pirates and treasure island (we’re building a box maze)

Fairfield Primary School Fair is on Saturday 14 March from 2-7pm (do come along!).  And this year Elise, Wendy and I are building a box maze.  It’s going to be an indoor one and the kids are going to crawl through the boxes.

We saved the election booth boxes that were at school for the recent State Government election.  And we have been diligently dropping in to Harvey Norman Preston twice a week to collect all their fridge boxes, which they are kindly saving for us. The aim is 100 boxes.  

maybe the ship could look something like this one I found on Pinterest

So, the plan at the moment is that the box maze will start on a pirate ship.  The kids will have to walk the plank to the island (this will take them up the ramp to the classroom door).  Then they’ll enter the castle and follow the maze, climbing to the lookout (they’ll be able to look out a window … a crafty trick to entice other children to wonder what they are doing and visit the box maze), before visiting a fairy glen (fun for the little kids) and entering a pirate dungeon (where the treasure is stored of course).  Before popping out at the end via a waterfall (well it will be a slide really …).

some of the pirate treasure … my inherited silverware is going to see the light of day!

Sounds ace huh?  After some intense Pinterest research that you can see here the major technical decisions for construction are:

1. Fridge sized boxes are the go.  We are using large boxes to minimise the joining required.

2. The boxes will be joined primarily with cable ties.  These make the joins sturdy and mean it is simple to dismantle the maze at the end (we’ll just cut the ties).

3.  We will drill the holes for the cable ties. We’ve had a practice and this is a simple process.

I’m getting so excited. Today we started working on the dungeon.  Inspired by this photo below I am now in the process of photographing the teachers to be part of the ‘pirate picture gallery’.  I am asking to take a photo of them dressed up.  Fun!  Then I am going to make some sort of photo display …. a bit like this hopefully.  With the treasure in front!

how cool is this room? i found this image on Pinterest.

I think my kids would like to be part of it too (the display that is) … the practice run pictures are pretty cute huh?

10 ideas for a second hand christmas

In our family we have a second hand or home made Christmas.  You might think second hand shopping for others would be hard, but in fact it is pretty easy to find great things for the people you love.  I usually see something and I think, yes, Dad would love that, or great, that’d be perfect for Elise, or wow, that green is Merryn’s favourite, she’d like that.

Here are some ideas (beyond clothes) that might inspire you to contemplate a second hand Christmas (which I can highly recommend, not just for the environmental cred. that goes with reusing and recycling).

NOTE TO PEOPLE IN MY FAMILY – if you prefer present surprises, maybe you shouldn’t read any more of this post … really!


1.  Toys

Toys are great. School fetes are the place to go!  For example some very lucky nephew aged either 3 or 4 (I haven’t decided yet) will be the recipient of this super fun but VERY ANNOYING crazy instrument toy. It only cost me $3 at North Fitzroy fete, so I can give it with the understanding that at some point in time, and probably sooner rather than later, the mother of the recipient will surely lose her cool with the incessant tooting and chuck it out.  And it won’t matter that much.


Or you could get a scooter.  That won’t annoy anyone.  Like this one I bought for $5, also at North Fitzroy fete.  My kids lost their first hand ones – I think they left them at school over the holidays.  I expect this one will meet a similar fate.


2. Bags

Back packs, kinder bags, lunch boxes, man bags, hand bags, travel bags, purses and wallets and toilet bags.  These are all great things to look out for second hand and give as a present for a second hand Christmas.  I couldn’t pass by this cute toilet bag recently, Mietta will like it don’t you think?

3. Jewellery or scarves

Necklaces are high on my list this year.  And scarves for my sister Merryn (she likes wearing them).  And brooches.  And cufflinks – someone I know wears cufflinks to court.

4. Garden accessories

Check out these garden tealight candle holders.  I got them from hard rubbish.  They’d make a great present for anyone with a garden, or a balcony with a big pot.


Or what about a teak outdoor setting. I got these two chairs on the side of the road.  Elise got 8 matching ones for $100 on Ebay.  They’d be a fab. present for the right person.

Or perhaps just a nice pot, with a plant in it.

5. Kitchen items

Salad bowls, salad servers, nice coffee cups or mugs, a teapot, a Bodum plunger (you sometimes see these at the op shop).  Wine glasses.  Serving platters. Funky salt and pepper shakers … interesting measuring cups.  These are all great.  Or you could venture into electrical ware.  Last year I bought Keely and Cade a ‘snow machine’ otherwise known as an ice crusher.

I bought these pots for Elise, to cook garlic mussels in – yum.


6. Books

Cookbooks, a pile of great novels, picture books, activity books.  These are all great for presents.  The year before last Elise bought India The Great Big Book of Tashi on Ebay.  And I was super impressed that even Clive’s Mum got into second hand shopping recently.  While in the UK she bought Scarlett a copy of  ‘Shadow The Sheepdog’ by Enid Blyton for her birthday because she couldn’t get it new.  It was out of print apparently. Scarlett’s loving it. We’re reading a chapter a night.


