The easiest party you will ever throw









One word (or is it two?): ice-cream. On a big table, stack up a few tubs of the most delicious ice-cream you can find. Mine was my very own bespoke flavour from Harry’s Ice Cream Co, just around the corner in Brunswick: cinnamon doughnut and maple syrup (I know!!). More about that later.

Fill vintage tea-cups with a whole lot of toppings. Anything you like. I used hundreds and thousands, crushed Oreos and crushed Flakes, broken waffle cones, marshmallows, maple syrup, caramel sauce and chocolate sauce. Plonk some cute disposable ice-cream cups and spoons on the table. Invite your friends over, switch on the music, pop a bottle of champagne, and you’re at a party!

Did you know that July is the International Ice Cream Month? This started in the US circa 1984, apparently at the behest of President Ronald Reagan, who called on all citizens to observe ice cream events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.” Fast forward 30 years and Harry’s Ice Cream Co contacted me a little while ago to see if I’d like a few tubs of my very own flavour, to help celebrate a tradition of eating frozen confectionaries during the coldest month of the year. Darn tootin’ I did!

In the name of responsible research I turned to Facebook, asking my friends to help me come up with winter-friendly flavours. A “vegemite toast” joke from my brother-in-law led to thoughts of honey crumpets, then French toast or cinnamon toast which, in discussions with Harry’s Ice Cream Co, eventually became cinnamon doughnut. And maple syrup swirl for good (really good) measure. Folks, there were actual chunks of doughnut in this ice-cream. It was SO tasty. Harry’s delivered the ice-cream a few weeks ago but in a supreme act of self-control, I held onto it until the Saturday just gone, to use it in a baby shower for my friend Pip.

Like me, Pip has a little girl, and baby number two is a boy. Pip wasn’t planning a baby shower, “because I feel a bit silly doing it for the second one, you know?” And I did know, because that’s how I felt too. But I regretted it. Harry is worth celebrating every bit as much as Madeleine, and I really felt that in the chaos of life surrounding my own second pregnancy, I didn’t get to mark his progress or his arrival with the kind of weight I’d have liked to have given it. I wrote a bit about that here and here. So we decided to at least do something for Pip. She wanted to keep it low-key, so we just invited a few of her friends over to my place to indulge in ice-cream and brainstorm boy’s names (what are your favourites?), and generally celebrate that beautiful bump.

So, back to the world’s most easy party. To make it just a bit more fancy for Pip and her friends, I added a few little extras. A stack of cinnamon doughnuts, a hot fruit salad to serve with cream, and some simple bowls of snacks like dried apricots and pistachio nuts. The decorations were kept very simple too. Pip wanted “something to do with elephants” so I painted up a circus elephant balancing on an ice-cream cone to use in the invitations I sent out to her friends, then replicated it in little details around the table. My only other decorative task was a big balloon wall to provide a back-drop to the party (positioned higher than I’d have liked it to to put the balloons out of reach of Madeleine).

Pip’s friends were lovely, the whole party was incredibly easy, and the clean-up took less than half an hour. Have you ever tried an ice-cream party? I’m absolutely a convert. Last week I linked to this ice-cream crawl which I think is a great idea. I’ve also bookmarked this giant banana split as a fantastic idea for a kids’ summer party. And these ridiculously decadent candy-vanilla milkshakes look much too good to pass up. What are your best ice-cream party ideas?


Thank you so much Harry’s Ice Cream Co for giving us this amazing taste experience. They also sent me a gift voucher to cover the cost of some of the toppings. I’m sorry to say my cinnamon doughnut and maple syrup ice-cream was a one-time-only affair, but three of the flavours (pavlova, sticky date pudding and lamington) are available at Woolworths stores across Australia if you’d like to try them. I can attest to the fact that they are GOOD. So good that “I don’t like ice-cream” Mr B had two helpings of the sticky-date pudding ice-cream for dessert the other night, and I had a bowl of the pavlova ice-cream (pieces of meringue included!) after dinner on Saturday, despite having spent the better part of the afternoon already consuming ice-cream!

ps. Please to be noticing my very own logo on those tubs of my ‘bespoke’ flavour in the photo near the top. So special!

Make Admire Join Splurge Plan Plant Mix Eat Start


What adventures do you have planned for the weekend? I am hosting an ice-cream baby shower tomorrow, and the mama-to-be and her baby-bump will have their very own bespoke ice-cream flavour, created by Harry’s Ice Cream Co to celebrate International Ice Cream Month (I know right?). The Finders Keepers markets are on again and we always try to get up there if we can. And I need to go shopping for a nice dress to wear to the Epworth Gala Ball next weekend. Tra la la! There’ll be some work in there too, because I’m miles behind on my deadlines, and some cleaning of the house, and hopefully in there somewhere some fun family time! Here are some other ideas I had for a fun weekend.


