DIY blast furnace


How to make simple diy backyard blast furnace/forge
Note: This project requires very close adult supervision.

Old vacuum cleaner
Pipe to fit inside vacuum hose
Electrical tape
Safety glasses

1. Build up a base hearth and sides with the bricks- stack them closely together – support the outside by pushing sand against it.
2. Important: set up vacuum to blow not suck. Attach the pipe to your vacuum hose with electrical tape, then push the pipe into a gap in the bricks towards the base of the hearth.
3. Start a small fire inside hearth. Sprinkle on top of fire with charcoal and turn on vacuum on low setting, when fire is able to sustain the extra airflow.
4. Keep adding charcoal from the top – be sure to wear your safety glasses.
5. With parental supervision – add steel rods and sand and practice your blacksmithing – using safety equipment to remove and add steel to fire.



Kids make a video

Its school holidays and the kids have been wondering what to do – with me working at home, they have been doing their own thing. Reading books, playing video games, and getting the craft box out. Their current obsession is Harry Potter – they have seen the movies, listened to the audio books and now are reading them on their own. So naturally their craft projects also are all about Harry and Voldemort.

Otilija (10 yrs) designed and made the puppets and wrote the script and directed the play. Orlando (8 yrs) played along. Rob filmed them – it only took a few takes – some fiddling with the script and then they edited it a little on the mac before uploading it to youtube. They loved the whole process and are now very excited of course to be on the internet – and to make more productions – they can’t wait to share the video with all their classmates when they go back to school.

So without further ado – here is their little production … its very straightforwardly called ‘Voldy gets bashed’

family chooks

We have backyard chooks and we get such a lot of joy from them. Firstly we love to eat their eggs, and can tell which chook has laid which egg – the small brown speckled eggs, vs the big white eggs and its not who you might expect! We now have seven chooks, 5 red ones – and they are just called the red ones – they hang together like a gang, there is one that is more adventurous than the others but they all help each other. The 2 older chooks – I think they must nearly 4 years old by now are a white leghorn and a speckled wyandotte. Speck is our favourite – she is independent and quiet and while not shy she is not aggressive either. The white one is called the ‘racer’ she used to be one half of the ‘racing twins’ but her sister was killed by a dog. Here are three of our girls pictured below – aren’t they beautiful?

Having chooks in our lives has meant a few things for us – firstly we don’t waste any food – the chooks eat all the scraps – dinner plate scraping and vegie peelings – everything – even bacon rinds and the fatty bits from meat. It is very gratifying being able to recycle your leftover food into eggs. And not just any eggs – these eggs are rich and golden and beautiful to eat and cook with. Eggs have become a major part of our diet – we eat eggs for breakfast at least 3 times a week – and when we have an abundant supply we do a lot of baking – sponge cakes, pavlova and lemon butter – yum yum. But also its nice to have eggs to give away – to neighbours and friends – we sometimes swap them for fresh lemons or other garden produce. It feels good to be able to have something worthy to give.

And on top of all those benefits, nothing can beat how much the kids love the chooks. They get so much joy and learning from them. From when they are born to when they die and everything in between – their eggs, their eating patterns and their personalities – its all an important topic of discussion. If you don’t yet have a couple of chooks yet – please get some straight away.

cooking apple pie with kids

Cooking apple pie with kids needs a certain attitude – you have to be prepared to let go of any ideas of organisation and minimal mess making. But once you have done that (and closed your eyes to the dough being eaten and dropped multiple times on the floor – just remember its going to be cooked), then making apple pie with kids can be quite a fun and freeing experience.

Once kids peels and cores the apples – with the help of the apple slinky gadget (you need to get one of these), while the other makes the dough – lots of tastings involved along the way and a big mess to clear up at the end. But the joy and bonding that has occurred is priceless! [Jon you have to give this a go - lots of apples get eaten before getting cooked - its healthy!]

Scooting with your kids

I recently bought myself and Liam (my now 4 year old son) scooters. I got a Razor Pro, and he got a Razor A. They are so much fun.

Previously he had a three wheel scooter, which he was quite happy with, and hadn’t asked for a new scooter. But I thought it would be a great idea for us both to get one so that we could scoot together. I bought them both at the same time, and started using mine immediately and kept his a secret to be given at Christmas. It was his BIG present. You know, the one that they are supposed to be completely impressed by.

So on Christmas morning we did the big reveal and he opened up the wrapping on the big scooter box and looked at the picture on the outside and said “oh, I already have a scooter Dad.” So I tried to convince him that it actually was a very cool present. But he was much more interested in the other presents that we had given him and Henry. I have to say that I was a little disappointed.

It turns out that the scooter was more of a slow burn present for him. By the end of the day he was scooting all around the house and having a blast. He had even commented to Henry ‘This is the best thing EVER!’

