Monday, 30 June 2014

How to Make a BMO Costume- For Cheap!

BMO and Finn from Adventure Time!

The last week here has busy and productive, with the kids making cosplays for Supernova, which is a pop culture convention. My boys decided to go as Finn and BMO from Adventure Time and my daughter dressed up as Nepeta from Homestuck. I'll post more about our fun day there and some info about my other kids costumes later, but BMO was such a hit and lots of people asked to have a photo with Mr 8,  so I thought I'd share a tutorial. The BMO costume is pretty easy to make and suitable for kids to help with. It took about a week to complete but that was mainly to allow time  for the paint to dry between coats, as it's Winter here. This is also a great low cost project and as I had the paint and paper on hand, I only had to purchase the aqua shirt and pants to go underneath, so the costume only cost $10!

To make a BMO costume you will need:

Large rectangle cardboard box (mine was free from Bunnings)
Stanley knife
Masking tape 
White undercoat
Acrylic paints in the colours of; dark aqua  (I used some free sample pots, woo hoo!)
Light aqua
Paint brushes and foam roller (optional)
Black, red, yellow and blue sheets of coloured paper
Glue stick 

1. First tip the box on it's side, so it is a tall rectangle. Then, trace a circle for the head opening on the top of the box. We used a dinner plate plate for reference.

2. Cut the circle out with the Stanley knife. I decided the first circle was too big for my sons head, so I drew a smaller one inside and cut along that one instead.

3. Next draw and cut a square in the opposite end of the box. Make sure it is big enough the body to fit through as this will be how you get the costume off and on.

4. Try the box on to make sure both holes are large enough. If not trim a bit more off the cardboard to make them bigger. As you can see we had to tip the box on it's side to get the desired rectangle shape.

5. Tape the box opening closed with some masking tape. You will need to do this on the inside as well for extra strength.

6. Now trace and cut out a small circle on each side of the box for the arm holes. We used a small plastic bowl for a template. Hubby thought we should use one of the taped up sides as the front as he was worried if we used the part with the tape as the sides, the arm holes would make it not as strong. I have no idea if this is a valid idea or not so it's up to you.

7.  Give the entire box a couple of coats with the white undercoat. Our box originally had black writing on it, so it was important we cover it up first. Then try it on to see if it fits comfortably. At this point you also may want to consider adding some foam to the inside of the box, where it sits on the shoulders. Mr 8 had sore shoulders by the end of the day and I wish I had of done this.

8. Next paint a rectangle with the light aqua colour on the "front" of the box for BMO's face. Give this a couple of coats.

9. Paint the rest of the box with the dark aqua paint. We found this easier to do with a foam roller. This will also need a couple of coats to make the colour nice and even.

10. Outline the face edge with the black paint, this took a couple of attempts and  in hindsight if you have thin black tape, that would probably have been easier. Also pencil in the facial features, then paint them black. Luckily, Miss 15 was home to help! BMO has a kind of a kawaii style face, with the eyes being far apart from each other. It also can have many different mouth expressions so we used Google images for ideas.

11.  Finish outlining the mouth and sketch in some cheeks if you like. I think the rosy cheeks look super cute!

 12. Use the pink paint to finish off the cheeks and tongue. With the white paint to detail the teeth. You can see in this pic the line down the middle of the box, which is where we taped it up. Like I said, you could easily just add the arm holes here and put the face on a flat part of the box instead. This was the part where I cursed myself for listening to my hubby as I don't like the look of the line. Too late now!

13. Paint BMO in black down the sides of each box, using the arms holes as the O. With the actual BMO it is written with the B starting at the top and the O at the bottom but this would be impossible to have your arms fit through comfortable so we reversed it. Also paint a few dots underneath for the speakers.

14. Paint some vents in black, like in this photo.

15. Cut out some shapes from the coloured paper or card, to represent the buttons. Glue them on with the glue stick. Voila! you're done, and ready for an adventure!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

How To Make Butter Blend

It's Winter here, and butter blend time again. What is butter blend? You ask. 

Homemade butter blend ready to use

Its a cheaper, homemade version of butter spread or margarine, but with less preservatives. This is something I've been making for the last couple of years and find it is a great butter substitute. I only buy butter, as I really dislike the chemical taste of margarine but find it solidifies too much in the Winter. Making it near impossible to spread on bread without ripping holes in it!

To make a batch of butter blend you will need:

500g block of butter
300 ml oil of your choice (I prefer the taste of olive oil but vegetable or canola works just as well)

First soften the butter a little. You could do easily this in the microwave. I don't have a microwave (but thats another story,) so place mine in a metal bowl, cover it in cling wrap and place in the sun for a few hours. Whatever you do, don't melt it on the stove top. I tried this and the butter blend turned out gritty and awful. 

