Monthly Archives: December 2012

Creating our Childrens’ Outdoor Play Area


In all the hustle and bustle of the last few months I completely forgot to share the outdoor play area we created for the kids. Take a look……

When my husband and I purchased our house pre-children, we were happy with its small yard.  We were young and didn’t want the upkeep of a bigger lot.  It is perfectly located across the road from a massive park, so we knew that when kids came along, that having a small yard didn’t mean they would miss out.  But since having kids we have realised that having space for them to play in the yard is still important.  Wanting to inject some more kids space into our place, we set about utilising our almost unused side of our house.

This side of the house was only ever accessed to hang laundry.   It only housed some pots and a mostly unused water tank.   There is no lawn, just stones.  Sorry, I didn’t even think about taking a ‘before’ photo!

My husband, bless Him, started with grand plans for softfall cover and a fort but I had to reign in the enthusiasm.  The truth is we are outgrowing our house.  We have two small boys now who will soon grow into big boys.  We will need to bite the bullet soon and move, so any kid’s space additions need to be easily removed for future buyers.

After removing the water tank and rearranging the pots, the space just sort of evolved.  There were no solid plans, we just set about pulling together bits and pieces we thought would work.

Master O loves the sandpit at daycare so the first addition to the space was one of these.  We made this by bolting together some sleepers and giving it  a lick of gorgeous ‘Regatta Bay’ blue paint.


While we were painting, Master O kept himself busy dropping stones through a piece of old plumber’s pipe.  My hubby, clever clogs, saw a toy in the making.  The boys can now shovel the sand in the top to have it shoot out the bottom.

Outdoor Play Area

When at the park, both my boys love to play with the steering wheel and  telescope.  On a visit to my local hardware I came across these playground toys – a boat’s steering wheel, a periscope and a phone.  Rather than attaching these straight to the fence, we first cut and painted a section of blueboard to hang on the fence for them to be attached to.   This panel became the activity centre.

Outdoor Play Area

With the left over blueboard we cut it into two pieces which we also attached to the fence.  Master O is learning to write, so I thought the addition of chalkboards would be a great idea.  I sourced some lovely red coloured chalkboard paint to cover them.  Outdoor Play Area

Outdoor Play Area

I had a couple of Ikea Bygel rails going unused so we attached these here and hung the matching Bygel containers to hold the chalk.

Outdoor Play Area

We were going to leave the area as is until we stumbled across this cute picnic table.  It was lovely and sturdy and had a sandpit hidden under the lid.  With its addition, the area became more multi-use and an area which we could spend more time in.  Now we can have morning or afternoon tea and a play out there, or retreat there to do our craft projects with less chance of mess.

Outdoor Play Area


We have been using this area for some months now and the boys love it.  It was inexpensive and it came together in a flash.  I am so glad we did it!

Christmas Giving: Gifts in a Jar


I love the idea of giving people homemade gifts in a jar for Christmas.  I think they are more thoughtful and a lot nicer than the often given box of chocolates or tin of biscuits.  Over the years I have made bath salts, soaps, preserves, flavoured nuts and baking mixes like brownies and biscuits.

Recently, I saw this recipe for Christmas Cookies in a Jar on The Larson Lingo and The Organised Housewife.  They looked gorgeous with their festive MM layer.  I had to make some for myself.

Christmas Gifts in a Jar

I picked up the jars at Kmart, the Christmas MMs at Coles and printed my own labels on sticker sheets.

If you want to have a go yourself, The Larson Lingo has free printable labels for your jars or you can buy labels from The Organised Housewife.

If cookies aren’t your thing, you will find heaps of other sites out there with ideas and printable labels.  Here are some of my favourites …….

Cul-de-sac Cool has 5 different ideas with labels including pumpkin cranberry bread and toffee blondie bars

Squawkfox has heaps of ideas including soups in a jar.

Organized Christmas lots of ideas, and not just for food

Skip to My Lou has a few gift jar recipes.  I am loving the sound of injecting more candy canes into the Christmas season with peppermint brownies

I hope you enjoy the crazy last days before Christmas.

Teacup Biscuits


Every Christmas we visit one of our favourite churches.  Every night in December they put on a huge light display and amongst other things, a terrific coffee shop.

Master O stood in awe at the treats in the cabinet and settled on one of these cute teacup biscuits.

Teacup Biscuits

They are so easy to make.  If you lay out the ingredients, your kids will certainly be able to knock them up themselves.