Make: these lovely beaded plant hangers

Admire: these stunning bird patterns

Join: a book club or a gym, or this fun combination of the two

Splurge: on new bedding that makes you want to dream beautiful dreams

Plan: 24 hours in Paris. What would you do?

Plant: a tree. Plant enough and you’ll create a forest

Mix: music and munchies, with this fabulous vinyl + recipe subscription box

Eat: lots of ice cream! I love the idea of this ice cream crawl, bookmarking for summer

Start: doing that thing!

Do you want to play along? Let me know if you create a similar list on your blog.

Image is from here, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

Snail mail – illustration inspiration



More mail art has been going out to say thank you to people for subscribing to this blog. People have been asking me how I decide what to draw and paint on the mail. Here’s an idea of my thinking behind this batch.


∧∧ Clare wrote in her blog about finding a figurine of Krishna in the creek near her house


∧∧ This had something to do with Liesl’s email address


∧∧ Adrienne has a blog called Tough City Writer


∧∧ Louise wrote in her comments to me, “I like rabbits”


∧∧ I had an aunt and uncle who used to live in Willoughby and they always gave me books, so I drew some for Bridie


∧∧ Relates to something Laura shared in her message to me


∧∧ Relates to something Sandra shared in her message to me


∧∧ Emily has a blog called Thimble Cat



∧∧ I wanted to make something a bit fairy-story-ish for Kwan-Yu


The end. More soon!

Stuff and simplicity












At any given moment, if you were to pop around to our house unannounced, there would probably be piles of washing waiting to be folded and put away, overflowing the green chairs in our hallway. As you stepped over the plastic toys and pushed passed the jolly-jumper hanging from the door frame and waded through the various baby-bibs cultivating dribble and milk and browning banana and finally made it to the playroom, your feet would probably crunch over a thick layer of dry Weetbix crumbs. Madeleine likes to crush her own Weetbix each morning before the milk goes on and, as much as I’d like you to think otherwise, I do not vacuum every day.

If you looked inside my handbag on any given day you might find, nestled in with the purse and keys, a couple of broken crayons, a half-empty container of bubble liquid, a sippy cup, yesterday’s gummed-up rusk in a zip-lock bag, and about a thousand used tissues.

The sheer amount of stuff involved in modern parenting staggers me, and accepting at least some of that stuff into my life and home was one of the most difficult transitions I had to make as a parent. (When I lived alone, I would actually take pleasure in adjusting a book on a table until the seemingly ‘casually-put-down’ angle was just right. Yes, I am that person.) As someone who likes everything to have a purpose and a place, and as someone whose home is also her workplace, cumulative kid-detritus can quickly feel overwhelming.

While I was pregnant with Madeleine I had plenty of noble ideas about children in “the olden days” not needing all the STUFF that our consumer society deemed necessary today, and that I would make up in interactive play for what we limited in toys and things. But as any parent could have told me, stuff creeps in. And some of it, while not strictly necessary, does actually make your life easier. Parenting two small children while working, and on extremely limited sleep, is tough. It is tempting to take the easy way, to let the stuff in because it saves five minutes here or buys 10 minutes of peace there. I’m not going to feel guilty about that.

But not all stuff makes life easier. Some stuff just gets in the way. In the way of creativity, of clear-thinking, of mental health, of the path to the kitchen. And some stuff might be good stuff but when combined with about a billion other small pieces of “good stuff” it becomes bad stuff. Claustrophobic, messy, over-crowding, unwelcome stuff.

Last week was not a good week around our place. For various reasons were were all stretched, capacity-wise, and tempers began to fray. By Friday afternoon, my subconscious had somehow centred the entirety of my own unravelling temper on all the stuff in our house. It was driving me crazy. WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF I CAN’T BREATHE IN THIS HOUSE. And so I started on a paring-back rampage.

It was cathartic in a way that probably should have been predictable. I worked until late that night on the playroom, sorting out toys to give away or throw away, putting some in a cupboard out of rotation, and bringing others out. At the end of it I’d removed two giant garbage-bags worth of toys and other bits and pieces from the room, and Madeleine’s previously overflowing toy-box was only one third full. When she came down in the morning, she was thrilled. There were her favourite toys, easy to find. Here were some “new” toys she’d never discovered because they’d been buried under all that stuff. Harry had his own little cart in which to store his toys, and Madeleine quickly cottoned on to putting Harry’s toys away whenever they were dropped.

