Monthly Archives: July 2012

What to do With Young Picasso’s Masterpieces.

What to do With Your Kids Artworks

I used to know all the answers.

In fact, before I had kids, I was the best parent around. There wasn’t a problem I couldn’t find a solution to. A tantrum I couldn’t have turned around with a combination of patience, psychology and tickling. I was confident in my parenting abilities.

But then, you know, I actually became a parent.

I used to think that those parents who keep all their children’s artworks masterpieces were a bit demented. Who the hell wants to keep Peanut’s scribbles?!

Sure, keep one, but really? All of them?

Then Isla started bringing home artwork from pre-school.

“These are for you, Mummy. I made them special.”


Oh…right. Now I see.

Suddenly I understood the desire to honour our little one’s creativity. Measure how far she has come in six months. Sit back and think, “Well, obviously she’s a prodigy. Honey, call MENSA!”


Actually, I still don’t think it’s wise (or helpful) to keep every drawing your kids produce. By the time they reach high school, you will quite literally have boxes and boxes of the stuff. And, honestly, do you think Junior will want them? Will he take them to Uni? When he moves out? Gets married?

I don’t think so.


So What Can You Do? You Can’t Just Throw Them Away.

Well, you could… But I don’t.

We use a combination of a revolving art gallery, a memory box and framing and hanging some artworks permanently. This is our way of keeping on top of the constant stream of artwork that Isla produces.

I’ll give her that – the kid’s prolific.


How to Create a Revolving Gallery to Display Kids Art

  1. Select a space on the wall – in the playroom, a hallway, wherever works in your home.
  2. Make this the designated gallery space for the kids art.
  3. Create a way of showcasing the art. There are some awesome ideas to be found here on Pinterest.
  4. When the kids complete an artwork, it can go up in the gallery.
  5. At the end of school term, or the change of seasons, or simply when it’s full, take all the art down.
  6. The gallery is now ready for the new masterpieces.
  7. Once the artwork is down, get each of your kids to choose one or two pieces – their favourites or ones they are most proud of.
  8. These are the ones to keep.
  9. They can go into the memory box, or, if you want to, frame one of them to display in the house. (I have a post later in the week that shows you how to display kids art tastefully.)


What’s a Memory Box?

For each of our kids I have a large plastic tub with a lid that is their memory box. In it go special birthday cards, one or two keepsakes from when they were babies (literally, one or two) and their artworks.

The beauty of a memory box is that it is finite. There will only ever be one memory box per child, so it’s necessary to keep the crap to a minimum.

And for the time in the future when that box does get full, then we know it’s time to sort through it.


But, I Feel Mean…

While I do see the value in keeping our kids creations, you have to ask yourself,

“Why am I really doing this?”

Is it out of guilt? Fear that you will regret not keeping them? Fear that the kids will be upset when they’re older?


What I do know is I don’t want to be the person to burden our kids with unnecessary clutter when they are grown. And I certainly don’t want them to feel any kind of guilt or expectation, after I had held on to these things for so long.


What do you do with your kids artworks?

3 Unexpected Benefits to Owning Chickens

3 unexpected benefits to owning chickens


We love our girls. Betsy. Mabel. Night-Time.

Their soft clucking. Their scratching. Their endless activity.

We love what they bring to our yard and our home. And I’m not just talking about eggs. Although free-range eggs fresh from the backyard are pretty awesome.

The responsibility and compassion the kids learn from helping to care for the girls is priceless. As is the fact they grow up understanding that food doesn’t actually come from the supermarket. That there is often poop on eggs. And that’s OK.

Truth be told, I expected these benefits. But I have been so happy to discover they are not the only ones.

There are three unexpected ways that owning the girls has impacted our lives, for the better:


1. Waste Reduction

It’s no secret that chickens will eat most table scraps.

But they also love grass clippings, weeds and spent vegetables that have been pulled from the garden.

Fruit and vegies that have past their prime? Chooks love ’em.

Cheese gone hard? Chooks love it.

Stale bread? Chooks.

All this food and garden waste that would otherwise be tossed in the bin, going directly to landfill to slowly release methane gas into the atmosphere, is instead used to feed our girls. And as a thank you? They give us delicious eggs every day.

Talk about a good deal!


2. Living Composters

This is a tip I learnt direct from Don Burke (’cause we’re tight) and it is such a good one:

Toss weeds, grass clippings, the chickens bedding straw, prunings and regular tables scraps into the pen, as described above. But then watch as the chooks (AKA the living composters) turn that waste into the richest of black gold over the following months.

They aerate the soil, scratch it over, add manure and help break the waste down much quicker than simply tossing it all in a compost bin.

Every 3-6 months, shovel out the top few inches of soil in the chook pen and use it in the garden as a top-notch compost and soil conditioner:

  • you can put it directly into the beds (particularly new ones) and fork it through the soil
  • add it to the compost bins to break down over time into a less rich (but still amazing) compost that can then be used anywhere


3. Peace and Happiness

There is something meditative about watching the girls cluck and scratch and work. Something wholesome. Earthy. Beautiful.

I have spent many a spare minute just watching the girls go about their business. Figuring out their personalities. Establishing the pecking order. (Betsy is The Queen.) It’s so easy to lose yourself for that moment, escape from your own head for a while.

And it simply adds another dimension to our home. Which is what this Slow Home journey is all about. Making room and time for the things that matter.


Do you own chickens? Or other livestock?

