Thursday, December 31, 2009

We are having a SALE!

Big discounts on your favourites and a chance to try some new stuff below normal price!
Sale on for the month of January or until stock sells out.
No coupon codes please.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rainbow Comfort Packs have gone out to kids this Christmas

Lots of shots of packs, chaos of packing, Lama doing quality control, art packs, presents ready to go!

After 3 days of working solidly (with some help) late last week, a courier came by yesterday and picked up about 20 boxes of packs and wrapped presents to take to K Mart head office in Vic. so they can be distributed to children in need this Christmas, via the Wishing Tree!
It was the best plan ever, I mean could you imagine 160 packs and 55 wrapped presents being stuffed under the Wishing Tree in Victoria Gardens, Richmond??
I ran out of fabric bags near the end and decided to wrap some up instead. Basically all that was left were TONNES of colouring books, pencil cases, pencils, textas and crayons..... so we wrapped them up as mini art packs.
That's ALL the donations now gone. It's a brilliant way to finish this chapter of this project and hope lots of kids (of all ages) will love getting something special from all of you.
I won't be 'closing' the project up for ever, but will take a break for now and when it does get going again, it will be better organised and the focus will be on kids that need some comfort in general. (And we'll definitely look into warehouse space too!)

Thanks for your help and support this year! It was a full on year for many people everywhere.
It was awesome to be able to offer help in our unique way, I hope you feel the same.
Have a lovely, relaxed Christmas and New Year. Be safe too.
Monica x

Saturday, December 19, 2009

C2C - 1 more sleep to go! Eeek!

Okay! If you are one of the minority who has nothing left to do tonight.....

Spend it with the family or loved ones, be it partner, children, parents, siblings or friends.

And go see some crazy Christmas lights!!
Down in Ivanhoe (if you are in Melbourne) there is a street that plays host to those who have nothing better to do (or are on something and don't mind the crowds...). We've been a couple of times and after each time of almost loosing our minds to chaos, we vow never to visit again. Then we forget and think 'Hey, how about going to Ivanhoe?' It truly is an amazing site and you'll either love it and plan to do it to your own house next year, or you hate it and seek the calm of your own plain front door sensor light.

If the weather is good....
Hit the pavement and explore the streets in your own neighbourhood. There are bound to be some great sites to behold. (We've already done this and stumbled across some interesting yards! Go Balwyn North!!)

If the weather is so/so...
Jump in the car and drive around looking into front windows of houses for those beautiful flashing Christmas tree lights. Drive around the Yarra Bend Boulevard (Kew boathouse area) and stop at the city view bit to see what's going on over the city.

Have a brilliant Christmas tomorrow!
I wish you happiness, safety and the ability to laugh until your stomach hurts and tears of joy stream from your eyes, but not wet yourself or spray mulled wine out your nose!

Enjoy yourself and thanks for indulging me for the past month!
Monica @ bpab xx

C2C - 2 more sleeps to go! Woo Hoo!!

Something to do tomorrow (the 24th): so you can plan today...

Treat the kids (or yourself or the whole family!) to something special under their pillow.
It will be easy anyway to get everyone into bed tomorrow night (especially for those who believe Santa is dropping by)... but just in case, put a surprise for them to discover.

* new pj's would be fantastic!
* a Christmas story book to read together
* (for older kids) a glow stick to hang near by
* a cuddly something (no, not a puppy! Try a stuffed Christmas character... and not a noisy one either.)

C2C - 3 more sleeps to go!

Christmas is a time to stop and think about others.... and not everyone is as fortunate as ourselves. Be mindful of countries, nationalities, ever your neighbours who may be struggling at this time of the year to make ends meet, let alone lavishing everyone with gifts and stuffing their belly with gourmet delights!

Some ideas for you:
* donate to giving trees (Kmart is one we do every year)
* think of making a donation of money or food (do it as a family gift)

Remember the people who live in your street...
* bake some biscuits or a pudding and leave it at their door step from "the elves next door"
* be neighbourly and find out who's away during the Christmas / New Year period and work out amongst yourselves about clearing mailboxes and keeping a look out on the house.

Lastly, if you're holding a grudge against somebody or something..... let it go!
Enjoy family and friends and be grateful for what you have in your life.

C2C - 4 more sleeps to go!

If the weather is okay and night warm, why not pitch a tent in the back yard and camp under the stars! Tell each other stories and watch the stars come out.... might be hard to see if you live in the city....

