So strange that I should be suddenly struck with the urgent need to re-read all of Jane Austen, and to watch every single dramatised version I can find. And then to turn this sudden sublime pastime to the ridiculous I have also discovered the genre of Jane Austen FanFic – sequels and alternative endings galore. Oh My! Not only that but whilst reading I had to continually look up all sorts of references, and research society and politics, health and food, fashion and travel from 1815. I have also been reading all about Jane Austen’s own life and various critiques and reviews of her work down the ages. It is all so very interesting. (All of Jane Austen’s books are available online.)

This is all probably partly due to being a wee bit ill this past week which has led to a huge procrastination binge, a very messy house and a fantasy of having a maid (or two).

 Getting out and about for some healthful walking though – not being cooped up in the house all the time. Driving the kids here and there, soccer, music, activities, and waiting waiting, gives me time for a brisk afternoon walk, where I take some photos of unfamiliar neighbourhoods, interesting fences, colourful graffiti, and then muck about with new iphone camera apps too (a new fave is the pro camera app)

On Whipup this week

This week on whipup you will find my pinterest boards and our flickr group. Come and play.

Crafty stuff

diy bike pannier :: mohawk beannie :: Ombre dyed chevron dress (love) :: Recycled planters :: Stitchy felt headband :: diy x-leg bench :: Build a tower crane with kids :: Needle felt fruit ::

oh and one more thing – do you know of anyone looking for a house in Canberra (Australia) next year – academics on sabbatical for example? Our listing is here.


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Finally slowing down this week, back to normal life, quiet days, pottering about. Today I have the company of my 12 year old daughter who is not feeling so well. A bit of a malaise. We are having a quiet day in front of the fire, folding the washing, practising piano and reading books – maybe watching a bit of olympics later on too. What do you do when you slow down?

It was me and my boy’s birthday week and we celebrated simply, with good friends, homemade gifts and delicious food. I lucked out this year and treated myself to a new wood fire, we uhmed and ahhed for so long over whether or not to get one – and now I keep thinking – why did we even hesitate – it is so glorious, the house so warm, the atmosphere so cosy – I just love it.

At whipup

  • We finished the creativity series at Whipup this week and it was hell good – I encourage you to browse all the articles – I have a resource page of them all right here.
  • We also had a guest post from Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut the authors of the new book Improv Sewing, they discussed creativity and offered a free project from their book.
  • We also had a wonderful guest post from Heather Swain the author of Play These Games, she discussed the hidden benefits of playing games with kids.
  • And I also interviewed Ann Shayne, one half of Mason Dixon Knitting, about her new self published book and the process of self publishing.
  • We also participated in the book blog tour of Cast On, Bind Off with Leslie Ann Bestor, Leslie discussed her journey towards writing this book.

Inspiration boards

My pinterest boards were reorganised this week. I made some new boards, deleted old pins that no longer interested me and moved them all around to make them easier to digest. Are you on Pinterest? I am thinking of occasionally mentioning some of my new favourite pins every now and again. For example Pickled figs in balsamic vinegar and the Traveling quilts.


We are reading The Apothecary as our family novel at the moment – such a great book! Adventure, science, a bit of magic and a tiny bit of innocent romance too. I’d say this book would be perfect for 9 and up – my two are 10 and 12 and are greatly enjoying reading it (as are we adults).

And speaking of books for curious kids, these two books have been keeping us occupied for a while now. What is not to love about The Boy Mechanic books, The Complete Boy Mechanic has 359 things to build – as these projects were originally published over 100 years ago you can be sure of their entertaining even the most jaded computer game addicted lad. These games and activities are not prissy and not dumbed down, they are the original projects from last century. Fantastic stuff!

We are also really enjoying Australian Backyard Naturalist (it’s a National Library of Australia Publication). Visually interesting and filled with facts, stories and activities about Aussie backyard critters (birds and bugs, reptiles and frogs, worms and snails etc…), would make a great gift for kids interested in science and nature.

[Thanks to publishers and distributors and authors for sending me books to review, I don’t get paid to post reviews but I am an amazon affiliate] (Australians can purchase craft books online through can do books or booktopia or else browse booko for the best prices.)

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Heather Swain is a former third-grade teacher, mother of two, writing instructor, magazine fact-checker, freelance magazine writer, and an award-winning author. Her articles and personal essays about parenting have appeared in American Baby Magazine, Time Out New York Kids, and on Her fiction books include Me, My Elf and I (Puffin/Speak, 2009) and two adult novels (published by Downtown Press/Pocket Books) Eliot’s Banana and Luscious Lemon. She lives, works, and plays in a crooked house in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two children.

I wrote Play These Games as a follow-up to my first craft book Make These Toys because I believe that all kids are natural-born game players. Ask them to pick up their socks, and they’ll whine and cry and act like you demanded them to move boulders. But turn it into a game (who can do it the fastest), and you’ll see socks in drawers in no time.