Since then, we have been going on regular scoots around the neighbourhood, and his scooting stamina has increased dramatically. One of the adventures that we do sometimes on a weekend is to scoot parallel to the trams on some quiet suburban streets until Liam gets tired, and then catch the tram back to our house for lunch. His balance has improved really quickly and now he is doing long glides on downhill stretches and has figured out how to use the back foot brake too.

Lots of fun. I recommend you get one.

its a plan: lists by an almost 10 year old girl

The other day I sent my almost 10 year old daughter in to clean her room – an hour of quiet later and it was still a mess – however she had achieved a very good list – here it is… [pic is the same girl - different day - industriously making a cubby house at the front door]


1. clean my room
2. get shortbread if I can
3. asc if I can go to Ellie’s house
4. go to Ellie’s house
5. or not go to Ellie’s house
6. spy on orlando

Plan to clean my room
1. put my douty clothes in the bascet
2. put the dress upps in the dres up box
3. put milo’s [cat] things in a sepet [separate] area
4. make the beds / put the toys away
5. put the shoos away
6. pick up the rubish
7. get a broom – use the broom
8. pick up the books
9. sort out the soft and the hard toys
10. sort the clothes out / hang the dresses
11. clean the cuberds
12. get all of the xtra things out of my room

plan for spying
1. camera
2. camera batteries
3. spi bag
4. diracshens [directions]
5. magnifying glass
6. food
7. xtra shortbread

kids and summer: 10 things to do

Summer is here – the school holidays are about to begin – endless days are ahead. If you are lucky enough to be by the beach then your summer is already planned – days swimming, fishing, building sand castles and finding treasure are at hand. You might be planning on spending a week or 2 at the beach (like us – can’t wait) but what about the rest of the time? what will you do with the kids over the summer?

Here are 10 things I have planned for me and the kids (school age kiddos) (after we get back from the beach) over the summer break…

1. bike riding in the pine forest – taking our bikes and a picnic and heading into the forest for some adventure.
2. another bike adventure closer to home – doing a bike tour of all the parks and play areas in our neighborhood – and there are few – again snacks are essential – as is a trip to the shops for icecreams on the way home.
3. speaking of icecream – we will be doing our share of making some these holidays – a new icecream machine will make this even easier than ever. The kids love to spend time in the kitchen – so I will be letting them have it with minimal supervision.
4. the kitchen is a great place for experimentation but so is the outdoors – and after reading George’s marvelous medicine (by Roald Dahl) recently the kids have been making a few concoctions of their own – just stay out of my perfume please!
5. reading naturally is big on our list - the fave books of the moment are: the classics – Faraway tree and the enchanted forest by Enid Blyton are going through a revival in our house, but the kids are both obsessed with Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s books – ‘the bad book’ is on the christmas list and ‘the just’ series of books which are hilarious and terrible all at the same time.
6. bug collection is pretty big in our house at the moment too – the kids both have a pet spider they feed occasionally by catching flys for them – we have a worm farm we need to repopulate and an ant farm which might get another go as well.
7. you may have noticed there are not many outings on this list – I am a bit of a homebody and like to stay put in the holidays especially if its just me and the kids – we will visit some friends of course – but the only outings are likely to be to the pool or to the adventure park – we might even make it to the museum – but more than likely its into the city for a ride on the merry-go-round and a giant iced chocolate.
8. this one is for the dads – I am not big on fishing but the kids love it – and it does have its meditative and exciting moments – so rob is planning on taking the kids fishing to the river or lake a couple of times – might even put the canoe out and make a day of it with the family.
9. a girls weekend in the city and a boys weekend in the country. Yup thats right – separate excursions for some quality time – I am going to take my girl for some shopping, sightseeing and gallery going for the weekend to Sydney and Rob is going to take the boy camping in the bush – some rabbit snaring, fire lighting and star gazing is on their agenda.
10. Crafts, boardgames and drawing are also on our agenda – we love to play cards, do jigsaw puzzles and play blokus (our new favourite game) – then there is lego and science and electronic kits (we love to make fake blood and dress up), and play cluedo. We also have an ever growing craft box filled with glue, glitter, recycled cardboard boxes and toilet rolls, paints, sticky tape, beads, string, wool, scissors, fancy scissors, icypole sticks, wire … the list goes on – we get this huge box out and just get making – it usually ends up in some sort of puppet show at the end – lots of fun. And drawing too – this can be quite meditative and personal or can turn into a huge group project – we have rolls of butchers paper which we sometimes unravel on the floor or kitchen table and make a huge mural piece all together.