Okay, another alternative could be if you have a Christmas tree inside, why not set up camp under it for the evening and watch those lights instead!
Put on some Christmas movies or music and chill out for the night.
Who ever happens to fall asleep under the tree, can stay there!

C2C - 5 more sleeps to go!

If you have time to think about how you are going to 'wrap' up the present, you'll make the gift extra special!

Use re-usable packaging:
* fabric bags that fold up into small wallets
* nice strong boxes (decorated or covered in paper or fabric)
* tea towels
* canisters, baskets, funky pencil case

* re-cycled paper, exotic newspaper (other languages)
* sheet music (Christmas tunes!)
* decorate butchers paper (big white sheets from the butcher!) get the kids to draw pictures on it

Personalise presents:
* hair ribbon wrapped around present into a bow
* biscuit cutter with name tag attached to gift

The ideas are endless! Just look around your home for inspiration.

C2C - 6 more sleeps to go!

Print out onto white card and cut out. Just write and stick onto gift, or hole punch a hole in one corner and thread ribbon through so it can hang instead. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Countdown to Christmas.... 7 more sleeps!

Do you have an answering machine or service for your home?
Why not get really silly and record a festive message! (It may help remind people that it will be Christmas soon....)

* sing a song (just the chorus will do)

* put on a pretend voice and introduce yourself as Santa, Jesus or the Christmas fairy from on top of the tree, just standing in for the usual answering service....

* get the kids to say something Christmas-like (not what they'd like as a present!)

* play a song in the back ground (quietly) and say your message.

Countdown to Christmas.... 8 more sleeps!

It's the joy of getting lots of little presents that make Santa Sacks such a hit! Both the girls, mummy and daddy get one in our family (a good excuse to get all the little things you need, plus some extra spoils!)

Hard and fast rules:

* decide here and now who gets one!

* find a sack for each person. It can be anything really.... pillow case, knitted sock / stocking, gift bag.... look, as long as it's big enough to fit everything in, you can't go wrong!
* set a total $ ($50 or $100) you want to spend per person.

* fill the sack with small gifts up to $5 or $10 per gift only (so, yes, some presents may be big, it's up to you whether you look at sizes too)

* think about what they need for school or work... hobbies and interests....

* food snacks and treats are great too (stuff they maybe don't always get to eat!) Good quality chocolates for the grown ups...

* activities for them to do on Christmas day... games, books, novelties (great for when grown ups are busy, resting, car trips etc)

* not a must, but you may want to wrap each present 1. exciting to unwrap 2. can make the sack last all day! 3. plus helps them concentrate on one gift at a time (good for littlies) Use left over scraps of wrapping paper, or tissue paper that isn't up to scratch for normal gift wrapping.

* decide now when they get to explore their sacks... Put at the end of their bed for them to do first thing when they wake up? Or under the tree with the other gifts? Do you do it together as a family or let each person secretly go through their sacks and compare later?

Handy tip: With kiddies, it's a great idea to take their sacks with you (where ever you will be going) for the day.
*** we do this every Christmas with our little ones and it was a hit... plus it keeps all their pressies together.

I'm sooooo excited now!

Countdown to Christmas.... 9 more sleeps!

It's the personal touches, the thought and time involved that make gifts from the maker worth giving. You don't have to be an artist or a craft nut to use the resources around you!
Need some inspiration for handmade gifts?

* handmade produce (jams, pantry stuff, veggies, fruit from your garden, a cutting or seeds from a favourite plant)

* handmade crafts (stuff you've sewn, carved, knitted, scrap booked, anything you can make with your hands!! Or your feet, if you're that way inclined....)

* Check out this great idea to make.... it's a CD case calendar!

* Got kids? Use some of their drawings from earlier in the year, laminated or framed... or made into place mats or as wrapping paper.

This year, I bought a cute cake tin which leaves heart impressions on the top of the cake (thanks Ikea!) and will be baking flourless orange cakes, using oranges from our prized tree! Then giving them out to family in re-usable cake storage containers. Chai and La (both still under 5) will be painting pictures on mini canvases for family gifts. On Mat's side of the family, they are the only grandchildren / nieces .... so everyone should get a kick out of those.

Countdown to Christmas.... 10 more sleeps!

Are you familiar with or remember making a book of Vouchers at school?
You know the kind... 'I will clean my room', 'good for 1 hug', 'breakfast in bed'.....
Well, what's stopping you from giving some now as gifts?

