Monday, March 30, 2015

Poppins Book Nook- Weather

Welcome back to the first installment of the Poppins Book Nook for 2015-2016.

This month's theme is Weather!

My boys love to look at the clouds, and we found an adorable book called Not a Cloud in the Sky by Emma Quay.

This book had the most amazing illustrations, and it was a real joy to read. It was one of the books I suggested we read over and over, as I loved guessing all the cloud shapes and talking to my boys about what we see in the clouds.

On a walk around our neighbourhood, we saw...

a fish

a genie coming out of a lamp

and a wriggly worm!

We used our homemade puffy paint recipe to create a picture of our own puffy clouds, and talked about why clouds are sometimes white, sometimes gray,and sometimes pink, purple or yellow!

We also made our own cloud in a jar. We poured hot water into a glass jar, then after a couple of minute poured most of it out but left some sitting in the bottom. We then placed a metal strainer over top of the opening, and placed ice cubes in the strainer. The result was water vapour, then condensation, then a cloud that formed when the hot air hit the cold air.

We then talked about why it is sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, and why sometimes we see clouds racing across the sky when it is windy. Making our own weather wheels was a good way to check the weather and find out what the weather was doing each day.

I cut out two large circles using white cardstock, and divided these into four sections; sunny, windy, raining and snowing. The boys had great fun drawing a representation of each description.

I then used a cut out arrow and attached this to the centre of the weather wheel, so that it can point to the corresponding section.

The finished weather wheels have been used every day to discuss what to wear and what our plans are for the day. We cannot go for a walk if it is raining, and windy days are good for the washing.

We had a great time using experiments from this book to investigate the world around us. Click below to see how other members of Poppins Book Nook were inspired!

 Clip art by MelonHeadz.

Playroom Planning- Part One

My boys decided over Christmas that sharing a room was much more fun than sleeping in separate bedrooms. Lucas started off in with Adam, who was still in the cot, but as Lucas' room is bigger we decided to move Adam into Lucas' room and also put him in a big boy bed at the same time. As you can see, it was a bit cramped with two beds in the smaller room!

This left Adam's room free- I had originally planned to turn it into a craft room but then we decided that a playroom would be much more practical.

This is how the room looked once we had put all the toys in- very messy and unorganised, but I had a plan.

I turned to Pinterest to get some ideas, using my Playroom Perfection board.

Today I am sharing the first part of the process, which was really just a tidy up of the areas and putting all the toys in their place.

The first thing we did was take down the cot, which took up most of the space in the room. Adam loved getting a new big boy bed and sleeping in the same room as his brother!

I used the toy storage along the left hand side of the wall, and the train table is now a Lego table. The brown drawers hold all of the craft supplies, and the Little Shop is at the end as the boys love to roleplay with this currently.

Now my living room is not covered in toys, and the boys will happily spend an hour in the playroom before dinner so that I can get ready for the feeding and bedtime stage of the day. It also means that friends have been able to come and play without having toys strewn in three different places, and I can keep the bedroom for sleep only.

Come back next Monday when I will be sharing the second part of the playroom makeover!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Carrot Cupcakes

Easter is nearly here- one of my favourite times of the year!

My boys and I had so much fun making some carrot cake cupcakes, complete with handmade wrappers.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups grated carrot

To decorate:
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon hot water
50g plain chocolate biscuits (approximately four biscuits)
12 dried apricots
12 mint leaf lollies

Line or grease a 12 cup muffin tray. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Place the sugar, eggs and oil in a large mixing bowl and whisk together.

Sift the flour, baking soda and cinnamon into the egg mixture and combine. Fold in the grated carrot.

Spoon the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cases. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Now it is time to decorate! In a bowl, mix together the icing sugar, orange juice and hot water to form a smooth, thick icing.

Crush the chocolate biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, or pulse in the food processor. Place in a shallow bowl.

Ice each cupcake and then roll in the crushed biscuits.

To assemble the carrots, cut a slit in the top of each dried apricot. Cut the mint leaf at the widest point, and push the top half into the dried apricot.

Use a small knife to make a hole in each cupcake, and then gently push the dried apricot into the cupcake. You can serve these as is or use some pretty Easter paper wrappers.

I cut these wrappers using the Cricut. For detailed instructions please click here to visit my Close To My Heart craft blog!

Here are the finished cupcakes nestled in their grass wrappers. These were a great treat at my scrapbook workshop over the weekend, and they would make a cute centerpiece for your next Easter themed event!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Our Pantry Remodel

Here is the second post of my house mini makeover, and today I am showing you my new pantry.

When we moved into our house, the pantry space was OK but it was rather cramped and messy once I got all my stuff in.

I had some great Tupperware containers, but my pantry was only half-done storage wise and I also had a lot of junk in the pantry that really didn't belong there. The drawers in the pantry were also in an awkward position and I couldn't get into the bottom drawer without moving some of my appliances, which were all shoved down the bottom.

Another of the problematic areas of the pantry was the overlapping shelves. Items would get shoved into the corner and then it was very hard to get them again, and I ended up purchasing things twice because I couldn't see what I had. I also had half a shelf full with random containers and craft supplies that didn't belong in the pantry and were taking up valuable space.

My husband got to work and decided to completely redo the shelving.

We also moved the drawers to the other part of the pantry, so that I could reach them more easily.

Now I have large shelves with more space, more depth and no overlapping corners!

I also finished up my Tupperware storage, and added some extra liners leftover from this project for my oils, dressings and sauces so that I did not have to wipe down the shelves as often.