Try some of our ideas or tell us what you will be doing – we would love some new ideas too.

my 10 favourite things for kids to do

Originally posted at on 4th of July

School holidays are soon to be upon us – or are already in some parts of the world – for me its winter and for others its summer. Whatever season though – if you have kids you will need to think of some activities to keep them occupied. Here are my top 10 activities for kids to do in the holidays. These are things that 6 year olds and up can do without a lot of supervision – although there will always be questions and chatter. And best of all these activities are bound to keep them occupied for longer than an hour.


1. Reading and drawing takes up a lot of my kids time and I like to enable this by providing interesting drawing materials – nice pencils, fancy crayons, and lovely books.

2. I love sewing and usually my kids like to have a go if they think it looks fun – my daughter especially is into making her own clothes and with my recent sewing machine acquisition I was able to pass on my old machine to her. Why not let your kids experiment with making some costumes or dressing up the family cat.

3. Felting is another fun family craft – we went through a bit of a felting craze for a while – and the kids loved it – why not let them try needle felting or making some simple felt balls even felted soap – such a lot of messy clean fun.

4. Playing shop is a major favourite activity in our house – give them some materials to really make it authentic. Collect empty food packaging, cardboard boxes – they can even make their own currency.

5. puppets, masks and other dressup / theatrical opportunities can last all day. My kids are now directing their own movies using the digital camera. Hilarious.

6. Playdough has always been popular in our house – we make it ourselves and playing with warm fresh playdough is so tactile and nice. We have graduated slightly from this and now the kids beg me to let them play with real dough so they can bake funny shaped cookies and then eat them.

7. Paper crafts are also popular – give kids some recycled paper, scissors and glue and just sit back and watch. If you want to direct them or give them some creative ideas – try making flowers, boats, paper dolls and a doll house to go with.

8. The shower curtain playmat is a great idea – we do a papier mache version – making cubby houses and pretend houses – whatever your skill level as a parent – getting your kids to use their imagination and crafty skills will keep them happily busy for hours -

9. A yarn craze has entered our house – with competitions running for the longest finger knitting. We are doing 1 finger knitting, whole hand finger knitting, French knitting and are about to move onto bigger loom knitting projects.

10. Getting outdoors – this is a must no matter what the whether. Collecting leaves, stones and bits of bark to make things with later – try rock painting, bark boats and nature collage. So many possibilities.

5 things to do in Melbourne with 2 little boys

When I am looking after the boys, I am always looking for things to do. I make sure I prepare for these adventures with plenty of fruit, sandwiches, crackers and drinks. My boys are big fruititarians. The first time I was stuck somewhere with a hungry 1 year old, I decided to never do that again.

Go to the Melbourne Zoo

My boys love this – always something different to see – I like to mix it up and spend quality time with a couple of different animals in a different part of the zoo each time – Liams favourite at the moment is the tigers. We have just recently been spending some time with the the Great Apes too. They are a lot of fun to watch. With an annual family pass this makes return visits to the zoo very economical, and a lot less stressful. I don’t feel like we need to see everything to get the value for our pass.

Melbourne Museum

We always start with the forest exhibit here. They love it. It is clearly a sign that we need to do more camping… After the forest, my boys love the interactive kids area here. It is extremely popular with stay at home mums and gets very busy on school holidays. Its a really good, safe and interesting place for the kids to explore while you meet your friends for coffee. And is interesting for adults too – the kids area is fabulous, but so are some of the other areas – especially the bugs – with its live ant and cockroach farms – what more could kids possibly want – great for rainy days too – and the 96 tram stops right out front.

Tram ride to St Kilda

My boys love riding the tram so heading out to st kilda for the day is pretty fun. once you get past the tourist coffee shops and head to the boulevard, the beach, the sand the open spaces for the kids to run and feel the wind in their face. Also the st kilda luna park is pretty exciting for them – there are rides for all age groups – its free to go in – you just pay for the rides you want – from the old fashioned merry-go-round to the pretty hairy rickety old roller coaster with views over the sea.

A bike ride along the Merri Creek trail

This is such a beautiful path, and is really a lot of fun to ride along. We ride with a bike trailer, which is occasionally a bit awkward as there are some quite narrow spots. But, there are some great things to see for boys. Our favourite spot is Coburg Lake, which is this beautiful little valley nestled on one side by a cliff and the lake, and on the other by a steep wooded slope. They really love playing with the ducks and running away from the geese (closely supervised, I am really not sure about those geese…) And there is a great little playground too.

Swimming at the pool

Coming into summer, we have just started occasionally swimming at the pool in nice weather, and we have also signed up for weekly swimming lessons. I am quite excited about that. When we are at the pool, Liam loves to walk around and do splashing and show me how he does his favourite thing. Henry mostly likes me to hold him and to help him float along (but not on his back!). After an hour of being in the pool, they are both exhausted and ready for lunch.

If you have any other things that they like to do around your city with your kids, I would love to hear about them in the comments.

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