Offer your skills / talents... what are you great at that you can offer as a service?
Think: around the home, garden, looking after kids, cooking a meal, taking them out for an activity.
Just think of something/s that are appropriate for that person and give a voucher stating what you are willing to do for them!
Or if you are really game: leave the voucher blank for them to fill out and give back to you when they're ready to redeem it!

If you can't bring yourself to commit to anything, buying vouchers for services like massages and gifts like movie, concert or sports tickets, have a low eco-impact.... as they are gifts that will be used and the only thing they need to find a place for is the memories of the great experience they had.

I've included some DIY Vouchers below, for you to print out. Cut and copy them (or drag the image and drop it onto your desk top... boy I love Macs!). * Use pretty paper to print onto and then back them onto a matching cardboard * Print them onto plain cardboard, then decorate them with stickers etc.

Countdown to Christmas.... 11 more sleeps!

The idea "Kris Kringle" is also known as "Secret Santa" ...

* great for large/ extended families (usually for the grown ups, as they get older, they don't need or want anything anymore!), so it helps with the dilemma of what to buy for every single person you know, just because you are related.

* each person draws a name out of a "hat" , they buy a gift for that person only.
Set a dollar limit, so it's fair for everyone. That way you can buy a fantastic present for only one person and you'll get a fantastic present too! (hopefully...)

* you can also have a list of needs/wants attached to each name, so it helps the giver with gift ideas!

*** We tried to get this idea going this year with both sides of the family, but apparently you need to plant the seed much earlier than November.... say, the Christmas before!
Here's to next year!!

Oh yeah, unless there are dozens of little kids in the family.... don't include them in the Kris Kringle, that's just mean! hahaha

Countdown to Christmas.... 13 more sleeps!

Don't overlook Breakfast on Christmas morning!
If you don't already, make breaky a special meal too... it doesn't have to be big or elaborate, you'll be eating through the day no doubt, but it's a great way to start the day.

Some ideas:
Spice up muesli or porridge with chopped figs, dates, nuts and tangerine segments.
Serve smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on triangles of wholegrain toast.
Have pancakes with strawberries and brandied cream (a bit naughty, but hey once a year is really okay!)

Don't forget drinks:
Chai tea or the many exotic flavours of Green tea
Hot chocolate (or iced if it's a hot morning)
Fruit smoothies or juices

Sit outside or go to the local park with a blanket for a different view to the morning.
Then again, if you have kids, it may be easiest to have made up some muffins the night before and scoff them down between present / playing frenzies!

What ever you do, enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Countdown to Christmas.... 14 more sleeps!

Here is an on-line game for you to play... warning, can be addictive and mind numbing.... ornament match game
and one for the kids...
trim the tree

Plus a colouring page for you to download and print out:
Click on the picture and it will appear bigger, then download it.

Countdown to Christmas.... 15 more sleeps!

Here's a favourite sweet recipe, often made by my husband, for you to try out.
Will serve as something special to have on hand for unexpected guests or a yummy gift idea!

Mat's Semolina Squares

This is the traditional version (which has a sweet spices flavour).
A variation (chocolate!) will follow at the end.

6 tbsp pure ghee (or butter)
3 whole cloves
3 whole cardamoms
8 tbsp coarse semolina
1/2 tsp saffron
1/2 cup sultanas
10 tbsp sugar
1 and 1/4 cups water
1 and 1/4 cups milk

* Place the ghee in a saucepan and melt over medium heat.

* Add the cloves and cardamoms to the melted butter and reduce the heat, stirring to mix.

* Add the semolina to the mixture in the pan and stir-fry until it turns a little darker.

* Add the saffron, sultanas and the sugar to the semolina mixture, stirring to mix well.

* Pour in the water and milk and stir-fry the mixture continuously until the semolina has softened. Add a little more water if required.

* Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the semolina to a shallow serving dish and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. If you wish, you can sprinkle 1/2 cup of desiccated coconut over the top.

* Leave the semolina to cool down and then put in the fridge for about an hour. When set, cut into squares, then triangles and devour!



* Follow the same recipe as above, except:
- replace cloves and cardamom with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1 - 2 tbsp cocoa powder (adding these at the same time)
- also get rid of the saffron and sultanas

Got a favourite Christmas recipe to share? Link to it here!

