Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Family Photo Wall DIY

If there is one thing I would love to be more organised with since having kids it's all the photo's I take. And from talking with friends it seems like it's something we all want to get on top of, but one of the hardest things to actually do!  I did a massive cull of my digital photo's in my iPhoto recently - but still have a crazy amount in my iPhoto library.  And that's only from the last 5 or so years, I haven't got digital copies of photos from further back than that.  I used to print photo's out and put them into albums, but since Jack was about one I haven't done any photo albums (he's four and a half now!) So I have a big project ahead of me (as I'm sure many of you do too) and I decided to break it down into what I really want to do with all these photo's. 

1. Make a family photo wall
2. Print and frame photo's of friends and friends weddings to have around our home
3. Print photo's for the kids to have in their bedrooms 
3. Make a photo book for each year starting back with 2012. I have gone off printing photo's and putting them into albums as some of the ones I did when Amelie was born are already showing signs of wearing out, and I still have heaps of albums with the photo's all thrown in and no captions or anything describing the when/where etc of some of the photo's.  A friend of mine has started doing yearly phonebooks for her kids and they look amazing, plus it makes you far more selective with what photo's to put in! I think I have a whole album of the first 4 months of Amelie's life compared with 1 album so far for Jack...
4. Have an efficient system for saving and backing up photo's in case of broken or stolen lap top and/or phone, or a fire. 

So when I was asked to review the new Brother MFCJ4620DW printer I thought it would be a great chance to tick the first thing off my list- making a family photo wall. This printer is awesome- it prints wirelessly which is so handy, has a paper tray inside the printer (my old printer had a paper tray that stuck out of the printer so the kids were constantly taking the paper out of it!), prints really quickly, can print A3 size documents, prints great quality photo's, and can also scan and copy.   I use a home printer all the time for teaching stuff, my craft classes, printing out colouring sheets for the kids, and just general house admin stuff so I am loving my new printer :) 

So here are my tips and hints for making your own family photo wall at home. When I was on Pinterest last year for home ideas I saw lots of pics of 'staircase galleries' which seems to be a bit of a traditional thing,  plus it is a great use of a plain wall. But any blank big wall will do! 

Also I have pinned lots of pics of 'staircase galleries' on my Pinterest page for inspiration

Family Photo Wall Tips and Hints
Choosing photo's to frame

I went through all the piles of photo's I had already printed that I just had in boxes waiting for me to do something with and chose ones I'd like to frame for the photo wall. I wanted wedding photo's (not just ours but our siblings as well), photo's of the grandparents and great grandparents, photos of us before we had kids, photo's of special holidays, school photo's plus lots of my favourite photo's of the kids.  I also went through my iPhoto library and made an album of photo's I wanted to print using my Brother printer. You can buy A4 size and 6 x 4 size Brother photo paper for your Brother printer so for the 5 x7 and 6 x8 size photos I wanted to print I just printed onto the A4 sheets and cut them to size.

I had heaps of white frames already from other art works and displays from our old house (like this one I made using greeting cards  so I just re-used the frames I wanted to change.  I also bought more frames from Warehouse Stationery and Farmers when they both had 50% off their frames. The other stores I would look for budget friendly frames are The Warehouse and Briscoes.

I have a mix of frames for this project so I can add to it over time- one day the wall will be covered in frames! If you stick to one type of frame it will be a lot harder to add to your gallery over time unless you go mad and buy a massive stash of them! I actually like the mix of frame styles as it adds a bit of interest on the wall too. My advice would be to keep an eye out for sales at any of these stores, and stock up on a few when you can. 

Lots of people change their photo's to black and white for this type of display which does look very stylish. I chose to keep the photo's colour but you choose whatever suits your style and your home.

You could always mix it up with a few frames of different shapes e.g.: a few oval ones can add interest. You could also add art works into your gallery, quotes, block letters or decals. I added two art works into my gallery- this family themed print I bought from Cheryl Rawlings
and I had a brainwave to google 'family quotes' so I typed one up using Pages on my mac laptop, and printed it out on my new Brother printer- love it!
Another idea is to buy the multi style frames where you can put a few photo's on the one frame- I have two on my wall.  Probably works out cheaper to buy these compared to buying single frames  and would make for less holes in the wall too. 

Try to mix up the sizes of your frames- if you use too many small frames your wall might look a bit 'bitty'- I used quite a few small frames as I was using a lot of what I already had (plus they are way cheaper to buy ) but just make sure you put a few larger ones in there too for balance.

There are lots of ways to get started on planning your gallery wall such as mapping out all your photos using brown paper templates of your photos, or measuring to get even heights, but for our wall we didn't that- we just stuck the first photo up by the light at the bottom of the stairs, and just worked our way up from there. So it was all done by eye, meaning it's not perfectly aligned but if we did that first it would be months before we managed to get them all up on the wall! There are lots of ideas for arranging your wall on Pinterest if you do like yours to be more exact with the layout! (search "staircase gallery' on Pinterest)

Buy a small level like this one in this pic below to line up your frames- they often come with a pack of picture frame hooks from dollar value type stores or hardware stores. Use a tiny bit of blutak if need be to keep them straight, as long as it won't rip your paint off when you remove it!
So there you go, lots of ideas for creating your own family photo wall- I love ours and am really pleased with how it turned out. Lots of room for more photo's to come too :)

And stay tuned for a special giveaway coming up on my Facebook page- thanks to Brother NZ I am giving away one Brother MFCJ4620DW home printer worth $249.95 to one lucky mousehouse reader!