7.  Hobbies

My Dad likes golf.  I look out for golf things for him.  My Mum likes tennis.  I look out for tennis things for her.  Pricey likes yoga.  Last year I bought him a cool bag (well I thought so anyway, I am not sure he has used it) to carry his yoga mat around in.  Maybe I should suggest that he gives it back to me this Christmas – I could really do with a yoga mat bag myself …

The shirt above is for Dad.  It is a short sleeve Nike windbreaker type thing.  I think it will be super handy.


8. Holiday fun

We go to the beach for summer and so boogie boards, skiffle boards, blow up canoes and second hand wetsuits have all featured at Christmas.  Also beach tents and a variety of camping gear, including a hammock on it’s own stand for Clive one year.  And little torches for night walks.

The photo above shows a boogie board and a boogie board cover stored in the roof of the studio.  These both came from our second hand Christmas.


9. Board games and jigsaws

Boardgames are great to buy second hand.  Do take the time to check all the pieces are there though …  Same with jigsaws.

This Cluedo was a gift from someone last year – nice to see they took the time to take the $6 price sticker off!


10. Linen

What about a table cloth, some napkins, tea towels, beach towels or even a doona cover or sheet set.  A nice throw.  Some cushion covers.  These all make super presents.  I bought a couple of these towels above for the older girls for Christmas.  New but from the op shop.  And they are nice and thin (which is the criteria from a Mum who often has to carry all the towels home!)

So that’s it, 10 general second hand shopping ideas for great Christmas presents.  And I expect I will be able to add in some more ideas by next year!

halloween preparations – it’s going to be fun!

Once in a while I do something and I think … surely this makes me the BEST MUM IN THE WORLD!?

Like buying this pumpkin.  It is so great isn’t it?  I have included the apple just so you can see how big and fabulous the pumpkin is!

Scarlett is having her birthday party on Halloween. Her birthday was mid-September, when Art4All was on.  So the friends party has had to wait.  But now I have some energy.  And yesterday morning I spent some quality time online checking out Halloween party ideas (just for fun you know) and compiling my favourite ideas on a Pinterst board.  You can see it here.

And then I decided to go shopping. I thought I might stick with my new op shop philosophy and go somewhere I haven’t been before, so I headed to Camberwell Salvos on Riversdale Road just next to Camberwell Market (that’s the fresh food market).

It was a super op shop … if you haven’t already, you should check it out.  I’ll post what I bought at a later stage.

Because I am on a Halloween roll and I don’t want to get distracted.

So, after the op shop I thought I would take a look in the market for pumpkins, because last year Wendy and I were going to carve some pumpkins for Halloween and she went all over Fairfield/Northcote/Thornbury on the hunt for some the day before Halloween but they were all sold out. So this year I thought I should get in early.

And what a score. One of the fruit and vegie stalls had about 8 of these special carving pumpkins. They were slightly* more expensive that your average Queensland Blue, but well worth it as the centrepiece of a Halloween party!


And then, I thought I should find a $2 shop and get the other stuff I needed. I went out onto Bourke Road and couldn’t see a $2 shop, but Riot Art and Craft was right there.  Which was terrific because it had most of the other stuff I was thinking about, including:

1. A stack of cardboard in orange and black (hello bats, witches shoes and pumpkins …)

2. Candy eyes.  These feature on pretty much every Halloween cake/cookie on Pinterest.

3. Halloween stickers to go in the lolly bags.

4. Some orange tinsel/string to tie up the lolly bags.

5. Some ‘blood red’ sparkle gel …. blood was Scarlett’s special request.  I am imagining white iced biscuits with blood (nice!).

6. A cardboard pumpkin basket (didn’t need it, just thought it would be useful and India thinks it will be ideal for trick or treating- it needs to be painted orange though).

Now all I need (apart from fresh ingredients) are white paper plates (I am going to draw spider webs on them with a black Sharpie), black patty pans for the cup cakes and a packet of plastic spiders.  Because I saw a great idea where you freeze plastic spiders in ice cubes and then add them to the drinks …oooh pretty icky huh?

But then there was also this super idea of making a big ice cube in the shape of a hand by filling a glove with water and freezing it … and then serving your blood red (raspberry lemonade) drink from a punch bowl with a hand floating in it. Aagh.   I can’t decide which is better …

And just one more idea, how about witches legs on the table.  I gave it a try and it looks fab. It could do with a bit of padding so the legs don’t look square of course … but you know, the vibe is GOOOD!  I am soooo excited about Halloween this year (if your kids live near by send them trick or treating my way …) xxx

* $35.  A bit more expensive that your average pumpkin.  That’s the problem with Halloween in spring rather than autumn I guess.  Still, it’s going to be worth it!