Links we’ve loved #6

You might be beginning to notice that while Mama reads blogs, BP watches videos. Here’s the wrap up of BP video entertainment for the week:

Well, that’s not entirely true. Mama loves Upworthy videos. This one blew her away. She’s like to meet that kid’s parents.

What do you think the secret is to great parenting? Zen habits has one idea. Maybe this is not entirely it, but it sure is an important factor.

The Modern Mourner is a really interesting site dedicated to remembering and farewelling those who have passed. A lot of the ideas are related to repurposing things that belong to your loved one. Some beautiful ideas here.

What do you think about this wedding debacle? We didn’t ask for wedding gifts when we got married. We were well aware that we had asked people to get dressed up, maybe some people bought a new outfit or new shoes or got their hair done. Then they went to a lot of effort to come out at night, perhaps paid for parking or a cab there and back. Why do they owe us a gift, too? We challenged those that really did want to give us something to hunt for something second hand. Some people gave us gifts that were hand made or second hand, some people gave us things that were new, some people chose to give us money and others gave us nothing at all. We were grateful to have each and every person there. The protocol regarding wedding gifts seems to be ever shifting. What do you think is right in this situation? We think these brides should have been given this book:


BP has been through his wardrobe and is stuck on sentimental t-shirts. Mama is thinking about doing something like this with them. Have you made a t-shirt quilt before? Any tips?

Little Fearse is mad about her Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland board book at the moment. Mama has started reading her an abridged illustrated version of the original story, which she is also enjoying. BP and Mama know the board book off by heart they’ve read it so many times in the last week.


She has also enjoyed the super moon in the past week and has learned to say ‘moon’ which is an exciting development in the Fearse household.

We hope you had a great weekend. We did!

Big Poppa, Little Fearse and Mama xoxoxox

Great literary holiday reads.

My school holidays are coming up and I’m looking forward to some extra reading time. Those of you who have been reading along will remember that I’m ‘self educating’ with the classics of last century through three book lists.

I’ve read a good number of the books on these lists already, as I started reading from them in 2001, just a year after they were published. Here is a list of ten books from these lists that I would recommend as engaging and quick holiday reads for any other lucky people who are about to embark on a few weeks break.

1. The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald

I really love F. Scott Fitzgerald and enjoy all his books, but The Great Gatsby is one of my all time favourites. This really is a short and engaging read. The best thing about reading this now is that you can then indulge in seeing the film at the cinema straight away.

2. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

One of my friends, upon finishing this book, declared that if it had been 100 pages longer she would have given up men for good. I tend to agree. This book is compelling – I think it took me a day to read.

3. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

This book was a lovely lyrical read and only took me a day or two to finish while on holidays in New York.

4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

You think you know this story, but then… there are a few details in the original story that were altered for the film. Reading this really surprised me. It’s an enjoyable read and a good one to share with the kids.

5. 1984 by George Orwell

This is certainly not a heartening story (it gave me nightmares when I first read it), but it doesn’t take long to get through. The synopsis is pretty well known these days, but the details are really intense.

6. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

I read this in the last couple of weeks, while writing school reports. I raced through it fairly rapidly considering. Hemingway really is a sensational writer and this story is a wonderful read.

7. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This really is a slender volume and I have to admit that although it is on my shelves I still haven’t read it! I might get stuck into it these holidays myself.

8. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

What an awesome book. You will read this quickly because I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down.

9. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

This is a beautiful story that I also read very quickly because I couldn’t put it down. I read this pre-Little Fearse so I was able to read until all hours of the night. I’d like to read it again some day (and I never re-read books).

10. Slaughterhouse-Five  by Kurt Vonnegut

This book is a little macabre with a steady vein of humour. It’s a very short, bizarre book. I remember enjoying it thoroughly.

Which literary books have you enjoyed during your holidays?

Happy (nearly) holidays and happy reading,

Mama xo

Encouraging our musical baby.

As a parent it can be hard to know whether we are projecting likes and dislikes onto our children, especially when they are babies. I like to think that Little Fearse shows an extraordinary interest in books. She certainly likes them, but does she interact with them more than her other toys? Who knows? For awhile we were not sure if she really liked music as much as she seemed to. As books is my thing, music is BPs. We’ve both read to Little Fearse and played her a variety of music since before she was born. Lately it’s become a little clearer that not only is she drawn to music, but she has a natural rhythm, too.

