Family life

It’s done! – Refinishing a 1950s maple dressing table

A few weeks ago I found this 1950s maple veneer dressing table in a local Vinnies.

I’d been looking for a chest of drawers for Sera for some time and at only $15 I had to snap these up.

The lighting in the shop was so poor that I thought the drawers were painted brown. But when I got them home I realised they were varnished.

The drawers were very scratched and it looked like nail polish remover had been spilt in one area, completely removing the finish.

The first thing I did was remove the mirror.

I used a stripper to remove the old varnish. Here’s everything out in the sun drying after I washed the last of the stripper off.

Then it was time to sand, sand, sand.

Alisi’s Daddy used the power tools to do the bulk of the sanding. However, it was a joint effort to hand sand everything ready for varnishing.

I finished the drawers with three coats of clear varnish.

I’ve retained the original handles for now. They’re a bit pitted, but I quite like their shape.

I haven’t decided whether to refinish the mirror stand. It seems a shame to split it from its base, but the mirrored part doesn’t really fit into Sera’s room. What do you think?

Family life

An upgrade for Sera’s Correctio brace

When Sera was first fitted with her Correctio brace, the orthotist covered the rubber with some stretchy tubes of bandage-type fabric. You can see it in the picture when it was new.

However, after five weeks of wear the fabric was had pretty much given up. It wouldn’t stay put on the brace so the rubber was chafing Sera’s chubby little thighs, and the sticky tabs on Sera’s nappies stuck to it and caused it to fray.

When I found out that Sera would have to be in the brace for at least another five weeks I decided it was time to take action and make some better covers for the brace.

And here they are…simple tubes made out of fabric from an old t shirt. I added ribbons to the top so they could be tied to the brace to stop them slipping down. The basic measurement for each tube is a 20cm x 9cm rectangle of fabric – not including seam and hem allowances.

Here they are fitted to the brace.

They are working really well. They’re nice and soft on Sera’s thighs, the little bows look kind of cute, and I made a second set so they can be washed.


Sera was diagnosed with developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) soon after birth. Ultrasound at five weeks confirmed that her left hip was particularly severe with only 3% coverage so she was whisked into a Pavlik harness.

After five weeks in the Pavlik harness it was found that it was improving things, but not fast enough. So she was upgraded to the Correctio brace.

Sera has been in her Correctio brace for five weeks now and her hips have improved significantly. Cross fingers that another five weeks will do it.

I’m very much looking forward to the day she doesn’t have to wear the brace, but it’s only a bit of short term pain for a long term gain. The brace makes her a bit awkward to hold but she certainly hasn’t missed out on any cuddles because of it!

Family life, Flowers in the house

Flowers in the house – spring buds and lemons

Being the middle of winter here, the flowers are few and far between. But we’ll soon be enjoying beautiful Spring blooms.

I regularly pass an unloved roadside tree on my afternoon walks. The poor tree has fallen over and is crowded by dark pines but is soldiering on and about to cover itself with thousands of blossoms.

I snipped these branches with buds about to pop and they precariously balanced on top of the pram for the rest of the walk home.

The lemons are from my mother’s garden. And the dish full of pebbles is courtesy of Alisi’s current pebble collecting obsession.

Take a look at some more flowers in other houses at Small but Charming.

Family life

Spring is coming

Even though we’re in the dead of winter here in the Southern Highlands I’ve noticed signs of Spring being just around the corner.

And here is the proof – a brave flower showing its face on the flowering plum in the back yard.

And look at all those other flower buds! They can’t be far from popping as well.

When I was at school down here I used to look forward to seeing the flowering plums in bloom because it meant that the chilly winter was coming to an end.


Family life


I’ve just started taking Alisi and Sera on afternoon walks around the neighbourhood. Alisi treats each walk as a stone collecting expedition – she calls them seeds.

All the gravel driveways are a treasure trove and she selects one stone from each driveway to take home as a souvenir.

Yesterday she hit pay dirt. She spied a garden bed in a front yard mulched with these large white pebbles.

She made a run for it – and ducked up the driveway to collect one of them, coming back giggling in breathless kiddy excitement.