Thanks for reading, 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Rugby Pantry cook book

I was asked to review the new 'The Rugby Pantry' cook book, written by Amber Vito and Daisy Dagg, the wives of well known NZ rugby players Victor Vito and Israel Dagg,  a few weeks ago.  I'm so glad I agreed to- it's a really great cook book for anyone wanting lots of ideas for family friendly meals, yummy snacks, and some delicious deserts and sweet treats too. The instructions are really easy to follow which is always a bonus,  plus the book has photo's and 'behind the scenes' snippets about the lives of these two well known rugby families.  A friend of mine who is a really good cook and loves cook books had a flick through it the other day at my house and promptly went out and bought it so it must be a goodie!

I had a go at three recipes from the cook book...
'Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken with Creamy Gravy and Crispy Potatoes'. I love cooking roast chicken for dinner so it was fun learning a new recipe for gravy (mine normally comes from a box!). And by doing the couple of extra steps in the recipe that I don't normally do I definitely stepped my potatoes up a notch ;)

For desert I made the 'Banana Caramel Pudding' which the kids loved- my desert repertoire consists of apple crumble and chocoalte molten puddings so it was good to try a new recipe- this was delicious with some vanilla ice cream.

I've been meaning to make some bliss balls for a while so these 'Balls of Goodness' were a great recipe to follow with lots of good healthy ingredients things such as chia seeds, LSA and coconut oil. I added some dried apricots to mine and two out of three kids loved them ( I have one kid who eats pretty much everything and then two kids who never like the same things!)  They are great for a mid morning or mid afternoon snack, plus a great addition to lunch boxes.

Next on my list of things to try are the Cheese and Onion Scones, the Buttery Fish with Lemon Sauce and Greek Salad, and the kids really want me to make the Afghans (yum). I read somewhere recently that most people only cook 2 recipes on average from each cook book they buy so I'm already onto a winner with this one!

If you would like to see some more recipes and reviews about the cook book from other bloggers then check out the blog tour list below- Penny from Little Housewife has shared a recipe from the cook book for 'Crispy Skin Salmon with Balsamic Glaze and Kumara Mash'
and Melissa from The Best Nest has a copy of 'The Rugby Pantry' to giveaway! Go to her Facebook page here

You can follow The Rugby Pantry here: 

and check out their website for lots more delicious recipes

Thanks for reading and happy cooking :)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A French Themed Birthday Party

The good thing about going through all my photos finally is that I find all these photos for blog posts I have meaning to write for a good while now! So I thought I would share these photos of the french themed birthday party I did for Amelie back in April. I wanted to keep her party small this year as I had just had Jack's first birthday party- well he turned 4 but it was his first actual party and is 3 days before Amelie's.  So it was just three friends plus her sister Stella and a friend of Stella's. So here are the details and a few ideas if you have a little francophile in your house!

I made these boarding pass invitations on my mac computer using the 'Pages' programme. I love these as I think they actually look pretty close to real ones but in a fun way with the Eiffel Tower on them :) 


I made some red, white and blue bunting by cutting out rectangles and stitching them onto some white binding.
I bought the antique looking zinc bucket and filled it with flowers from our local florist to make it look like a french florist.
The Eiffel tower decal was only $10 from Trademe and is now in Amelie's bedroom. The 'Avignon' wooden crate was from a kitchen store here in Tauranga 'Gourmet Trader'.
The Eiffel towers we already had (the pen was a cute one from Typo). I bought the little Eiffel tower place card holders from Trademe.
We played some french accordion music using Spotify.

As seen below...
'Croque monsieur'- ham and cheese toasties
Chocolate eiffel tower cupcakes- I found a mold for these and just poured in melted choclate to make the Eiffel Towers.

We were going to do croissants and pain au chocolat's too but it was Anzac Day so the supermarkets were shut for the morning!

I bought this cake from New World and just added the jaffa's and the mini bunting I made using straws and wash tape. The sparkly '8' decoration was from Gourmet Trader.
I had a few colouring sheets for the girls to do when they arrived
Seeing as french women love perfume the girls made our own using water and essential oils.

And they made a little posy of flowers each as well just like a french florist. I bought a piece of oasis for $5 which was enough for all of them to have a piece to stick their flowers into and then we wrapped them in brown paper.

We played the chocolate game seeing as the french love their chocolate. This was heaps of fun, love this classic party game! For the dress ups we used a beret, scarf and gloves.
We even had french plaits at the party!