Countdown to Christmas.... 16 more sleeps!

Why not support local talent and give gifts that are unique.
There are heaps of craft markets on every week.
You can have fun in the evening too, with the various 'twilight' markets now on during the Summer!

Look up your nearest with these links:
* What's On Victoria
* White Hat (this link will take you to the twilight markets page)
(sorry only Vic. ones here, do a search on Craft Markets if you are in a different area.)

Here are a few of my favourite markets that are worth checking out:

Rose Street Artists Market
60 Rose Street, Fitzroy

11am to 5pm, Saturdays & Sundays

St Andrews Market
Kangaroo Ground Rd / St Andrews Rd
St Andrews (Mel ref 250 E11)

8am-2pm. Saturdays

The Suzuki Night Market (formally 'Gaslight')
Only from November 25, 2009 - February 24, 2010.
Queen Victoria Market, Cnr Queen & Therry St, Melbourne
Wednesdays 5.30am - 10.00pm

Kris Kringle Night Market
The Northcote Town Hall is hosting a Night Market with a focus on hand-made products
Thursdays 5.30pm - 10pm
27th Nov to 18th Dec. 2009
189 High Street, Northcote, VIC

Countdown to Christmas.... 17 more sleeps!

Cringe when someone asks you this question?
Why not set up a gift registry or wish list for everyone in your family?

* list all your wants/needs and let others know about your list- if they ask, you can give them the list / link.
Every member in our family has a registry and we treat it as a wish list. We add to them all the time through out the year and when an occasion comes up, we have ideas at the ready!
It's also been great for buying something in secret, without giving anything away... and knowing they're going to love it.

* suggest this to "hard to buy for" people.... you know the ones.. they have everything! What could you possibly give them??

* Here are some links for you to check out:
Both lets you add products / services from anywhere.
myregistry (this is the one we use for the shop)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Countdown to Christmas.... 18 more sleeps!

The usual dilemma for most people... what do I do with all these cards? (the ones that you received over the Christmas / New Year holidays)


Visit the festive recycling website by PlanetArk for ideas.

* KEEP THEM (memories...)
In a box with anything else you want to keep from that occasion.
In a scrapbook of that years special stuff.

Cut out any pictures from the front of cards and use for scrap booking, art projects,
kids to play with, create mobiles...

Cut out any nice designs, stick another piece of card on the back along with some hanging
ribbon. You could even add sequins or glitter for that extra bit of festive sparkle!

Glue pretty paper on the inside of old cards to cover previous writing......
and send them again. (hmmm, back to the person who sent it to you the year before??)

So there you go!
If it is recyclable, please set the example to others by recycling where you can.
Leave me your comment about other ways you can use old greeting cards (and links to projects).

Countdown to Christmas.... 19 more sleeps!

At this time of year, many people are compelled to get it touch with those they know and love... usually by the 'Christmas card'.
It's funny how we get organised enough to write to 50 people all at the same time, but don't have time during the rest of the year to write 1 letter to these same people.
Better make it special then... and mean what you write!

Here are some ideas for you, about what type of greeting to send:

* Got a favourite photo to share? Make it into a postcard. (K-mart, Officeworks, Harvey Norman are a few places that let you do it yourself.)

* Send 100% recycled paper or tree-free cards made by environmental organizations or ones that give twice (like to charity organisations).

* Glue pictures from old cards or wrapping paper onto homemade or store-bought recycled paper to create new cards.

* Glue pretty paper on the inside of old cards to cover previous writing...and send them again.

* Make a greeting card from scrap paper, fabric or wallpaper.

* For short messages use a large leaf or flat stone. (use nature!)

* Send an E-card!
E-mail your friends a festive message with a Christmas picture instead of sending a card, it saves time, money and paper.

* Set up a space for the kids to make or decorate Christmas cards to give their friends.
All you need is cardboard, a few stickers, glitter glue, crayons or pens.

We started this tradition last year. We had a family photo done earlier in the year and I just made that the top of the letter and wrote about what we'd all been up to during the past year.
It was well received. Lots of people who we don't see often loved reading about our adventures and got to catch up with us without actually seeing us.
Plus there was no rush to get all the cards out by Christmas either! Bonus.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Countdown to Christmas.... 20 more sleeps!

You believe in him, or you don't!
If you want him to send you (or anyone) a letter, best to do it now.

