Author Archives: Laura

Pavement Graffiti

20161105_164847As you know, Ickle and Mivvy love art. I’ve written about their various creations on many occasions, and most recently here.

But I haven’t written about their passion for pavement graffiti before. Some afternoons, the little maestros take their chalks and artistic talents outside to decorate the best canvas ever. The alley between our house and next door is a welcome retreat from the sun and the perfect spot for creative activity. Sometimes the boys-next-door join in too and the mummies hang out by the rubbish bins while a rainbow of colour appears at our feet.

This weekend, Ickle and Mivvy were the only artists in residence, but this didn’t stop them from having a lot of fun.20161105_165131Hello! Anyone next door? Hello! Hello!

20161105_164813Ickle was exploring forms: parallel lines and circles in various colours. And making trails with her chalk as ants scuttled across the concrete.20161105_164946Mivvy drew a puddle of water in yellow, but was actually more interested in wandering up and down the alley.

There’s no trace of their artwork now – the recent rain has washed the chalkboard clean. Don’t you just love the transient nature of pavement graffiti?

Winnererremy Bay Park

20161023_090231Not so long ago, the Winnererremy Bay foreshore was a storage area for waterway operators, cluttered with mooring blocks, piles and sundry building materials. Infested with weeds, it was also used by local equestrians as a horse-training arena.

Hard to picture that now as you look over the manicured park, dotted with shrubs and trees, a sparkling Pittwater as your backdrop. The area is now home to the Flying Fox playground, rated as one of the best in Sydney. Most people I know refer to the whole park as the Flying Fox park. Well, try saying Winnererremy in a hurry, or texting it to a friend…20161023_084841The Flying Fox is our preferred place to play down Sydney-way, although the Apex Park playground opposite Mona Vale beach comes a close second. Why do we like it so much? For starters, we can walk/scoot/bike there from the in-laws. It’s a flat run most of the way, so Ickle flies along. The playground itself is fully fenced, on soft-fall, and bursting with colour. And the setting is simply beautiful.20161023_093441Ickle loves the giant basket swing, spinning see-saw and pirate ship. She’s not so keen on the flying fox (yes, there is one!), but has had her eye on the spider’s web for months. One day, she’ll make it to the top and I’ll be a gibbering wreck waiting for her to come down. Meanwhile, Mivvy likes to hang out in the tots’ corner. With a mini slide, spring rockers, swings and a ship built for tinies, this spot in the shade ticks all the boxes.20161023_09014220161023_09144220161023_092059There’s plenty of fun to be had outside the railings too. Like examining the sculptures planted along the dry creek bed just outside the gates. Or scooting on the track that loops around the park. Or mucking around in the sand and dabbling toes in the salt water down on the foreshore. Or pretending to be civilised over a flat white and babyccinos in the Flying Fox café.20161023_093728Nope – never a dull moment at Winnerreremy, even when the weather is, well, dull. Which it was on our most recent visit. Still, it did give us the run of the place, until the sun came out and the hordes arrived.

Smiley Faces

p1040174Ickle and Mivvy love creating works of art, especially with chalk, paint and texta.* Although yoghurt is their current medium of choice at meal times.

Mivvy’s pictures are still experimental scribbles, but Ickle’s have come to life this year. I’m not sure when this happened exactly. But just after she turned four, I suddenly started noticing little details in her artwork. First, faces with eyes, noses, smiley mouths and hair. Then bodies, sometimes with arms and legs attached. And, occasionally, wearing clothes.

Over the last couple of months, Ickle has developed a keen interest in rainbows and flowers. I put this down to her inherent girliness. But, as I recently read here, it has more to do with these shapes being “fairly simple things to draw”. And also the praise the little artists receive when others recognise what they have drawn or painted. What a beauuuutiful rainbow, Ickle! What lovely flowers – I can almost smell them! Ah. An incentive to draw more. And more of them.

Here is a selection of my favourites from Ickle’s growing art portfolio. In no particular order. Titles are the artist’s own.two-peopleTwo Peoplebig-schoolBig Schoollittle-girlA Facelittle-girl-3Another Facepainted-rainbowA Rainbow

*A texta (Australia) is a felt-tip pen.

