the back of the sofa so you can use as a shop/ cafe as well as a kitchen and two little ones can play at the same time; and you can get served endless tea on a comfy seat.  Little ones can get involved as they can stand and look over the back of the sofa at all the cooking action.
  • Pretending to go ‘down the basement’ with Grandpa – completely confused as to where he was going to first few times.
  • Water Wow colouring books saved for special situations like doctor’s waiting rooms.

Ones on the to try list:

Interesting parenting resources:

To connect

  • Another personality test – I put in last month’s blog post and it responded with this “You are heartfelt.  You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are accommodating: you are easy to please and try to avoid confrontation. And you are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them.  Experiences that give a sense of well-being hold some appeal to you.  You are relatively unconcerned with taking pleasure in life: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment. You consider tradition to guide a large part of what you do: you highly respect the groups you belong to and follow their guidance.”
  • Have you taken the chore wars quiz?

To organise

  • Some good free printables by Emily Ley.  I also enjoyed watching her little ‘about‘ video – products designed to help you intentionally plan the fun stuff.

In Sydney

I hope you found something of interest.

Eleanor

topickwisely@gmail.com

July 2015’s picks

IMG_7251Another month of not getting as much done as I would have liked on this site (adding more photos/ tidying the other pages/ playsheets – sorry!) but enjoying lots of moments along the way. I have started taking our two year old to the market at 7am on a Saturday to get the organic veggies for his brother’s first foods. Seeing him carry his basket, wearing his woolly hat and helping me pick some flowers (I admit this is my ulterior motive for going) is just lovely!

This month I succumbed to joining Pinterest. Looks like a great resource for toddler play ideas. Sometimes a photo is all you need to spark an idea and while I subscribe to some blogs I think this might be a more efficient way to find things. Once I have the boards set up I will share them here.

Two things stuck with me from podcasts this month – making time to see friends to give you an energy boost in this and ‘be nice’ in business in this.

If you have received this on email please click here to read this on the website. This just helps me see which links are clicked on so I can have an idea of which areas are of interest. I can’t see who clicks on what but I love seeing that I have had readers from Australia, UK, US, Mauritius, NZ, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, France and Tanzania!

As always please share anything you have found by emailing topickwisely@gmail.com.

To read

  • Quarterly Essay 55: A Rightful Place – Race, recognition and a more complete commonwealth, was a very interesting read.  I learnt more about the history of the colonisation of Australia and the challenges that the indigenous population have encountered since. I was interested in Noel Pearson’s concept of a layered identity; and in the work needed to maintain a record of the history of place names and songs as there is a real risk that these will lost if these are not recorded now.
  • A quick grab from the new books at the library was Craft for the Soul, How to get the most out of your creative life by Pip Lincolne of the blog Meet Me at Mike’s. It is not quite what I imagined from the cover – as in craft that is fulfilling (I didn’t read the subtitle); instead it is about how you can get your goals straight and make time for these and inspire your creativity. I tried her idea of writing your ‘pages’ daily (just dumping down your stream of consciousness to clear your head) and found this was good for clearing my head but I have struggled to keep it up. I want to come back to it as it has lots of little ‘exercises’ for you to work through.
  • Not sure how I can apply Eric’s tips relating to sleep when little people are in charge of the alarm clock!
  • Building reading habits – once the boys are into more of a routine think I will be setting my alarm to get more from my mornings before everyone is up (Mr S you can stay in bed too!).  James has some interesting books in his top 100.
  • Pretty blog – http://mynameisyeh.com/
  • 38,000 words but interesting to scan through this article on ‘What is code?’.
  • Useful read for sharing with friends (in the nicest possible way) if you are about to have a baby.
  • Good reminders about getting the most from online courses.

To listen to

  • For a laugh/ cringe (not suitable for little ears) – ABC Confession Booth
  • Few good ones on Longest Shortest Time – No. 58 ( about raising twins. I want to check out Roman Mars’s shows on http://99percentinvisible.org/ ) No. 59 ( about how children identify when growing up in families with mixed backgrounds).
  • Some good recent podcasts (320, 323, 324) on workingmotherhood.com – interviews with working moms and their stories. It was really nice to hear how people go through challenges and there are so many ways of doing things but you need to look after yourself and significant relationship/ marriage as priorities.  In 326 I thought that Kenda’s attitude to fitness was on the extreme side (wanting to do a half ironman before her son turned one!) and the need to let your body adequately recover to avoid prolapse was not appropriately highlighted.
  • Thinking beyond screen ‘time’ and more about ‘content’ and ‘timing’ with children’s media habits.
  • Web-based children’s radio – Kinderling.