ImageI think that fostering your child’s curiosity, without smothering them, is a really important thing to do.  This doesn’t mean we’re rushing out to enrol Little Fearse in music lessons, but here are some of the things we’ve done to give Little Fearse a variety of  musical experiences:

  • Of course we sing to her. I’m not much of a singer but I gives it a shot anyway. BP sings and raps to Little Fearse which she gets a real kick out of.
  • For her birthday we bought her second hand instruments to explore. She very quickly learnt how to make sound with a recorder and a harmonica, which we were really impressed by.
  • We encourage her to find new sounds and beats using every day objects. This can be as simple as throwing stones in a metal bucket or banging a spoon on the table.
  • We let her bang away on the piano. Sometimes she even throws in a good series of notes. Usually not, though.
  • She and I attend an ‘intergenerational music group’ at a nursing home. It happens once a week for an hour and we try to go each week. It is run by a music teacher and aimed at fostering a connection between young children and the elderly. It’s a really lovely experience for all involved.
  • We read her books that can be sung, such as From Little Things Big Things Grow, Blowin’ In the Wind, My Island Home, The Day Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat or more traditional stories with chants such as Wombat Stew and Crunch the Crocodile.
  • We play her a wide variety of music at home and in the car, exploring everything from hip hop to classical to synthesized pan flutes. (Seriously, she loves synthesized pan flutes. We said she loved music, we didn’t say she has good taste.)
  • We find opportunities for her to see and hear live music. This is usually in an outdoor venue because we don’t want to ruin her tiny ears. This may be incidental, such as buskers at the market, or planned events, such as the Invasion Day concert we took her to in January at which a good friend played (and happened to bring BP up on stage to perform with her, which Little Fearse found endlessly confusing).
  • We indulge in a few good sessions a week of family dancing. It’s not always pretty but it sure is fun.

We have also been really lucky to be gifted tickets to two events – a Justine Clarke concert and one of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performances for children. Both of these were fantastic. Little Fearse was completely transfixed by Justine Clarke. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was brilliant, but I think it would be more enjoyable for slightly older children. I’d recommend you look into getting a season pass if you have musically inclined children aged 3 and older.

One of the best things about encouraging Little Fearse’s explorations with sound is that none of these compromise our BNN philosophy.

Mama xo

Links we’ve loved #3

The Mommy and Me Bookclub is loaded with great ideas for activities you can do with your toddler when reading. We love this because we like to take an integrated approach to book reading with Little Fearse, like taking Eric Carle’s “The Very Busy Spider” to the farm with us this weekend. Of course ours is a Mama, Daddy & Me bookclub.

We found a great recipe for cheese and vegemite scrolls using puff pastry. Mama has an issue with kneading (very low success rate), so loved the idea of not having to knead the pastry. Little Fearse is currently quite enamoured by the ones we buy at the bakery. Unfortunately the site is down, so here’s one that requires kneading. Someone else might like to trial it. Mum?… 😛

Why is Finland just so much more evolved than the rest of the world?

Big Poppa humour. Can music start a party anywhere?

Feel like helping start a library in Nepal? Of course you do! This is especially terrific if you have a lot of excess children’s books and you like in the US where it is more economical and ecological to send your books in for this great initiative.

George Carlin makes us laugh.

Little Fearse’s birthday book When Louis Armstrong taught me scat arrived finally.


We have all been loving it – fun to read and to listen to. We’ve paired it with family dancing to Louis Armstrong videos and long car trips listening to Ella and Louis CDs. Little Fearse even has a new jazz dance move that involves a shoulder roll. Lots of musical fun in the Fearse cave.

Have a fun weekend. Happy non-birthday to the Queen.

Big Poppa, Mama and Lil’ Fearse xoxox

Links we’ve loved #2

100 days of real food has put up an inspiring blog showing some of the best school lunches I have ever seen. And this is coming from someone who sees 56 of them every working day. If we had seen this post before we wrote our 30 days of lunches post we may have reconsidered. Be sure to check out the links for School Lunch Roundups 1, 2 and 3 also, just to make sure you feel like the shittest parent on Earth. 😛 It did, however, make us feel better to realise that we’re not the only weirdos who send our child off with frozen peas in her lunch.