Family life

Winterfest in Bundanoon

It was a spur of the moment decision to check out the opening night street party for Winterfest 2012 in Bundanoon.

The timing was right. Starting at 5pm, we could spend an hour or two there and still be home in time to get Alisi to bed at a decent hour. 

And we’re so glad we made the effort!

Braziers were set up down the middle of the main street.

Bundanoon kids must be brought up tough. If this was in Sydney, I’m sure some do-gooder would have had them done away with – worrying that precious little fingers might get burned.

We had curry and paella from the food stalls and enjoyed every last bite. Eating outside in the cold made it taste extra good.

Alisi had a ball dancing to the beats of Chris Gudu and his African Township Band, and was kept busy keeping an eye out for the stilt walkers and hula hoopers.

Sera slept through the lot, despite the bustle and noise, and being parked right in front of the thumping speakers!

Family life

It’s time for warm winter pyjamas

As the weather cools down it’s time to think about warm winter pyjamas again.

Last winter I made two pairs of pyjamas for Alisi using the Oliver + S Bedtime Story Pyjamas pattern.

A very cute pattern that made Alisi look like she was heading off for a karate lesson.

The blue and green flannelette fabrics were purchased from Lincraft.

The trim on the blue pyjamas is a hibiscus print fabric purchased in Suva, Fiji.

The trim on the green pyjamas is Riley Blake Love Birds Swirls in Blue.

Unfortunately Alisi has grown out of this set of pyjamas and this year has had to settle for some from Target.

Maybe she’ll have better luck next year!

Family life

And it’s winter

Well hello! Winter is here in Sydney so it was time to pull out the sewing machine and whip up a warm dress for Alisi.

Here it is in action at the park this morning.

The pattern is Oliver + S Music Box Jumper. I made view B, with just a single inverted box pleat down the front. I thought the box pleats all round of view A might be a bit overwhelming for a little ‘un.

The fabric is some dark blue corduroy I got from Lincraft.

There is a row of buttons all down the back.

I need to find a better source of buttons. The selection at Lincraft is dismal!

Family life

Project ReStyle: An old skirt into cute kiddy pants

This is a project I’ve been planning for a-g-e-s!

I kept this old bias cut skirt because I liked the soft fabric. The elastic waistband died ages ago and I never bothered to repair it because Alisi’s Daddy didn’t really like it.

So this weekend I turned it into a pair of pants for Alisi.

I used the Oliver + S Sailboat Pants pattern.

To continue the recycling theme I used some odd buttons I had for the front fastening. I think the mismatch looks kinda cute!

Here’s a bigger pic of the cute new pants.

And here’s a gratuitous pic of my photographic assistant “helping” during the “before” photo shoot. She thought I’d laid it on the floor as a special crawling mat just for her.

Family life

A new budget

Image courtesy of Flickr member Niels Linneberg licenced via
Creative Commons

Daycare, rebates, nappies and a bit more household income…

Part of “Project Return to Work” had to be a revamp of our household budget.

I use my bucket method for managing our money. There are three basic buckets (bank accounts) as follows.

Bucket 1:
Everyday expenses
Bucket 2:
Fixed expenses
Bucket 3:
Used for: Groceries, petrol, eating out, etc. Utility bills, medical expenses, public transport, holidays, car maintenance, etc. Savings goals
Type of account: Transactional Online (earning some interest) Bonus saver

Our pay is deposited directly in to each of the buckets.

I’ve found that we control our spending quite well with this method. The everyday expenses can be the most variable, but with only a limited amount of cash in there, we’re forced to stop spending when the bucket is empty.

With Alisi in daycare, we have some new expenses – never before seen in Alisi’s household:
– daycare (including government rebates)
– disposable nappies for daycare (so far we’ve cloth nappied Alisi for the most part)
– lottery tickets (you’ve gotta be in it to win it!).

There’s nothing like having to leave your baby in daycare five days a week to focus the mind on saving the money you make for specific goals. We’re planning to upgrade to a house this year – so every spare cent will be squirrelled away.

What about you? Do you have a budget? If you do, how do you make sure you stick to it?