To watch

  • We are a bit behind but really enjoying Downton Abbey – just started season 3.
  • This video on consent is very funny based on this blog.

Toddler activities

These have worked well:

  • Buying a ribbon for twirling and watching the professionals on YouTube like this.  White Rabbit Gallery shop in Sydney sells them.
  • Making things on a little table at his level – sandwiches for lunch; muffins etc.
  • New playdough recipe allows colouring after it is made – use disposable gloves for this part!
  • Shaving foam to do digger washing outside/ handprints on walls. Inspired by lots of examples on Pinterest.
  • Doing a self check of ‘do we want to put this idea in his head?’ before you suggest an activity as he has a memory like an elephant and obviously remembers the more unsuitable ideas first.
  • Trying to remember to use ‘priming’ to give him notice of what is coming up next. Also good for before watching a show by roughly talking about what he might see and things to spot to make watching more ‘active’.
  • Recycling paintings for another activity session – layering with glitter/ drawing on top/ making paper roses (cut a spiral from a circle and wind outside in on a cocktail stick and glue down).
  • Photocopying ‘Word’ picture books for cutting out.  Some confusion in that I can’t help him get the object out of the book with the photocopier.
  • Playing with dyed rice with containers/ diggers etc.  Gets very messy so put inside a big box.

To try next month:

  • Making mini worlds from felt to move around and tell stories with.
  • Making a family scrapbook with Nanny and Grandpa when they come to stay – hope they have found some good photos of daddy!

 

To connect

  • Taking the Enneagram personality test and comparing your results with family /friends is quite fun.

Hope you found something of interest.

Eleanor

topickwisely@gmail.com

June 2015’s picks

A bit late and still have more I want to add but that will have to wait for next month.  Little people with fevers and moving molars mean I didn’t make as much progress with this as I would have liked!

Thanks to those who have subscribed and for the positive and helpful feedback on this blog.  I will be updating the pages to focus on my best picks and will be adding a few photos to break up the text.  This will take some time so bear with me!   Please let me know about any other improvements you would like.

To read:

  • I was very cheeky and asked for the new Design Mom book for mother’s day.  Lots of lovely ideas from a mom of six in how to make your home stylish and child friendly.  She also has a blog.  The only drawback is it is written with a lot of space in mind – i.e. separate living room, family room, kitchen dinning, home office etc.  Having said that the concepts can be merged into smaller spaces.  Sydney friends feel free to borrow my copy but be warned that reading before bed might not be the best idea as I couldn’t sleep for thinking of all the things I would like to do/change!
  • I have heard time and time again that you need to look after yourself in order to look after others well.  Easier said than done.  But I did enjoy getting these emails every day for 7 days reminding me of small things to do in 7 minutes to grab back a bit of time for me (and be conscious of doing it).  While they are aimed at mums the concept is definitely relevant to all!
  • For those who give public presentations – this summary of the big TED talks common traits was interesting.
  • Some good posts on Eric’s blog – How to stop worrying; and 4 Rituals to keep you happy.  Mr S and I are trying to talk about three things we are each grateful for every day.  It is nice to reflect together and makes us realise how incredibly fortunate we are.  I am very keen for the boys not to grow up entitled and this article had some good suggestions (mainly for older children) of how to avoid this.
  • I enjoyed looking through this blog – http://empathyiseverything.com/.
  • This made me smile – friends are always welcome at our home and I am slowly accepting a (temporary) drop in standards!
  • Donna Leon books for an easy read and reminiscing about Venice.
  • Diane Von Furstenberg’s The Woman I Wanted to Be – I had no idea of her background before I read the book.  Interesting if you are interested in her and fashion but I found it hard to believe at times (just a completely different world!).
  • Have you heard of Sugru? It is mouldable glue that turns into rubber.

To watch

  • Lovely little video about children talking about anger and calming down.
  • Would you be brave enough to let a child dress you?
  • With some web-exploring I discovered Kin Community.  Looks like you could waste a lot of time looking at all the different people on there but I will let you know if I find some gems.  Do you follow anyone on YouTube?
  • I am really enjoying the TED ‘talk of the week’ which they send through on their newsletter.  I would recommend signing up.  Bamboo Houses was fascinating.

To listen to

  • I am looking forward to listening to some of the podcasts recommended by the TED team here.  So far I have enjoyed State of the Reunion.
  • I also borrowed an e-audio book from the library – I didn’t realise that there were so many e-resources available for free (books, films, audio etc.).  My local library uses Bolinda which is a widely used site.
  • Downcast also comes recommended if you want to set and forget downloading.
  • Brains On podcast is good for little scientists.