Playing games is the perfect antidote for boredom. We all do it. Whether it’s logging on to computer Solitaire instead of working or folding a paper football during a droning lecture or mounting a family board game on a rainy Saturday, games are part of our lives and probably have been since the first cave kid threw a rock and her brother tried to throw one farther. Not all games need to be competitive, though. The cooperative kind can be just as fun (not to mention edifying).

Though you’ll find aisles and aisles of games at toy stores—from card games and board games to computer games on handheld gadgets, computers, and home entertainment systems—you can get all the benefits of a good game with everyday objects hanging around your house. If you involve kids in making the games or set them loose and let them try it themselves, they’ll be more invested in playing and just might have more fun.

A good game is one that is easy to learn but hard to master. In Play these games you’ll find some games that are competitive, others that are cooperative. There are games for large groups, duos, and a few that can be played alone. Some of these games are reinterpretations of old favorites (such as Friends and Family Go Fish or a felt version of Tic-Tac-Toe), while others are mini versions of arcade super stars (like Shuffle Button, Micro Golf, and the pinball machine). Some I might have even made up (like Hoop Jousting and the Progressive Photo Scavenger Hunt), but that’s not to say someone else hasn’t made up something similar somewhere along the line.

What I find most wonderful about making and playing games at home with my kids are the hidden benefits.

1. Brain Development :: When you look closely at games you’ll start to see that most of them involve solving a problem—whether it’s how to get that tiny ball into a hole 30 feet away or guessing a book title from your sister’s crazy arm flapping—your brain is engaged in some heavy-duty thinking. And with active games, your body is working as well. Great educators have realized that games are an excellent way to engage children in learning, but don’t tell the kids. Just present them with games and let them figure that out on their own.

2. Socialization :: Any game that involves more than one person involves socializing, whether it’s cooperating during a scavenger hunt or competing to see who can get the most balls in a basket. Playing games with kids teaches team work, the consequences of cheating, and how to be good sports whether they win or lose. It’s not hard to see how those skills make it into the daily lives of kids in the classroom, on play dates, and later in life in the workplace. But like all things we hope to teach our children, learning to cooperate or to compete without being a jerk takes practice. Humans aren’t naturally good at losing, so there will be tears, yelling, and cheating, and maybe somebody will even knock over the board, but that’s okay. The point is, playing games within the family allows kids a safe place to practice getting along, following rules, and learning how to be graceful in defeat. So when your kids deserve a technical foul for the fits they’re pitching over a game, call it quits for then, but definitely come back to more games later. If you do that enough you’ll start to see more mature players coming to the table.

3. Saving Money :: Ask most kids to name a game and they’ll talk about something on a screen. I have no problem with video games. In fact I like them. But like most things that kids love, I figure some boundaries are in order, such as making sure computer games are age appropriate — and setting time limits. However, video games and the systems we play them on are expensive! Making games out of paper cups and Ping Pong balls is cheap . . . and I’ll be the first to admit that I like saving a buck. Even more, I like engaging my kids in new and different experiences. So maybe we’ll play computer games one day, but the next, we’ll make a homemade pinball machine out of a box we found on the street corner.

4. Fun! Fun! Fun! :: And finally, let’s not forget the biggest, most important reason for playing games with kids: It’s a rocking good time! I think of my own childhood playing neighbourhood games of Cops and Robbers or Freeze Tag in our backyard with the fireflies or cozy winter nights around board games with my parents or bonding with my grandmother when she taught us to play Hearts. Gaming defines an important part of childhood and the memories of those times will last. So, turn off the TV, unplug the Wii, and start gathering supplies because it’s time to play!


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

It has been a couple of weeks since the last newsy letter and so I thought I better catch you up on what I have been up to.

We have been busy with birthday celebrations, and cooking and school break. The kids and I are working on a recipe book for families (more about that later – it is very exciting – sneak peak below) and I have also been spending a bit of time in the sewing room too.

Because of silly too-tight self-imposed deadlines and lots of sewing as well as the recipe book, I have asked some lovely fellow bloggers to join me here at Whipup over the next couple of months to post about their creative process and already I have been blown away by the essays and and images that have been flowing in to my inbox. I know that these creative essays will encourage and inspire you too. I’ll introduce these more fully next week – but just for starters – we have essays on the topics of creativity and … blogging, business, parenting, health and process – it is going to be a fabulous series.

This past couple of weeks at whipup have been about online communities – instagram and Flickr and Pinterest – go and check them out and join in too. I also posted a few fun links and did you see the guest post by Megan Reilly on music and motherhood?