Beat the butter

Once the butter is softened, place in a mixing bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until it turns fluffy and pale in colour. Just like making butter cream icing. 

Adding the oil

Next while still mixing, gradually pour in the oil and mix until it comes together. 

Easy as! Then just pour it into containers, and keep in the fridge, ready for use. This butter blend works really well in recipes and can freezes well.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Writing Class

Currently reading Peter Pan

My youngest child, Mr 8, is an absolute bookworm. This kid is an absolute machine. In the last 6 months he has read around 15 books, I'm talking NOVELS not early reader type books. That's not even including the countless comics and graphic novels he has devoured. Anyway despite this love for the written word, he hates writing, with a passion. He complains about it. Every. Single. Day. "I hate writing stories" he says, so we try copy work. "I hate copy work!" But then again I shouldn't be surprised. He is 8 years old, after all, and "hates" doing everything, including schoolwork and chores but loves anything Lord Of The Rings or gaming related. Go figure.

Recently, my Library was holding free kids writing classes to coincide with a local children's writing competition.  I booked my 3  kids in. The classes were all on separate days and times because of the different age groups but, the Library is only a 10 minute drive away so I didn't mind. After all, it was free! 

Miss 15 was quite happy as she is a wonderful writer and was looking forward to going, Mr 12 was very "Meh" about it all, but he also is really improving in his English skills so was ok with it. Mr 8 on the other hand, well, needless to say there was an improvised dramatic performance from him, which I found rather amusing. When this production was over, I let him know that the Library had called to confirm numbers as they were planning on ordering a lunch of pizza for the children to enjoy once the class was over.

I watched my youngest son pause, until he finally replied " pizza?! Well, writing class might be fun..."

It was. The class was facilitated by DJ Stutely, who is the author of a series of young adult novels. She explained the process of writing a story and how it always begins with a setting. 

DJ also discussed characters and how to use dialogue, feeling and emotions in a story and provided the kids with some story mapping worksheets. 

Mr 8, was so engaged and involved. Every time I looked over at him he was writing furiously which is a far cry from the struggle of writing at home.  

Writing with no complaints! It's a miracle!

He came up with a really great story about a magical snowman (he's been obsessed with snowmen for the last few years) and has entered this short story into a local kids writing competition. By the end of the class the children had come up with some amazing and interesting stories and then enjoyed some pizza and soft drink.

Free pizza!

Meeting Morris Gleitzman

I mentioned in my previous post that we go to a lot of free events, held at our local Library. Well, last week my eldest children and I attended a meet and greet with acclaimed children's author Morris Gleitzman. My kids were pretty excited to meet him having read his collaborations with Paul Jennings. 

Q and A time with Morris Gleitzman
Gleitzman was here to promote his new book Loyal Creatures, which is based on a 20 minute play also written by the author.  He bought with him an actor who performed the monologue. It is an amazingly, heart wrenching tale of a 16 yr youth, turned, Light Horseman who was sent off to war. The performance was outstanding and there was was hardly a dry eye in the room as the exceptional actor (whose name evades me) bought the character of Frank to life. Morris said the play and book was inspired by the War Horse by Michael Morpurgo, except his story tells the other side of what happened to other horses after the war. Here is the script for Morris' play Loyal Creatures
If you are interested. Try and read that without getting emotional!

Afterwards there was a Q & A with Gleitzman in which he was asked many questions, mostly by young children relating to one of his previous books which was titled Bumface. It was really great to hear him talk about his other books and I'm looking forward to reading some of his work. Afterwards Moriss signed copies of his books and we all enjoyed  a free supper of cheese, crackers, cold meat and dips.  It was a definitely a great frugal night out!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Frugal Ways To Have Fun

Hubby helping R make a wooden sword at an free festival

When we first began to stick to a strict budget, I immediately wondered what would we do for fun, knowing that our income would be slashed and that there would be very little money left over for entertainment. Previously when I was working and not counting every dollar, I justified my spending habits, as most of us do, because I missed out on quality time with my kids. The time I did spend with them I wanted to be fun, making up for the times I wasn't around. On the weekend, when I was home we would often go out for a meal, ice skating, to the movies or on other equally expensive outings. Easily spending more than a hundred dollars each time! Sometimes we would browse game stores, never once leaving empty handed. My kids loved doing all of these things, of course, what kid is not going to love Mum offering to buy them random material objects? 

It then became my mission (okay, I may have been slightly obsessed) to find free outings to keep my family amused. After all, there's only a certain amount of time that can be spent playing boardgames at home! I vaguely remembered bookmarking a page called Weekend Notes which looked interesting, so I checked it out. It is a great website where you can find out what's on in your state. We have been to heaps of free family events that have been listed on here, and I continue to check it regularly. Here are some of the other free events or outings I found out about.