That afternoon, Madeleine lined up her two dolls in chairs next to Harry, pulled a collection of books from the shelves, and proceeded to “read” to all three babies. I hid in the kitchen, sipping a cup of tea while leaning on the bench, and listened to the stories. Later we pulled out the paints, one of Madeleine’s favourite activities, and it was approximately 78 percent less stressful than usual for me because with the room so much cleaner and more organised, the combination of two-year-old and brightly coloured paints didn’t seem anywhere near as chaotic.

Not once did she ask where all her stuff had gone.










I have not been able to stop looking at these lovely photographs of “camouflaged” birds, ever since I saw them on Honestly WTF. They are part of a series called “Birds of a Feather” by artist Claire Rosen and each of the birds – some of them common and others exotic – has been posed in front of vintage wallpaper. I think the idea of ‘wild’ birds in such a domestic setting and so consciously posed is incredibly fun and playful. It’s like a children’s storybook. Like the Big Bad Wolf all dressed up in Grandma’s bonnet.

Browsing through the rest of Claire’s portfolio is like taking a tumble down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass all at once. I asked her where she found inspiration, and she pointed me to a beautiful, interactive board she created on “A Creative Life.” What you see below is just a screen-shot of a small portion of the board. Take a look at the entire board here (tip: I couldn’t open this in Firefox. If you are having trouble, try with a different browser) and click on the various boxes to uncover the inspiration behind them.

Claire says, “Everyone has the capacity to be creative and it starts by creating a safe space to be creative in. Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised and fed with inspiration.” Would you agree with her?




As mentioned, the image above is a screen-grab of a much larger board created by Claire Rosen. The original is found on All Birds of a Feather images are used here with kind permission from Claire Rosen. Credits are as follows.

INSTAGRAM : @clairerosenphoto

signed and numbered on front
40 x 60 inches    (edition of 05)     
25.5 x 17 inches (edition of 10)            
11 x 16.5 inches (edition of 15)             
6 x  4 inches (edition of 150)    

The Birds of a Feather series will be in an exhibit in September at the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery ( in Atlanta, GA with an artist reception on Thursday Oct. 16th.

Lemon madeleines with beurre noisette


“one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell… No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses…”

~ Marcel Proust, “Remembrance of Things Past”

It has taken me more than two years to finally make an attempt at baking the lovely little French tea-cakes that bear Madeleine’s name. But now that I’ve done it once, I’ll be making these again and again! The recipe I used was super easy, and quite forgiving. (For example I had to estimate the amount of butter to include because I’d rewrapped the cooking butter without lining it up with the measurements on the paper, you know what I mean? And I don’t have any kitchen scales. But I digress. My point is the madeleines worked out fine anyway.)

This particular version was made a bit decadent and fancy-sounding with the browned butter (beurre noisette) and vanilla beans.

Do you want to try it? Here’s what you’ll need:


You mix the dry ingredients together, then add everything else gradually, one by one. The full recipe is here. The batter needs to rest for an hour or two but that’s ok, because madeleines are best eaten warm, straight from the oven.

I made my mixture during my lunch break on Friday (oh hello, benefits-of-working-from-home), then popped them in the oven on Saturday afternoon after brewing up a strong cup of tea. They only take about 10 minutes to bake.

If reading this has not sent your cholesterol through the roof already, make a note that you’re supposed to eat them dipped in melted butter and liberally dusted with sugar. Just do it. The diet starts tomorrow.


Little things – the cowboy


Little things in my home…

This pensive cowboy sits outside his restaurant and on my kitchen bench. I found his photograph in a bric-a-brac shop in Aspen, Colorado, when I was staying up there for a fiction writer’s course (called Aspen Summer Words – if you ever get the opportunity take it – it was amazing!).

I almost didn’t share the cowboy today because the whole purpose of this series is to tell the stories behind the little things in my home. Like this. Or this. Or this. And I don’t know the story of this cowboy. Nor have I created a story for him since bringing him home. But I am so deeply drawn to this picture, and I don’t even know why. I never tire of looking at it, or thinking about it, and wondering what is his story? What is the story of this new town?

Little Things” is an occasional series about the stories behind some of the little things you’ll find around my home. Are there stories behind the little things in your home? I’d love you to tell me about them! Or if you’d like to join in and write a post like this of your own, don’t forget to share a link to it so I can read it.

Hello and links on Monday



Scenes from my house.