You’ve probably seen this – it’s been doing the FB rounds. It made BP tear up. (Easier than it sounds.)

Mind. Blown.

This week Little Fearse enjoyed a Possum Magic puppet show. Before we went (since Mama sadly left her copy of the book at school) we watched this cute reading of the book on youtube. Little Fearse particularly enjoyed the music. She played along on her own little wooden recorder.

Laugh. (Ear worm warning.)

Someone linked this Live Wikipedia Editing Map on FB and Mama can’t stop watching it.

Have fun this weekend.

BP, Mama and Little Fearse xoxo

A holiday library

Suspecting we might be housebound for our week away, BP and I took a quiet moment (Little Fearse’s last day at child care) and visited our local library.

Seven board books  for Little Fearse to explore all on her own (and hopefully not chew too much).

With an attempt at a bit of a sea theme, since we were holidaying by the seaside.

With an attempt at a bit of a sea theme, since we were holidaying by the seaside.

Eleven ‘children’s’ CDs for a little family dance-a-thon and some bad car trip singing.

Looking forward to seeing some new Little Fearse dance moves. She’s recently graduated from the simple knee bend to a bit of a side shuffle with an arm thrown into the air occasionally for good measure.

Looking forward to seeing some new Little Fearse dance moves. She’s recently graduated from the simple knee bend to a bit of a side shuffle with an arm thrown into the air occasionally for good measure.

Twelve unknown picture story books for Mama and Poppa to read to Little Fearse.

We find that reading a new story book to Little Fearse is, so far, even more exciting for us than for her.

We find that reading a new story book to Little Fearse is, so far, even more exciting for us than for her.

Since we didn’t even have to see a librarian with the new-fangled self check -out desks BP said he felt a little like he was stealing, walking out of there with two arm loads of books and CDs without parting with a cent. I have sometimes felt sad about the demise of the library, but you know what? The library was teeming with people – grandparents reading with their grandchildren, young kids playing video games (wha?), teenagers studying, people surfing the ‘net and perusing the extensive DVD collection. Some people were even borrowing books.

Libraries are alive and well. When did you last visit yours?

Mama xo

Listmania Eleven: Books

Home Life Simplified’s List Mania Eleven was just too tempting for me.

My favourite author:


It’s really difficult for me to narrow this down to one writer, but I will read anything by Lily Brett. I think she is smart and funny and strong. She’s a beautiful writer and generally, I think, underrated. I actually haven’t picked up her latest novel, Lola Bensky, so I’ll have to have a look for it at the library (bugger you, book embargo).

Other favourite books:


I’d love to photograph my actual favourite books, but a lot are out on loan. Choosing my favourite books of all time is as daunting as choosing my favourite student. I feel that each book I read adds something to my life or my mind or my imagination. Some of them stick around in my mind for longer, others I forget completely. I never read a book again, so having a clear image from a book I have read in my mind for years to come will make it really stand out for me. These are my most recent favourite reads from the last year or two:

The Bone People – Kerri Hulme

The Street Sweeper – Elliot Perlman

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver

The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach

Tar Baby – Toni Morrison

The Tall Man – Chloe Hooper

Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Classic favourites?


The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), Cats Eye (Atwood), The Diary of Anne Frank, Archy and Mehitabel (Don Marquis), Slaughterhouse 5 (Vonnegut).

Children’s literature favourites?


Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge – Mem Fox

Harold and the Purple Crayon – Crockett Johnson

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll

Winnie the Pooh – A. A. Milne

Enid Blyton (anything, anything, anything).

Current bedside books:


Three Dollars – Elliot Perlman

I am currently reading this, having loved his most recent book, The Streetsweeper. So far this is holding up well. 

Patience and Sarah – Isabel Miller

Next to be read from my favourite list: Feminista’s 100 Great 20th Century Works of Fiction By Women.

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

I’m reading this with Little Fearse at the moment. Though the original copy we were reading completely disappeared, so I’ve had to hunt down a second copy (weirdly, we had two). 

Green Eggs and Ham – Dr Suess

I love reading this aloud and Little Fearse seems to enjoy it, so we keep it close at hand for bed time.