Get the kiddies (or whoever wants a letter) to write one for Santa and 'pretend' to post it.
Then you have 2 choices:

1. Get creative and write a fun letter to your kids from Santa, the Elves, Rudolph, who ever they adore this year.... and sneak it into the letter box for them to find. (You could even stamp it and send it off to be delivered by the postman so it's more realistic!!)

2. If you're pushed for time or rather someone else do it (like 'Santa' himself...):
Address the letter to Santa like this:(the envelope)
North Pole 9999
Put a 55c stamp on it and write your address on the back.
Post it and let Australia Post do the rest! (click on the link to find out more)

Here is mine.....

Countdown to Christmas.... 21 more sleeps!

Decorating can be a headache..... or fun! Yay!
Involve the kids, house mates, friends, pets; anyone who will be around to experience the cheer with you. There's the tree, the front door, the table center piece.... you choose!

Again, you can go with a theme:
*only stars (there are heaps of different ones out there!)
*baubles only (or everything round)
*nativity (all things saintly)
There are more suggestions with in the next headings (take a peek).

If you are a crafty devil, here are some ideas for you:
*felt shapes
Bring back childhood memories with mad multicoloured ones or go festive with reds and greens or a pure snow-white one. (or use your colour theme..)
To refresh your memory on how to make one visit TECHknitting for an illustrated tutorial.
*Re-use cards:
Cut out any nice designs, stick another piece of card on the back along with a ribbon loop up the top and you have a homemade tree decoration. You could even add sequins or glitter for that extra bit of festive sparkle. (do this with pretty paper or fabric too.)
*Instead of Tinsel:
Hang colourful paper chains, popcorn and cranberry strings on your tree for a traditional touch, or lines of beads and buttons threaded on ribbon or string.

For those of you who would prefer to just get ready-made, yes even the best of us give grace to others handiwork too, here are some ideas for you:
*edibles: candy canes, wrapped chocolates (baci, ferrero, lindt balls, freddos)
*small toys: wooden toys (try Kaper Kidz!), matchbox cars, plastic animals, trinkets (can let kids pick from the tree)
*go to school fairs or markets and pick up some hand made decorations.

Finally, 2 novel ideas for everyone:
*let visitors pick something from your tree to keep, or to put on their tree
*get family / friends to bring over a decoration for the tree (we had a party one year and guests were asked to bring something to pop on the tree... lots of character there!)

Leave me your ideas and links below to tutorials, would love to see what you do too.

Countdown to Christmas.... 22 more sleeps!

First thing to think about is COLOURS!
Yeah, you can have every colour possible on your tree and around the house, or....
stick to a colour theme.
Here are a few decorating colourways for you to ponder:

*traditional: green / red, gold / silver
(or mix of any of those colours... a no brainer I'm afraid)

*silver / purple / pink / aqua (we did this one year)

*sticking to cool colours: green / purple / blue
or warm colours: red / pink / orange

*fashion favourites: blues / brown (chocolate/ taupe)

*all brights (good for kids)

*all pastels (soft, easy on the eye)

*black / white , then add a highlight colour like red .

Tomorrow we'll check out some decorations!

Feeling crafty?
Crochet a tree or star bunting! So cute!!
Head over to The Royal Sisters for the tutorial.

What colours are you using this year?

Countdown to Christmas.... 23 more sleeps!

We'll just give you some tempting ideas.... in case you're not dedicated to a tree yet!

* Feeling crafty? check out this gorgeous origami Christmas tree.

*Use a (fallen) branch (with leaves attached or stripped bare)
Fill vase or bottles with sand (or stones) and stick branches into it/them
Paint the branches or leave natural or even wrap each branch with wool, cotton or fabric.
Decorate with anything you like! (keep the hanging decos light in weight)
**** We did this one when our first child was almost one. We kept it off the ground, on a table, and her eyes would fill with delight when looking at the different balls, stars and fairies hanging from it. Pure and simple!

* For the minimalist: stick on wall decos.... (if you're short on space or have small kids that may tear the tree apart!) I love the tree above.... maybe next year.
Finally, what we did last year:
* Stick removable hanging hooks (M3) on the wall in the shape of a tree (triangle) and hang your decos from the hooks!
Or in rows or a line around the room.... use your imagination.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Winner of a Mee A Bee messenger bag is....

Thanks to those who entered and for spreading the love!
Tam, I will be contacting you.... you lucky lucky girl! And there will be no fighting!