Learning to make soy wax candles out the Library
The humble Library is also a wonderful wealth of entertainment options, most of which I was previously unaware of. Yes, you can borrow books- but also magazines, DVD's, graphic novels, audio and E-books as well as you can get free access to the internet. My library also run regular free craft workshops, historical talks, kids programs and classes. 

 I also discovered that local councils often run free activities so I looked into these. This year my boys have been attending a free Hip Hop dance class once a week, at a local community centre run by my council. These classes would normally cost around $150 each child, per term. I have also attended the gym at the rec centre the last 2 months, thanks to some free passes. My council also held regular free festivals and Summer outdoor open air movies that we have attended. Back in February a neighbouring council held a carnival, with free rides and a concert performance from Australian band Sneaky Sound System. My teenagers acted like complete fan girls at this event, it was hilarious!

We were spitting distance from the amazing Sneaky Sound System!

 Of course, there are also plenty of free events advertised in the local paper like Fete's and Open Days and as much as I detest shopping centres, they will quite often have free activities during school holidays. Last year we went to LEGO exhibition which the kids loved! The Art gallery and Museum are the source of a free day out, as are a picnic in a park, visit to the beach or bush walk.

Meeting a giant LEGO man was a hit!
Bunnings Warehouse stores also run free kids workshops on the weekends and family nights on occasions like Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day. We regularly attend these and in particular the family nights are amazing! Masters Home Improvement held a fabulous Christmas party last year, but of course these would vary from store to store. I'd recommend giving them a call to find out.

Having access to so many free events is great, and quite often we are spoilt for choice. It's a rare occasion these days that we do something that actually costs money! And now as a reformed spender, knowing that there are so many things we can do for free, having to pay for an event is done almost begrudgingly!

Do you go to any free classes or events run by your local council?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Remeniscing and Zucchini Chocolate Cake Recipe

Last weekend was a long weekend and a busy one in my household and was spent catching up on jobs that had been neglected. Lately, I've been preoccupied writing articles and this takes up a lot of my time so the housework has really suffered.

We are also in the process of doing a front yard makeover, and had some gravel delivered. I spent most of  Saturday spreading the 4.5 ton of gravel over our yard which was a great workout. I was pretty pleased with my body's ability to keep going and am very thankful for the free council passes I've been using to visit a local gym twice a week and I think this definitely helped my stamina. The yard is now almost done and when it's completed I'll write a post and add some before and after photos.

Sunday was spent catching up with the washing, general cleaning and tidying. Luckily I have 2 teens who are able bodied and despite their wishes to remain on the couch and watch music videos. After some yelling and a brief lecture on relevant English proverbs like "A job shared, is a job halved" and  "Many hands make light work" they were convinced cleaning sounded like a good idea.

I decided that after all of the weekend's work, Monday would be spent doing what I wanted to do, and not what needed to be done. So, I spent most of the day baking. Cooking and baking is my happy place. It relaxes me and calms my soul. A few years ago I was lucky enough to work as a Kitchen Specialist for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program and I have fond memories of that time spent teaching children to cook. The school I worked at was in a low socioeconomic area, and many of the children had limited awareness of  fresh fruits and vegetables. This certainly led to some challenges as in fitting with the program's philosophy, the children grew and harvested the crops and then we used them in the recipes. We would then all sit down at dining tables set by the children and eat. Most of the kids really enjoyed it and I would encourage the children to try the foods, but there were always a couple of kids that were too used to their standard fare of processed foods who would refuse to eat. After a while these children did try the food, and even ate some salad! Which was a great breakthrough.

I'll never forget the day I had a 9 year old student came up to me and said "Thank you Miss, for teaching me how to cook. Now at night when mum and dad go out to the pub, I can cook my little sister and me dinner." Wow.

So enough of the reminiscing. Here is one of the recipes, I cooked over the weekend. It was a kitchen class favorite and is an easy and cheap recipe, ideal for using up any excess zucchini. You can barely taste the green vegetable in this cake, but it does give it a lovely moist texture.

Zucchini Chocolate Cake Recipe


Half  Cup butter
1 and a half  Cups sugar
2 eggs
Quarter Cup milk
2 and a half Cups self raising flour
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
Half a teaspoon salt
2 Cups grated zucchini


1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. 
2. Gradually add in the eggs, one at a time.
3. Now mix in the milk and vanilla, then add the dry ingredients.
4. Stir in the grated zucchini.
5. Mix well, until it is all combined.
6. Grease a cake pan, and pour in the cake mixture.
7. Bake in a preheated oven of 160 degrees for 45 minutes.

Let it cool in the pan completely, before turning out on to a rack. 

When cold you can dust with icing sugar or if you prefer, cover with chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing Recipe

1 Cup icing mixture
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 Tablespoon milk


Combine all ingredients into a bowl and stir until well mixed.

Spread over the cooled cake and serve.