I dream of a day when we move to a small-holding in the Byron Hinterland. Goats, chooks, a horse or two. Vegetable garden and an orchard. (Thankfully, dreams are free!)

Don’t Save Your Stickers

don't save your stickers

When I was a kid I thought getting stickers was just about the best thing. Ever.

  • Stickers for a birthday present.
  • Stickers as a treat from Mum if I was well-behaved at the shops.
  • Stickers in a show bag.
  • Stickers in books.

Stickers were awesome. So pretty. So brightly coloured. So…limited.

Once a sticker was peeled off the backing sheet, stuck on the page and admired for a moment, it was done.

No longer usable, the excitement always dissipated.

And if you try to peel it off the page and re-stick it, you’re likely to peel the paper away too – leaving you with a ripped page and a useless sticker. Trust me.


Great. Why the Hell Am I Telling You This?

I was a pretty cautious kid. I didn’t want to make mistakes, disappoint anyone, regret a decision. (I remember crying at night for at least a week because I decided I didn’t want to do gymnastics class anymore and was terrified that mum and dad would be upset. They totally weren’t.)

So do you know what I did with the majority of my stickers?


I left them on their backing paper and tucked them away somewhere safe. Maybe in my desk drawer, or a dedicated sticker box.

Saved them for a special occasion. A project that was worth using them on.

And guess what?

I never used them.


When I was older and was being forced by my mum choosing responsibly to tidy up and declutter my room I found these abandoned stickers and admired them once again.

But the time to use them had passed. I was into Presidents of the United States of America, op-shopping and basketball. (An enigma is what I was.) Stickers had no place in my life.

The opportunity to experience the joy and beauty and creativity of using them had passed me by.

Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t discover too late, that you had something of joy and beauty at your fingertips, only to let it slip by, too afraid to “use it all up” or break it.

We’re Not Talking About Stickers Anymore, Are We?

If you keep one thing in mind this weekend – it’s this:

Don’t Save Your Stickers.

Use them. Whenever the mood strikes. With wild abandon if possible.

Enjoy the rush. Embrace the feeling of living in the moment.


(No, we’re not really talking about stickers anymore.)

It’s a well-covered cliche, but important enough to state again:

  • Use the “good” china. So what if it gets chipped? It’s being used. That’s a good thing.
  • Drink your cheap wine from the crystal goblets – they’re just gathering dust.
  • Wear that fancy perfume – even if it is only to playgroup.
  • That perfect coloured, expensive lipstick? Put it on! You will look beautiful, even if you’re in your pyjamas.
  • That gorgeous hand cream? Slather it on, or you’ll find it has gone out of date.
  • Let your kids paint. Isn’t it there to be used?!
  • Jump in muddy puddles. And stop pretending you don’t enjoy it. Who cares about the laundry?! You’re the one who does it anyway.


Stop Saving Your Stickers, Folks.

Otherwise one day, you will rediscover them, only to realise the time to use them has passed.


What stickers will you use this weekend?

The kids and I have a painting date, and Sparky and I will enjoy a $10 cleanskin from $200 crystal wine glasses. (Cause we’re fancy like that.)

Family Words

McAlary Family Words
Summing it up – the McAlary Family Words.

Do you have a code by which you live your life?

I’m sure you have morals and standards and ethics by which you operate (and operate beautifully, might I add), but if you had to condense those down to a handful of words, could you? Off the top of your head?

It’s not an easy thing to do.


In our kitchen we have a pinboard and chalkboard for keeping notices, bills, photos etc. On the chalkboard Sparky and I wrote our family words at the beginning of the year:

Dream big. Work Hard. Love.

(The only change I would make now is to love openly.)

If I had to sum up our approach to life, that would be the briefest version.

While the idea of family words is a Game of Thrones geekism, the thought of having a simple, beautiful, positive framework from which we can operate is such a cool thought.

I have to be honest – I don’t refer back to these words much. Not daily, and not weekly. But when I do catch a glimpse of them, half-buried on the chalkboard, underneath clutter countdowns and pre-school papers, I feel good. Safe. Solid.

Everybody wants to belong somewhere. To have a safe home port. Roots and wings, as they say. And this code, these family words, this framework – they are our roots. They are our wings.

Dream big. Work hard. Love openly.

What are your family words? What do you value most for your loved ones and yourself?

Flip It.

choose happiness

Today’s assignment: Take the coin that is your mindset and flip it.

Otherwise known as: Choose positivity. Opt for happiness. Promote optimism.

If your go-to response in times of stress or indecision is to choose tails – to choose negativity, frustration, resentment, anger, fear, jealousy or comparison, today, all you need to do – just once – is flip it.

Choose heads.

Choose positivity.

Opt for happiness.

Promote optimism.

Just one time today – STOP – and instead of choosing tails:

Choose to say “I love you” when you really want to scream.

Choose to be thankful for your beautiful body instead of scathing of its perceived flaws.

Choose to congratulate yourself when you play with the kids instead of clean the toilet.

Choose to be content when you clean the toilet instead of playing with the kids. (Because sometimes – it’s just gotta get done.)

Choose to see the positive side of an ambivalent comment.

Choose to accept that the rude woman at the supermarket may be going through a rough patch.

Choose to smile at strangers.

Choose to dance it out when your frustration rises.

Choose to breathe deeply and say, “I am awesome” when you feel invisible.

Choose to see the good in people rather than the bad.

Choose to believe that positivity attracts more positivity and your world will feel infinitely brighter each time you do.

Tell us, what would you choose to flip? Then, go out and flip it!