You Need:Teacup Biscuits

Tic Toc Biscuits (or really any other biscuit to use as a base)

Marshmallows (cylindrical ones)

Freckles / Jazzles (or large chocolate buttons if you aren’t in Australia or the UK)

Musk flavour Life Savers, cut in half

A small amount of melted white chocolate to ‘glue’ everything together

I showed my 4-year-old how to do one and he completed the rest.

1. Dip each end of a marshmallow into the melted chocolate and place standing up on the biscuit base.

2. Top the marshmallow with a freckle or chocolate button

3. Take a cut Life Saver and dip the cut ends in the chocolate. Attach the Lifesaver to the side of the Marshmallow to look like a  teacup handle

Teacup Biscuits


Lots of fun to make and lots of fun to eat!

Christmas Craft: Salt Dough Santa Handprints


Yesterday, I shared with you the Snowmen families we made out of the kids’ handprints.  You can read about them here.

In keeping with the handprint theme we also imprinted and decorated some salt dough.

Christmas Craft: Salt Dough Santa Handprint

I had seen these Santa ornaments about the place, loved them, but thought they looked like a bit of work.  Surprisingly, the salt dough is really easy to make and cheap!  The decorating didn’t take long and was a lot of fun. So if you want an easy, budget-friendly christmas craft to complete with the kids, give this a whirl.

Salt Dough


1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup flour

1/4 water (give or take)

(These measurements allowed me to make two thick handprints, with a little dough left over)


Knead ingredients together until dough a forms.

How to make your Santa Ornament

1. Roll the dough out and press your child’s hand into the dough.  With a sharp knife, cut around the imprint, leaving a small border.  Using a skewer or the tip of the pencil, make a small hole at the base of the handprint so that it can be hung once it is baked.

2. Place the ornaments into a 90 degrees celsius oven and bake for 3 hours

Christmas Craft: Salt Dough Santa Handprint

Baked Salt Dough Handprint

3. When cooled, paint the whole ornament white. Using some red and pink paint and a black marker, fill in the features of Santa’s face, beard and hat.  Use mine as a guide or make your own creation.

Christmas Craft: Salt Dough Santa Handprint

I think they look so cute!

We are going to make another batch of salt dough this weekend and use Christmas cookie cutters to make some more ornaments. My 4-year-old is going to love it!


Christmas Craft: Handprint Snowman Family


I regularly take imprints of my boys’ hands.  I love looking back at those paint-splodged reminders of their pudgy little fingers.  So cute!

Our latest handprint has been given the Christmas treatment.

Christmas Craft: Handprint Snowman Family

You have probably seen these about the place.  I think they are just to precious for words.

To make these handprints extra special, I purchased some small blank canvas which I painted a background colour.

Christmas Craft: Handprint Snowman Family


A white hand print, some snow blobs and a bit of texta work later, the snowman family was complete.

Christmas Craft: Handprint Snowman Family

These are great as Christmas gifts for the family.  The ones I have kept for myself, I have attached magnets to and hung them on the fridge.  I hope to do a series of these over the years.  They will be a great visual reminder of how they have grown.



My First Go at a Nappy Cake


Recently, for a friend’s baby shower, I thought I would make a nappy cake.  I wasn’t too sure how the whole thing would go so I didn’t opt for a huge, multi-layered affair.  I thought one layer would look great with the classic Pooh Bear and rattle I had bought, sitting on the top.

After reading a few methods on how to go about a nappy cake, I found the instructions on this site quite easy to follow.

I grabbed a cake pan the size I wanted the layer to be.  I then placed the nappies one by one into the pan, fanning them out around the outside.  The instructions said there would be a hole in the middle which could be stuffed with more nappies or presents, but I found I could use more nappies and fan them in a way that there was no gap.

Nappy Cake

Before removing the round of nappies from the pan, I first secured them with an elastic band.  I suggest if you give this a go yourself, you go out and get yourself some extra-large bands as I snapped a fair few and had to resort to string to secure the ‘cake’.

I did worry about being able to take the layer of nappies out of the pan but it came out easily with a little tap.

I prettied up the layer by covering the string with a satin bow.  On top, I sat the Pooh toy and rattle.

Nappy Cake

When it came to wrapping the present, I placed it on a round of cardboard to sturdy the base, and to make it easier to carry.  If you are making a multi-layered nappy cake, I would definitely go for something sturdier like a cake board for your base.  A bit of clear cellophane and some ribbon later, the present was complete.

Nappy Cake

Not too bad for my first attempt at a nappy cake.  Very cute.