Books on my review pile: Some treasures…

Make Hey While the Sun Shines: 25 Crafty Projects and Recipes by Pip Lincolne is published by Hardie Grant Books (Australia) and will be out in the USA later in the year. Another eclectic jumble of fabulousness from one of Australia’s much loved crafty gals. This collection of projects comes on the heels of Sew La Tea Do, which is packed with cute sewing projects perfect for beginners. Make Hey has a bunch of different summer crafts that are a little bit retro, a little bit eclectic, and a lot of fun. There seems to be a triangle theme running through the book (which I enjoyed very much), and a definite homage to nana crafts too. Once again the photography is sweet and artistic and Hardie Grant have done a great job with the styling too. The projects themselves range from papery crafts like the paper wall quilt, sewing crafts like the wall organiser and crochet crafts like the tortoise – as well as stamping, embroidery and beading too – a bunch of stuff perfect for dabbling.

Hat Shop: 25 Projects to Sew, from Practical to Fascinating Compiled by Susanne Woods and published by C&T Publishing (Stash books May 2012). A compilation of hat designs that range from milliner confections worthy of the races, to everyday basics for the whole family. Patterns and templates are included and the illustrations are clear enough – although many of the designs are better suited to those with sewing experience. There are some glorious hats in here – my faves would have to be the quirkier everyday hats – like the Rain bonnet made from clear vinyl and the Winter flap – aviator style hat – made from woolly tartan. Lots more fun though – fascinators and felt riding hats for stylish ladies, chicken and monster hats for kiddos and retro caps for retro guys and gals. This book is a keeper.

Stitch London: 20 kooky ways to knit the city and more By Lauren O’Farrell of Stitch London and published by David & Charles (August 2011). I was in London once, years ago, a lifetime ago, before kiddos and mortgage and career. I have fond memories of London – it is a beautiful city, full of history, tradition and architecture, but it is also where punk started and still has that exciting underground music and art scene. This book pays a knitted (cheeky) homage to all things London-y. From knitted Bobbies (police) and the Queen’s guard, to those iconic red phone boxes and the Tower bridge. There are some punkish laptop covers and book cosies to keep you snug while riding the tube (the underground), and there are pidgeons and rats to remind you that London is a big old city. My fave might be the knitted plastic bag picnic blanket, perfect for the Londoners who like to lie on the grass, in their lunch break, in the many city parks no matter what the weather.

[Thanks to publishers and distributors for sending me books to review, I don’t get paid to post reviews but I am an amazon affiliate] (Australians can purchase craft books online through can do books or booktopia or else browse booko for the best prices.)

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I have sort of been head down between the sewing machine and the sewing table and the sketch book and the design software working on a new project this week. So I have been sadly neglecting some of my favourite things, my social networks both real and virtual are taking a beating as I ignore everyone and work work work.

These bundles of fabrics are just a little bit of the wonderfulness that I have been playing with. Colours, textures, patterns mmm…

It’s not all work around here though! I have read some books too! and obsessing over a new iphone game (oh the procrastination!), and I have baking – uhm I mean burning a few batches of what promised to be delicious chocolate chip oat cookies and I burnt a vanilla cake and I burnt the gravy for Sunday night roast. So I am sort of now officially banned from the kitchen, to be on the safe side the kids opted for banana smoothies for breakfast instead of french toast. I think my concentration levels for homemaking are low. So I made a weekly menu and did the shopping — all so I don’t have to think too much. I have included lots of easy to make dinners (I did burn the top of the shepherds pie last night though), but the spinach and feta rolls turned out pretty good and are great lunch box fillers too. Do you find that cooking dinner every day can get to be a bit of a chore? Somedays I just want everyone to make themselves a sandwich for dinner.

More good links

I am reading

Storing Home Grown Fruit and Veg by Caroline Scott (Foulsham August 2011). Is a cosy little practical book chock full of useful advice. I particularly think that the sections on each type of veg and fruit that goes through the different varieties and what they best for, how to cook them and when to grow them — it’s a very handy little book.

Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite Designers. This book is compiled by Susanne woods and published by Stash books (2011). This is a super book with 99 quilt blocks each contributed by favourite quilt designers. Each block as a double page spread, with a lovely big photo of the block and page on how to make it. Many of the blocks you may have seen before and a bug bear I have with many quilt block books is that the blocks are not shown in a repeat – I think there was room to that in this book. However it was refreshing to see many traditional blocks given a new twist.

So Pretty! Crochet: Inspiration and Instructions for 24 Stylish Projects Amy Palanjian has put together this book and it comes out soon with Chronicle Books May 2012. Full of lovely contributor projects this book of crochet ranges from delicate crochet jewellery to chunky rag rugs and things like granny squares, covered coat hangers and arm warmers in between. I was disappointed at the lack of crochet instruction for beginners — just some links to online tutorials. On the plus side, if you can already crochet and know how to follow a simple crochet pattern then you’ll like this book, it is beautifully laid full of stylish and trendy projects.

[Thanks to publishers and distributors for sending me books to review, I don’t get paid to post reviews but I am an amazon affiliate] (Australians can purchase craft books online through can do books or booktopia or else browse booko for the best prices.)

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