Trumpets of Spring

Meanwhile, back in Australia, Nature is telling us that spring has sprung: the wattle is in flower, warmth fills the air on a good day, and those magpies have started to swoop…For me, though, it’s still about the daffodils, those golden trumpets of spring that push their way through the earth after months of lying dormant. I have yet to see any in our little patch of Lake Macquarie, but maybe I haven’t been looking closely enough.

So, last week, Ickle and I made our own. With just a few basic supplies: an egg box, card, paint, and a few drinking straws. We were spurred on by the knowledge that Friday 26 was Daffodil Day.* Ickle’s preschool were keen to support the event, and – as well as donate – we wanted to make something special too.

So Ickle painted.P1040070And cut (with a little bit of help).P1040075And stuck.P1040081And we ended up with a beautiful spring bouquet.P1040087And some equally beautiful brooches.P1040110And, later, Ickle and her daddy gave Zizi the bear a complete makeover to mark the occasion.P1040090*Daffodil Day is an annual event run by the Cancer Council. It raises funds for cancer research, support services, and education and prevention programmes.

Those Magnificent Flying Machines

P1040011Where we live the skies are full of birds: kookaburras, cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets, ducks, seagulls, and the occasional pelican, to name but a few. But we don’t often hear the roar of a motor overhead. Perhaps this is why Ickle and Mivvy have developed a fascination with flying machines.

We scan the horizon to spot aeroplanes before they disappear from view. And we jump up and down and wave like crazy when the local helicopter zips in and out. Much in the same way that, on Tuesdays, we race out of the front door to greet the rubbish truck as it rolls down our street. Mivvy has recently announced that she would like to fly. (She would also like to catch her shadow and touch the moon.)

So, on our holiday in the UK, Daddy Ickle and I took both girls on a family expedition to the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Ilchester, Somerset. I haven’t visited this destination for as long as I can remember. Housed in a huge hangar is an equally huge collection of naval aircraft, from the early days of flight through to the current day. Exhibits include beautiful old biplanes, a range of flying machines from WWII, helicopters, and – this one truly takes your breath away – the first British-built Concorde.P1030982Opportunities abound for hands-on/interactive experiences. Ickle dressed up in naval gear (a radical departure from her usual princess get-up); we dived into a life raft. I braved the simulated helicopter ride through to Hall 3, where I found myself on board the fleet carrier, HMS Ark Royal, alone in the semi-darkness. So what did it feel like to be an naval officer on watch? Um. A bit disorientating. In fact, I struggled to find my way back to Daddy Ickle and the littlies.P1030997P1040004We stopped at The SwordFish Restaurant, actually more of a classic canteen (think bacon, eggs, pies and chips) for a quick snack, before heading to the museum’s adventure playground. Despite the weather (yup, we copped a lot of rain during our stay), the girls scrambled up cargo nets, conquered balance beams, and steered a model ship into harbour. Mini naval cadets in the making. Magnificent.

Another Stuffy Stately Home

P1030919The rain was tipping down; I was feeling slightly apprehensive about the day ahead. I had arranged to meet friends at Barrington Court, a National Trust property tucked away in the Somerset countryside in the UK. The main draw hadn’t been the Tudor manor house, but a special nature day they were holding in the grounds. I figured the girls, big and small, could run around in the fresh air and let off steam.

Doom and gloom, I thought, as I looked at the raindrops scurrying across the car windscreen. We will have to go *inside*. Ickle and Mivvy will run amok amongst the antique furniture and furnishings with us in hot pursuit. We’ll be whispered about in loud voices by visiting coach parties of stately home enthusiasts. No, this was not good at all.

And then, as we drew into the car park, the rain decided to stop. So we squelched across the lawns to look at the wildlife specimens on display (a hedgehog’s spiny pelt, a grass snake, various animal bones…and so on). Then the girls tried their hand at some classic English games – skittles and quoits.P1030885P1030908P1030917 And we all admired the beautiful gardens and giant koi. It was fun, and way better than I had hoped – not even the teeniest bit stuffy.P1030873P1030878We did summon up the courage to venture into the old stately home, which incidentally has been empty of all furniture and furnishings since 1991. The remaining architecture and fittings are beautifully impressive and well worth a visit. And so is the *surprise* in the Long Gallery: a feathered friend who has only recently taken up roost in the rafters. Want to know more? You’ll have to visit Barrington Court to find out!