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty simple. I worked most of Saturday, while Mr B played with the kids. They did painting and went to the park and baked chocolate pudding and generally had a great time letting nutrition and nap times go to seed. I got my hair done too, back to blonde baby! We went for a walk through Carlton in the stunning winter sunshine, linking one park to the next for Madeleine’s sake. We ate yum cha. We ate a nine-piece (!!) tea-infused dessert plate from Travelling Samovar to celebrate their first birthday. (We skipped dinner that night.) I tidied and sorted my office and finally cleared all my mess off the dining table (making room for these lovely flowers) and it felt SO good. I painted some more snail mail to send to you.

Here are 11 things that might make you happy today.

Giant knitting!

This drink sounds like heaven

Pattern on pattern. So cheerful

Beautiful!! This cloud lamp simulates a storm and plays your music (via Swiss Miss)

18 ways to get through winter

The world’s first bike-share for kids (in Paris, of course)

Love these printable moving/housewarming announcement cards

The science behind old book smell

Exclamation points are the new smiley-faces

I really wish I’d been at this feast for 1200, at one long table stretched over a bridge

Where is everybody?

Have a great Monday!

Snail mail: a good mail day


Yesterday was a Good Mail Day at our place, capital letters justified, with three lovely surprises arriving in the mailbox and at our front door.

Lately there has been a frenzy of letter-writing and parcel-painting around here. I’ve been sending decorated snail mail out to people who subscribe to this blog, and it’s been winging its way all over the world. I send mail because I love sending mail, and because I’m so phenomenally grateful to YOU, and to everyone else who takes the time to read this blog and leave their comments and share their stories. I told a little story about that recently, here. I don’t expect anyone to write back but when they do, it is SUCH a bonus to find their friendly letters in my mail box. It absolutely makes my day.



^^ I wrote about ‘meeting’ actress Kate Holderness a couple of months ago. We found each other via a circuitous route with the common thread being our mutual love of snail mail. Then just yesterday, a lovely care package arrived from Kate, out of the blue. Madeleine, Harry and I whipped up the Angel Delight that same afternoon. It tasted like childhood. Can anybody clear up a mystery for me? Is Angel Delight junket? And also, how beautiful is the envelope my mail came in! It was covered in stamps and washi tape and sealed with a wax seal, and those balloons floating out of the dream-like picture were just perfect.



^^ One of the two lovely sisters from Etsy shop That We Do (I’m not sure if she wants me to use her name) recently subscribed to this blog and, as with anyone who wants it, I promised to send her some snail mail. But before I even got up to writing the mail she sent me a wonderfully thoughtful handmade gift in the mail. It included a pine cone found by her two-year-old daughter; a crocheted hair pin; and a gorgeous necklace, made in colours inspired by my blog header, and stamped with my initials. I absolutely love it. I wore it all afternoon and the children were mesmerised!



^^ A few weeks ago my local deli (who I really must feature on here sometime soon because they are so much MORE than just a deli) alerted me on Instagram to a competition being run by their florist, Tillda Flowers, to win two visits worth of a flower subscription. And I won! You guys, I never win anything! The first beautiful bunch arrived yesterday and, as you can see, I really need to invest in some nice, vintage vases because the teapot had to stand in instead. I love the idea of a flower subscription: imagine having these arrive at your doorstep every week or fortnight, to brighten your day!

So to all of these folks, THANK YOU, truly. Your thoughtful, beautiful mail made a cold, windy winter’s day seem sunny and welcoming. I am so lucky!

ps. Don’t forget that if you subscribe to this blog and would like me to send you some mail like this, just use this form to send me your contact details.




Do you want to start your day off really well? Listen to this.

Is there any sound in the world better than a baby laughing? It is right up there with a cat purring and the tea being poured. Probably better than both, which is saying something special.

Sometimes when I am in the middle of my everyday, just going about my business of feeding children and dressing children and changing nappies and kissing scraped knees and bringing out the craft paint and putting away the craft paint and changing the children’s clothes and washing the paint-covered clothes and finding the lost toy and finding the other lost toy and feeding the children again and reading stories and playing chasings and playing hide ‘n seek and changing more nappies and supervising ‘sharing’ and, and, and…

… Sometimes in the middle of all that I will get a lump in my throat so large I can barely swallow.

It happened to me yesterday as I was carrying Madeleine upstairs for her afternoon nap. She wrapped both arms around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. “Just a little nap, Mummy,” she reminded me. And there was the big fat lump, blocking my words, making my eyes swim.

It is in ordinary moments like these that I am reminded of just how extraordinarily lucky I am to have Madeleine and Harry in my life. And how narrowly I missed out on having them, if I hadn’t changed my mind about having children until after it was too late. The thought that they almost weren’t here leaves me breathless.