To Eat

  • I made Ottolenghi’s granola bars again – so good.
  • A friend gave me some of these set muslei bars – awesome pick me up when it was very much needed!
  • Ideas for beautiful cake decorating.
  • We have been trying different ways to make our porridge more interesting.  These worked well (serves two adults and a toddler):
    • Stew a chopped apple/ pear until almost soft in a pan.  Add 1 cup of oats and 2 cups of milk/ water.  Cook on a low heat until liquid is absorbed and oats are soft.  Optional extras: Cinnamon, chia seeds, raisins, maple syrup.
    • Add 1 cup of oats and 2 cups of milk/ water to a pan and cook on a low heat.  Add handful of frozen mixed berried when almost all of the liquid has been absorbed and cook a little longer.  Serve with sliced banana and chopped nuts.
  • I like this idea for setting the table with clues for name cards.
  • I like the idea of preparing ahead for the week and these Salad in a Jar look lovely but I haven’t gotten round to trying them.  I also like the look of these Picnic salads.

Toddler activities

Sorry play sheets will be coming some time in the future – hopefully next month!

Want to try these:

This month we enjoyed:

  • Smelling and tasting spices.
  • Using different toys together – e.g. duplo to make tunnels for Thomas to go under; simple plastic shape sorter and playdough (make basic shapes and then roll on their side to create impressions); Duplo people and animals with playdough – body and foot prints.
  • Making characters from a favourite story in playdough – we did Dear Zoo.
  • Looking at a $2 Great Barrier Reef reference book picked up at a garage sale.  I know the page numbers for turtles, sharks and ‘eyes’ off by heart!
  • Using puffy paint – doesn’t keep very well as the paint absorbs water from the air- sorry to those who received cards before I discovered this.
  • Playing hide and seek with the ‘mini’ Koala and when it was hidden getting a cuddle to tell you to open your eyes.  Great if you don’t have a cuddly toddler!
  • Made tidying up the Duplo more fun by posting it through a tube.
  • Helping with the weeding in the garden at the weekends.
  • Having chats about what we have done to day and what is happening tomorrow.
  • Taking diggers/dumps/spades to the park to play in the bark on the understanding that we have to share toys that we take!

Interesting parenting related links:

To organise

  • I have been looking at some IKEA hacks and liked the magnetic knife strips for cars and the spice rack book shelves –Hacks for nurseries and DIY hacks.
  • Book Crawler app looks very helpful for those with a large library and time to catalogue books!

To connect

A friend in Sydney arranges ‘You should know each other’ breakfasts.  While these have a business slant, I think it is a great idea and one of the best presents you can give someone is a new friend.  Who can you connect?

Some more ideas for keeping in touch:

  • Use the Smilebox free app to send a photo message.  I used the free week trial on the main site but didn’t think I would have the time to use it enough for the fee.
  • Send a ‘saw this and thought of you email’.
  • Emily McDowell Studio’s empathy cards (originally designed for giving to people with cancer) have so many other uses.  Often telling someone that you are thinking about them is a big thing, even if you don’t know what to say.

To craft

This month I had a lovely chat with a friend and we talked about our challenges and what is stopping us from doing them; we agreed to tackle them by the end of June.   I have been putting mine off for at least 18months: using my sewing machine for button holes and installing zips.  I take on most challenges with gusto but I have a block when it comes to machine sewing.  (I think it has something to with how good my mum is with hers!)  So far I have figured out button holes and hope to share photos of new projects next month.

Here are some more inspiring sites:

In Sydney

See you next month!

Eleanor

 

 

May 2015’s picks

More crafting, less reading in my snatched moments this month which is good.  But lots added to the ‘To Read’ pile.  I am gradually working through building up the other sections of the site so please have a browse.  I did manage to read the latest Frankie and one article described the ‘the five best feelings in the world’ (P54) – including ‘sleeping triple clean’ when you manage to line up clean bedding, clean PJs, and having a shower right before bed.  Try it!

I have also now got the domain topickwisely.com for this blog.

To read:

To watch:

To listen to:

  • Headspace comes recommended.
  • With some googling I came across the Working Motherhood site I am sure there is some good content in the hundreds of episodes and would welcome any pointers if you have listened to these?
  • http://longestshortesttime.com/ has some good episodes from what I have tried so far.  I couldn’t believe the mum in Number 55 managed to stay inside for a whole month (her daughter refused to wear anything); Number 49 makes me grateful that I haven’t got any serious issues after childbirth but I had a lot more positive experience of hynobirthing than the lady interviewed; Number 50 is an interesting one about a very curious 8 year old!