So there you go- a few ideas for you- it was a nice easy and fun party for my lovely french loving 8 year old :)

Thanks for reading, 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Easy Kids Party Ideas

I always like thinking of ideas for kids parties, things that are quick and easy to prepare, which will keep everyone entertained.  'Pass-the-parcel' can take a while to wrap up, and a DIY piñata can take a lot of effort too! Then some new Allen’s lollies arrived at my door just at the right time (the kids are really loving me having a blog at the moment).  In my bumper pack I received the new Allen's Tangy Tots and Jelly Tots, and the popular Snakes Alive - how much do kids love jelly snakes? Here’s a few of my activity ideas that I’d love to share with you...

1. Lolly Bracelets 

This idea is my favourite as it's so easy and kids love making them- it makes for a nice quiet party activity, or something to make before the party as a treat for all the party goers. All you need is some thin elastic, a tapestry needle (these have a big eye to threaad the elastic and are much blunter than normal needles for little hands), and the Jelly Tots. Thread the elastic, tie a knot in one end and thread on the lollies. I used 12-14 for these bracelets which is about a serving size (again this is a good way to control portions!). Tie a knot when you've threaded all of the lollies and cut off excess elastic.

2. Lolly Kebabs 

Whenever we got to Taupo we love going to the awesome Cafe L'Arte in Acacia Bay- they have lolly sticks there which is the kids big treat. So that gave me the idea to make some using the Allen's lollies- they are so easy to make and for some reason kids love things on sticks! And it's better than a bowl of lollies on the table too as you can control the portions of lollies for each guest. These would make a fun 'take home' treat too. Just get a wooden skewer, the lollies and some washi tape, thread them on and tape a bit of washi tape to the top of the stick- easy! 

3. Don't Eat Pete! 
I came across this party game idea when I was getting ideas for Stella's lego party- basically you put a lolly on each monster (search 'lego don't eat pete' for a lego man version), then one child leaves the room, the rest of the kids decide who is going to be Pete, then the child comes back in and gets to pick one lolly at a time to eat from each monster…but if they land on Pete they have to stop and it's a new child's turn. It's sort of similar to another party favourite 'The Chocolate Game'- my favourite when I was a kid!  Here is the blog I got the free template from for the game... 
So there you go, three easy ideas for your next kids birthday party. Let me know what you think of them! 

Thanks for reading, 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Home Sweet Home Sewing and Stitching Group

I mentioned recently on FB that I am taking a sewing and stitching group at my daughters school for the next 5 weeks one afternoon a weel- they do an awesome 'Adventure Time' programme where teachers and parents choose some of their favourite activities or things they are experts at and students get to choose what group they would like to join- it's a bit like what I remember of 'Clubs' when I was at primary school- I remember knitting and cooking clubs- and they are still on offer which is great but there's also movie making, computer coding, mountain bike riding, contact sports, fishing, art history, dance and more... lucky kids! So I thought I'd share a few pics of what we got up to today in my group- I called it 'Home Sweet Home' as all of our projects are going to have a little house theme (one of my favourites!). 
I brought it some hand stitching examples I have in our home- I wrote a blog post about the stitched handprints here if it appeals to you...
I blogged about the babushka art here
I did the washing line one and the lady in the flowers needlepoint pieces years ago, before I even got right into sewing and crafting. They are designed by Jennifer Pudney and are really easy to do as the drawings are on the fabric so its like colouring in with stitches!
My nana, Noelene stitched the beautiful alphabet sampler- she was an exceptionally good seamstress and stitcher so it's lovely to have some of her work in our home.

I brought a few books in for the girls to have a look at to get inspired and see all the cool things they can make once they get into crafting.
And my favourite thing was this booklet I put together for each of the girls. I used to have to put booklets together all the time for presentations and workshops when I was full time teaching so it was fun to use these skills again to put it together.
I googled some 'sewing fonts' and found a few cute ones to use on the cover- the font for the 'Home Sweet Home' title is this one called Fabrics 
I left the second page blank for them to practice some stitches on hessian and glue it into their booklet. On the opposite page I found some clip art diagrams of different stitches. Today I taught them running stitch and back stitch.

I made up a sewing themed word find on the next page- there are heaps of free word search generators around - I used this one
I found a clip art sewing machine diagram for the next page.

For the last 2 pages I wrote a list of the projects we are going to do- and then my favourite page is the last page- I stuck samples of different fabrics on the page and the girls have to find out the names of each one.
Today's project was to create a house picture using running stitch and back stitch using yarn and a tapestry needle. I gave them each a square of hessian (I sewed around each one to stop them fraying) and showed them my one I stitched last night.  I used the house from one of my favourite picture books for my stitched picture (highly recommend this lovely book which is 60 years old this year- my kids and every class I read it to love it.) 
The Little House
It was really fun seeing them stitching away- lots of needles needing threading and a few fix ups but on the whole they got the hang of it pretty quickly - but they only got a little bit done of their pictures so hopefully they will bring them back next week so I can take a few pics. I sent them off with a little house cookie each. 

Next week we are making little felt house keyrings and bag charms.
Thanks for reading :) 
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