13 ways to reignite your creative mojo


The journey of the days and weeks deep and then deeper again into the winter season feels like a deliberate grinding down. A forcible slowing, as primal as hibernation. It starts on the first morning you realise you’re getting up in the dark, and that night blankets the streets outside before the kitchen fires up for dinner. It gains momentum when the garden turns sparse and soil shows, black and hard, under the fallen leaves. When you pull your knitted hats and gloves and scarves out of storage. When your words float in visible clouds around your face as you leave the house in the morning.

Winter is a lesson in slowing down. In taking stock, in being more aware of the present. And I don’t know about you but when I finally dial things back a bit, that’s when the creative ideas tend to appear. It’s as though my creative mojo is shy, waiting until most of the crowd in my mind has gone home and bunkered down where it’s warm. Then, in the cold quiet of a winter’s morning, ideas tip-toe back in.

So if your ideas have been shy of late too, or if they’re just not being heard over all the stuff you’ve got going on, here are 13 ways to use the winter downtime to reignite your creative mojo.

Tend to your word garden. Or perhaps visiting a word gallery is more your speed, or sitting down to a word craft-table, or sweating it out at a word gym. It doesn’t matter. The lesson is to do that thing that teaches your mind to unwind, relax, and let creativity grow. Failing that, just read this piece about “the word garden” anyway. It is beautiful

Notice the good. This tip for parents to “catch them doing the right thing” is actually a wonderful reminder for everyone. Try to look for the good in people, actively notice their better selves

Search for pockets of light. You might just find beauty

Solve an urban mystery. Like this cute story about “the dudes”

Be in the present. This beautiful neon clock, called ThePresent, completes just one revolution in 365 days. It inspires thoughts like this: “It’s a reminder to stop everyday. It helps me find some grounding or a moment of reflection, a good thought, a deep breath…”

Unleash your creative soul, by signing up for one of these workshops

Make stuff out of cardboard. It doesn’t have to be this fancy (but it could be)

Put down that phone. Step awayyyyy from the computer

And related to the above, start “single-tasking.” This video is so funny, but true

Steal time for you. Whether you can grab five minutes or several hours, make the most of “me time”

Let others help you overcome your creative block. Danielle Krysa of The Jealous Curator has just published a book called “Creative Block” in which 50 international artists share their insights and exercises on how to get new ideas flowing

Show your joy. Don’t be cool, celebrate it like a toddler

Write a love letter to a stranger

How about you? Do you have any tips for reigniting that creative spark?

It feels like home when…


Ours was a chilly and sometimes wet weekend, tailor-made for staying home. For jaffles and baking and craft and family dance-parties. Madeleine hosted her very first slumber party, with one of her cousins, and you have never seen a two-year-old more excited. She quite literally jumped for joy at the prospect of it, and the reality sent her into a frenzy that was so extreme she could barely contain herself. At one point as we sat around the table having dinner with her aunty and uncle and two cousins, already an hour past her bedtime, Madeleine repeatedly kissed me on the lips. Not for any reason, except, UNCONTAINABLE EXCITEMENT.

It is on weekends like this that our house comes into its own. When squeals of laughter bounce off the walls and little feet thump-thump-thump down the hallways. When the kitchen smells of toasted cheese and chocolate cake, and tiny fingers reach up to trace circles in spilled flour on the bench.

Half-wilted flowers grace an old jar on the dining table: they were carried home in sweaty palms by my beautiful daughter and niece after a coffee-run with Mr B, and thrust at me with so much pride.

There are many things I love about my home and, of course, many things I would change and many things we have yet to do. That’s what happens when nesting and budgeting go hand in hand, I guess. But the thing I absolutely love most about my home, towering above everything else, is having a place from which to welcome the people we love. Even with no pictures on the walls, and so much left to do, my house feels like a home because I am able to make others feel at home here too.

Do you ever read design blog Design Sponge? It’s a favourite of mine. One of the regular features, called “Spaces,” opens up beautiful homes from around the world. In each post, the home-owners (or renters) are invited to share something they love about their home, or their favourite thing to do or place to be within their home. I find it really interesting to read this. We are all so different, and yet there are definite themes that emerge.

DS1-Canada copy

DS2-family copy


DS3-NYC copy


DS4-LA copy


DS5-Seattle copy

What about you? What do you love most about your home? What do you like to do most in your home?

Photo credits: all images of “home notes” are used here with kind permission from Grace Bonney at Design Sponge. See the homes they come from at (from top) 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5, or click on the photos themselves. All other photos are either mine or licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons. They do not relate to the homes in the comments.