Nursery Treasury – Belinda Gallagher

Another great read aloud full of rhymes and songs. 

In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life – Robert Kegan

On loan from my brother. It’s highly readable and very interesting but I’m making little headway with it. 

Thanks for reading my indulgent post about books. If you’re a blogger you may like to check out Home Life Simplified each Monday for other List Mania prompts.

Mama xox

Mama’s library

I have a constantly rotating library of books. Due to my former (cough cough) addiction to buying second hand books I have a great collection of recent literature and 20th century classics with a particular focus on literature by women. I read book reviews regularly and try to stay aware of what’s good right now and what’s been good in the past. My Mum is also a voracious reader and will often lend or recommend books, as is my sister “in-law”. It might not be a particularly diverse collection, but it is a good quality collection of books.


Recently I went hunting for some books to lend to a member of my Mum’s group. I don’t really know her style yet but I do know that I have a good enough collection to have something in there that she’ll like. I realised that a lot of my favourite books are out on rotation. It makes me really happy to know that my books are read and read and read again. I have only very rarely had a book not returned, or returned so damaged it can no longer be read. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I don’t think that a book is created to be read once then squirrelled away onto a shelf to gather dust. I never read a book twice. There are just too many wonderful books in the world to go back on one, no matter how much I’ve loved it. Passing it on to others is the perfect way of giving that book life over and over again.

Sometimes my books make it very far away. A friend will lend them to a family member or another friend. Even though this does make me feel a little anxious at times, I also recognise that it’s a good thing. It is a way of someone new being introduced to an author or a story that I’ve loved.

I’m not sure that the authors of these books would like to know that one purchase is being read by seven, eight, nine, sometimes ten people. I guess they’d like to sell ten copies of the books instead. Ecologically, this system makes buying books worth my while and it means I get to share the special place these stories create in my heart and mind with many other people.

Do you lend your books? Do you have a particular person you borrow your books from? I find it really interesting hearing how others feel about this issue, because I’ve found most people to be either very passionately for or against lending their books to others.

Keep reading!

Mama xoxo

PS For those who wanted to know how I went with my book voucher dilemma – I bought Light Between the Oceans and NW. I have leant them out already without reading them. I’ve been sadly stuck on Gone With the WInd since NOVEMBER. It’s beginning to drive me crazy. I can’t think of a time a book has taken me this long. Going back to work and having a non-sleeping now toddler gives me very little reading time. Can’t wait for the school holidays to rediscover my reading self.

PPS I have broken my book embargo already – I bought Roald Dahl’s Switch Bitch from an op shop on Friday for BP. I also have plans to buy two books for Little Fearse for her birthday with our remaining voucher. I’m getting this and this. How can I resist?!

The Rainbow Fish

I was reading The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister to my students the other day and it struck me that the lesson in the book can easily be interpreted as pro-minimalist. The fish is advised by the wise octopus to give away one of his most beautiful sparkling scales to each of his friends. It not only wins friends (hmm) but also relieves the fish from his concern about damaging or losing his shiny scales and allows him to frolic with the other fish.
Marcus Pfister is not wrong. Getting rid of stuff does relieve a lot of pressure. Especially if you have an upwardly mobile almost 11 month old baby roaming the house. As such a situation requires, all our dooby-wats and knickey-knacks have been moved off the bottom shelves and out of low flying cupboards. There are a lot of blank patches, once dust free. It gives you an opportunity to imagine life without those shelves of thing-i-mi-bobs that don’t have a purpose. Frankly, I’m not too fussed about that stuff anymore, no matter how cutesy vintage it is. Well, except the vintage Japanese kitten sugar bowl and milk jug. When you pour milk out of the spout it looks like the kitten is spewing. That’s entertainment right there.
Anyhoo, slight stray from topic. The other day some friends were over with their almost two year old son. He wandered off into another room and his Dad raced after him. I called out “Don’t worry if he breaks anything, it just gives us an excuse to get rid of it.” And you know what? It’s true.
As 2-4-1 carries on (current update: 15 in – 82 out ) the decisions are getting harder. We’re having to face the prospect of giving away sentimental objects and things we love for no reason except that they’re beautiful. Our thinking needs to shift even further to accommodate where the challenge is taking us. It’s kind of exciting.

Mama xo