Christmas Giving: Reindeer Noses


You have probably seen this idea about the traps.  It is just so adorable.  Reindeer noses.

Reindeer Noses

It is a great small treat to give the kiddos in your life, and the perfect present for kids to take to school for their classmates.

All you need to do is pop a bunch of candy in a cellophane bag and stick on a label.  I have seen these done with chocolate beanies/smarties/MMs, jelly beans or with round chocolates like malt balls.

In each packet, I popped in 8 Maltesers – one for each of Santa’s reindeer.  I tried my best to get a hold of some jaffas so I could throw in Rudolf’s  nose, but I had no luck.

There are quite a few tech savvy bloggers out there who have created beautiful labels for your reindeer noses.  Some of my favourites can be found in the following places…..

Beautifully Organised (This is where I got my labels)


Mum of All Trades

Visual Meringue

Reindeer Noses


Christmas Craft: Pine Cone Christmas Trees


Earlier in the year, Master O collected some pine cones while out adventuring with his grandfather.  I had told Master O about the Christmas craft I used to do with pine cones as  a child and for months he had reminded me we were to do some pine cone craft together.

I feared what I planned was going to be messy and difficult for my 4-year-old.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It was lots of fun and simple.  I recommend giving it a go with your kiddies.

Earlier, I had dyed some rice green.  To avoid mess, I put the rice in a ziplock bag and poured in a few drops of colouring I had mixed with about a tablespoon of water.  Closing the bag I gave the rice a good rub until it was all well coloured.  I left he bag open to allow the rice to dry out for a few hours.

Christmas Craft - Pine Cones

When the rice was ready, Master O covered sections of the pine cone in a thick layer of PVC or craft glue.  He then popped the pine cone in the ziplock bag and rolled it in the rice.  In no time the pine cone was covered in the coloured rice and looking very tree like.

Christmas Craft - Pine Cones

Christmas Craft - Pine Cones

Together, we then decorated the tree.  In the place of baubles, we glued on sequins and jewels.  Some glitter pipe cleaners easily transformed into tinsel and treetop star.

Christmas Craft - Pine Cones

Master O loved this activity so much, he moved on to creating more pine cone Christmas trees without my help or prompting.  Christmas crafting score!

I think they look adorable.

Countdown to Christmas: Advent Traditions


Like most, I love Christmas time.  I especially love the lead up – the planning, cooking, gift wrapping and craft.  As a child, I especially loved the Advent calendar tradition.   It is no surprise then that we have a whole myriad of ways to celebrate and countdown the Advent season in the Crooked household.  Today, I thought I would share these with you.

Advent Calendars

I really hate the chocolate mould advent calendars.  Nothing about a Cars or Barbie themed calendar screams ‘Christmas’ to me.  I instead love the ones with beautiful illustrations and glitter.  They can be hard to find these days so whenever I find them I buy a few to put away.  This year we have this lovely Santa one.


Advent Stockings

A few years ago I picked up this cute string of stockings.  In each stocking I put two small chocolates for my 4-year-old and husband to have after dinner.

Advent Traditions

Santa’s Beard Christmas Countdown

I saw this free printable on A little Delightful.  Each day you trim a little more of Santa’s beard in the lead up to Christmas.  I thought it was a great idea for my son who needs to practise his use of scissors.

My Mother-in-law is Danish so we have a few Advent tradition from Denmark in our household.

Advent Traditions

Advent House and Presents

My Mother-in-law has made both the boys their own Christmas house which each year she fills with little presents.  Each morning in Advent they can open a new present.  The kids love it, obviously!



Danish Elves – Nisse

These guys are seriously cute and such a fun tradition.  Folklore says the Nisse lived in farmhouses and helped the family take care of the farm.  Around the  holiday season they could be mischievous, playing pranks on the householders.  Children on Christmas Eve would leave rice pudding out for the Nisse in the hope he would be ‘good’ and not play so many pranks.

I have  a collection of cardboard Nisse, each day in Advent I hide another cutout of a Nisse in the house for the kids to find. This year, as Master O is 4, he is old enough to have the Nisse trick him a few times.  Today, they left an apple in his shoe.


Advent candle

Many houses in Denmark burn an Advent candle in the lead up to Christmas, taking the time each night to sing carols while it burns.  I didn’t burn mine last year as they are hard to come by in Australia.  This year, Master O is preparing for a Christmas concert, so I hope we can practise his songs in the light of the Advent candle.


After writing all these down, it looks like we won’t have time to do anything but countdown to Christmas in December!  At least there is no way we are going to miss it.