It is so nice to have a pantry that works, and simply changing the shelving and placement of the drawers has made a huge difference in keeping the pnatry tidy!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Laundry Makeover

We were very lucky to get a cosmetic makeover for our laundry before we moved in, as the earthquake repairs included painting and re-flooring of the laundry room as they had to lift up the lino to check for cracks in the foundation, and the wallpaper was hiding some damage.

Before we moved in, we had a patterned brown wallpaper on the walls of the laundry, and net curtains adorning the windows.

We also had some very 80s flooring!

When we moved in, the room had been painted a light grey and we had new modern flooring. We also took down the net curtains and replaced it with a blind.

The only issue was storage space for everything. My husband put a shelf up for cleaning supplies above the tub, but everything was crammed into the corner, including my one washing basket. With a family of two active boys, one washing basket wasn't enough.

We set about building a shelf system so that I could separate whites, darks, colours and also towels and cloth nappies. Plus an extra basket to make it even! We used this fabulous tutorial from Ana White, which is customisable for any amount of baskets you want.

Here is the shelf with the laundry baskets in. We did not paint the shelf, but this is on our to do list.

These basket shelving sytem has certainly made a difference to that cluttered space in the laundry.

The addition of a more efficient, quieter washing machine was the last item on our list, which has been fabulous for our busy family. Our old one gave up over Christmas, so thank goodness for Boxing Day sales. Now I can easily do my washing, sorting and folding, and I don't mind being in the laundry!

Being on a budget, it is not a super glam laundry, but it suits our needs perfectly and I am happy to have a system (and washing machine!) that works.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Remembering our first home

Compass recently got in touch with me to ask about my first home- such a huge step in anyone's life. Compass makes it easy to find your perfect neighbourhood, something that is important when buying a house. They even have an app so you can search for a new place or sell your house when out and about!

I remember the hunt for our first home very well. We had escaped from a less than ideal rental property and were looking at some apartments- close to the city, not a lot of garden, two storied townhouses were our style. Then I suddenly found out I was pregnant and our priorities changed overnight. Now we wanted a nice neighbourhood to raise our child in, as well as some garden area, at least two bedrooms and lots of storage.

We were both still working in the city at that stage, so something close to the CBD but not too urban was also one of our must haves. A house close to bus routes, local shops and our families was also high on the list.

Amazingly, we found what we were looking for within a few weeks. It needed a bit of work but it was the right price, in the right area, and it was ours!

Our first job was a fresh coat of white paint to make the house brighter.

The kitchen was still original, with a small bench, not enough storage and very outdated cupboards. We called in the kitchen experts and we had a new kitchen put in when I was 35 weeks pregnant. We went from this small storage unit and stainless steel bench....

To modern cupboards, a tiled splashback and a dishwasher.

We also put in more storage space on the other side of the oven, and made units to fit in with our fridge and microwave.

The pride and joy was my walk in pantry- I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and so this pantry was my vision! Even more cupboards and bench area made this kitchen a dream to work in, and the wooden floor and large entry into the dining room meant that I could cook dinner and keep an eye on my son while he played.

Our poor house took a battering on September 4th, 2010, as the city was shaken by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake at 4:35am. Our home sustained some damage during this and the big earthquake on February 22nd 2011. We had paint peeling off the walls, parts of the roof coming down, and our items would fall onto the floor. We learnt to stick everything down and not have breakable items on shelves! We were very lucky, as some people lost their entire homes and others lost loved ones. Throughout these shakes, I was so glad to have a roof over my head and to be near my family.

Outside, we also made a few improvements to our home. My husband built this amazing vegetable planter box, and so we always had an abundance of fresh produce.

We also concreted the path up to the house, and built a new fence so that we could play outside with some privacy.

The new fence made a huge difference and kept our son secure in the front yard.

Our first house saw us through all seasons, including a huge dump of snow!

We were sad to leave our first house, but when we found out that we were expecting our second child it was time to upgrade to a larger property with more bedrooms. I look back fondly at our first house, as we put a lot of time and effort into making it our happy place.

If you are in search of your happy place, be sure to check out Compass!

We have been in our current house for two and a half years, and over the next month I will be bringing you a series of blog posts about the upgrades we have done to our existing house, starting on Monday. In the meantime, you can check out our nursery makeover and bookshelf makeover.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Virtual Book Club For Kids (Margaret Wise Brown)

This month we are featuring Margaret Wise Brown for the Virtual Book Club!

Lucas has really been enjoying the story of The Runaway Bunny, and with Easter coming up I decided this would be the perfect time to do a bunny themed activity.

We made our own rabbit masks out of a few household items.

You will need:
Rabbit face template (we used a template from Usborne Activities: Easter Things to Make and Do)
Brown, white and pink cardstock
Pipe cleaner cut into four equal lengths
Small hole punch

We started by gluing the ears onto the template.

Next up was placing the nose and whiskers.

Cut a slit in the middle of the template up to the nose. This will allow the mask to stretch and fit over your child's face a lot easier.

Place two small holes on either side of the mask, and thread some elastic through.

My boys were thrilled with their bunny masks!

They had to test out how well they could hop as bunnies, and so a lot of jumping around the dining room was in order- the masks brought out their inner rabbit! They both looked adorable and loved having their very own masks.

Join the Virtual Book Club for Kids Facebook Page to see more inspiration from Margaret Wise Brown and other book related activities!

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