To eat:

  • These worked out really well – Sky high blackberry apple muffins
  • This is a good cake if you have too many apples and the mixing stage is toddler friendly – Easy Apple Cake
  • New tips:
    • Store fresh herbs for longer in your fridge – put stems into a glass with an inch of water and cover with a small plastic bag tucked into the glass.  Change the water every few days.
    • Clever Mango preparation tip
    • Use scissors to cut food one handed.  Very useful with a baby on your hip!
    • Use a large bowl for rubbish to save trips back and forth to the bin across the kitchen.

Toddler activities:

There are so many ideas of what to do with toddlers I find it a little overwhelming so thought I would highlight five things I want to try:

  • More outside play inspired by these links – first one – feet painting on the cot box
  • Making paper beads for threading from old magazines – cut strips/ long triangles and wrap around a knitting needle/ wooden spoon handle using PVA glue to shape, slide off to dry.
  • Making gloop
  • Bottle top soup game
  • Monochrome potato printing

And ten things that have worked well:

  • Playing with a hole punch and different colours of paper.  Then using the mini circles to make window decorations by sandwiching between two sheets of clear contact paper/ sticky back plastic.
  • New cot for the baby = massive car ramp with the box.
  • Stocking a box with dressing up items – 3D cinema glasses, teething necklace, old hat, scarves etc.
  • Using fabric drawstring bags to store the toys with many pieces and help with quick tidying.
  • Digging in the sand and bark at the park with the diggers and dump trucks.
  • Using silly voices to get through tasks such as cooking and dressing – adding something from the dressing up box helped as well.
  • Folding and cutting paper into shapes and making fish/ flowers etc. by gluing the pieces.  Creating a curve with rolling the paper over a pencil makes a really pretty 3D flower.
  • Puff pastry baking – using shop bought frozen sheets, thaw a little and cut into shapes to make twists/ pies etc. Fill with stewed fruit/ jam/ cheese and herbs etc. cook on a well lined/greased sheet/ cupcake tray.
  • Double pull-up nappy change – for ‘number ones’ just pull on the new nappy and then when half way up take the old one off and pull the new one all the way up.  Saves chasing the toddler twice!
  • High chair dressing.  After breakfast and while they are contained put the new top on.  Or just buy PJs they can wear outside the house to save a change.

As mentioned last month I have been working on some play concept sheets.  These are designed to give you a starting point to help with the ‘what to do next?’ question.  I have tried to build them in layers of play themes, play materials, play spaces.  I will share these next month once these have been trialled with a few friends.

To craft:

I have found a real need to get crafting again this month.  Recent successes include finally making another car roll, a fabric bucket to hide things, a denim whale as well as lots of origami bows.  These are on the to do pile: Air Dry Clay dishesOilcloth grocery bag, Gathered skirt (for all ages).  Oh and finish the cross-stitch A-Z that I have been doing for 5 years!

To organise:

  • Heard good things about Trello so going to try it for organising the next big project.  Check out their blog for ideas of how to use it.
  • Doodle is good for organising meetings/ catch-ups with a large group etc.
  • Some good inspiration here for organising your home.
  • More jobs to add to list having looked at this site to make sure everything is set up – http://planningaheadtools.com.au/.
  • Do you have any good tracking tips/apps/websites for all your important documents etc.?
  • Have you reserved an email address for your children?  Good to use it to send thank yous/ photos to family etc.  We have them on our tiny beans distribution list so they will have a record of their early years.

In Sydney:

In addition to those shared before there are some good events coming up:

Hope some of these help and inspire you.  Please let me know if you are finding this helpful as it does take a bit of time to consolidate but I am enjoying doing it!

Eleanor

topickwisely@gmail.com

April 2015’s picks

This is the first month I am posting a blog rather than sending an email around my friends.  I hope the format of topickwisely.wordpress.com allows you to see what I have added to the pages as well as find old picks.  I have intentionally not added photos to keep it simple but if there are sections that you would like these adding please let me know.

Two ideas have stuck with me this month: you should do things that fill you up; and say hello and goodbye to loved ones with at least a 10second hug.

To Read:

To listen to:

To watch:

Toddler activities: 

  • I have added to the toddler activities and would be interested to hear if you want more in this section.  I can continue to add to the list but wondered if some division into messiness levels/ time to prep etc would be useful?
  • I am also working on creating a A4 template of play ideas around different themes/ common toys.  This could be used to come up with quick entertainment ideas.

To eat:

In Sydney:

The website is still a work in progress so please let me know if you like it / would like any changes to the format.  If you have any picks to share, please post a comment or send me an email.

Eleanor