A Classic Country Fair

P1030807“Look, Mummy, it’s the Australian flag!” exclaimed Ickle as we approached the castle grounds.

Erm, not quite. We happened to be in deepest Dorset, in the UK, heading to the Sherborne Castle Country Fair. Billed as “One of the South West’s premier one day events”, we were expecting big things.

Despite having spent the best part of my youf in Sherborne, I don’t recall having been to the Country Fair. Set in grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, no less, the event attracts masses of people: 17,000 through the gates in 2015. Every man and his dog was there this year. Many of them sporting tweed ensembles (the men that is); the ladies had opted for hats that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Royal Ascot or Flemington.

The programme was jam-packed with livestock displays, gymnastics routines, dragon boat racing, horseback falconry shows, car stunts, and so much more. Everywhere we went, something was going on.

P1030824The girls loved the traditional Punch & Judy show. They sat on straw bales and yelled “Judy” at the tops of their little voices as Mr Punch fed the baby into the sausage machine.

P1030828Ickle and her daddy braved the helter skelter.

P1030830And I had a peek at the ferret racing, which had drawn quite a crowd.

All-in-all, it was a colourful, lively and classic English country fair.

The Other Side of the World

UK 2016-001Why has it been so quiet on Icklegen of late?

Because we have been on the other side of the world. Obviously. Light years away from computer technology and the blogosphere.

Well, not exactly. The UK may be a long way to go (an exhausting 24-hour flight away to be precise, and let’s not forget the ensuing jet lag), but we were still *connected*. Just not that active online.

But very active elsewhere. We had family and friends to see, a very special wedding to attend, and places to explore. It wasn’t a whirlwind four weeks – we tried to pace ourselves, honest! – but we created some wonderful memories to carry with us until our next visit.

Rather than reduce these to a few lines each, I am going to treat you to a few individual posts over the next couple of weeks. Or sooner if I find the time to tap away on my trusty keyboard. Although given that it’s the end of July already, that might be a little ambitious…

Here’s a taste of what’s to come:P1030824Punch & Judy, ferret racing, and so much more at a classic country fair.P1030879The discovery that visiting an English stately home and gardens isn’t so dull after all.P1040011Getting up close with some pretty amazing flying machines.

Cardboard Cubby

P1030757It’s the perfect time of year for cubby houses.

Ickle and Mivvy love their snug little hideaways. Our usual efforts involve a couple of chairs, bean bags and a funky floral sheet draped like a tent. Indoors on a rainy lazy day. Sometimes the tea set comes out to play too, and the girls enjoy a snack or two in their secret abode. Nothing like a tiny plate loaded with sultanas and miniature biscuits.

This week, though, we have enjoyed blissful still sunny mornings on the lake. So, I dug out a cardboard cubby that has been tucked away in a flatpack for a couple of years. Just waiting for that special moment. After a battle to construct it, which I won, we headed outside for some fun.P1030764Boy-next-door charged over to join in the action.  And three little pairs of hands set to work with brushes and colour. For a while. Then, the budding artists clambered in and out of the partially-painted cubby, before transforming it into a truck depot. And a very pretty one, too.vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvP1030771

Creepy Crawlies

P1030717Yes, we may live in a land teeming with weird and wonderful creepy crawlies, but there’s always space for a few more.

This weekend, Ickle, Mivvy and I created a colourful collection of giant bugs. The original concept came from a fabulous craft book, Creative Crafts for Kids (Hamlyn), gifted to Ickle by the lovely Auntie KT. What a refreshing change to leaf through paper pages rather than trawl the web for inspiration! And with 100 fun projects to try out, there’s no shortage of ideas*.P1030691We adapted the original colour scheme, opting for green and yellow paper rather than black. Ickle’s new craft box came up trumps with an amazing selection of sparkly pipe cleaners, perfect for our project. Check out our creations in progress:P1030698P1030715P1030702And the fun didn’t stop there. As you know, Ickle and Mivvy love to paint. So they went blob-tastic, transforming their insects with crazy spots and dots.P1030721Ta-da!P1030722*I think the craft book is great. So I’m recommending it. For free.