My amazing, beautiful, creative friend Bonnie lives in a Sydney with her husband Dan and their two little girls. She runs a photography business from home, her husband works long hours, and she is pregnant their third baby, yet, somehow she still has the cleanest kitchen of anyone I know. And her kids get plenty of time to play outside.
Bonnie’s apartment is an oasis. She has a lovely leafy fig tree in her lounge room, potted succulents on her windowsills and dried plants on display around the house. And she’s always happy to put the kettle on and sit down for a chat. So that's exactly what I did this week (although this time via Skype) and I asked her for a bit of insight into how she does it all. I hope you’re ready to be inspired.
On living in Sydney
I live on the north shore of Sydney, quite close to a main highway, in an apartment of about nine units that was built in the 1940s. I live with my husband Daniel, Poppy who is three, Georgie who is one and we have another baby on the way.
We love living in Sydney. It’s exciting, daunting, busy and very diverse.
On getting outside to play
Our rule of thumb is that we go out every day. If I go out once a day, I’m happy. If we don't get outside, we do have a little bit of grass near the clothesline, I can take the girls down there in the afternoon. Or when Daniel gets home I send them down there with him. They can have dessert outside or have dinner outside and that gives them a chance to run around.
On apartment living
It’s such a tight space. We also live on the top floor so if we don’t get out I notice the girls are soon thumping around. Georgie still naps so if we get outside in the morning it means that Poppy will have some quiet time and I can have a rest. If we stay inside, it isn't like that at all. We are all on top of each other and no one gets a break. So the strategy is to get outside and tucker them out, as well as make the most of the sunshine.
On Sydney weather
We are pretty lucky. The summers aren't super hot. And the winters are mild. So you can get around year round without having to wear a heavy coat. Sydney’s weather means you can get out most days without too much worry.
On things that make it hard
Our biggest challenges are stairs and parking. I buy our groceries online so I don't have to go to all that effort to get down the stairs and to the car and end up only inside in the supermarket. It’s harder work now that I’m pregnant, but I know we just need to plan and be strategic. We have a pram in each of our cars so we don't need to unpack them each time or carry it up the stairs.
Our favourite places to play
We love the Incinerator Park in Willoughby, Woorongah Park, Clifton Gardens, and Sydney beaches. Balmoral is the particularly great beach for kids.
One of the other places we go to often is Taronga Zoo. We bought a pass this year and there was a deal when we did, so we got some bonus children’s passes which we gave to the girls’ cousins. We go there and just hang out. They have a lovely playground, water play, a petting zoo, animals and the most amazing view of the harbour.
A rule of thumb for me, as a mum, is that wherever we go, there has to be a cafe. A park for the kids and a good coffee for me.
What’s do we pack to eat outside?
Cheese and Vegemite sandwiches, strawberries, blueberries, bananas and grapes. And I’m eating a BAE role and a flat white, of course.
On growing up wild
I actually grew up in Seattle with two older sisters. I feel like my parents were pretty lenient. We had a group of neighbourhood kids, we called ourselves 'the neighbourhood gang'. There were no phones and no parents telling us that we couldn't go anywhere we wanted. There were woods and ravines and so we would trek for hours. We had a dog that roamed free with us as well. These days what our parents let us do would be called negligence. But for us it was wonderful. I think naturally a child wants to explore and it's just that we were allowed to, so we did. We used to go blackberry picking. There was a lot of rain is Seattle but it didn't really stop us. We had to play outside, even in the wet so we just jumped in puddles and played in the mud. My sisters and I still call those years our golden years. We had our woods, we had our ravine and we had our freedom. On some days, I think we even ended up in a different suburb.
The best piece of advice for apartment living…
One big tip I have is stock your boot. If you’re not well prepared living in an apartment, you’ll stay inside. I keep a towel, nappies, wipes, a bucket and spade, their scooters and a blanket in the car. Even if you can’t do that, having it all in a basket by the door makes it easier.
On indoor nature
I love to have living plants around. It’s a way to bring the outdoors in. Something about having life growing around you is really enriching. I talk to my plants as I water them, and so the girls do to. They carry their little teacups around and water the plants like mummy.
I never stop the girls from bringing sticks, leaves or seedpods inside. I even have a little mat and I let them put their treasures there.
We also have lots of books about nature at our place. And because of what we read Poppy will say, ‘Mummy what’s the name of that bird?, Whats the name of that insect?’
I find that having that inspiration for nature when you’re inside fosters the love of it when you’re outside.
Your favourite books?
We like Gecko press, the Big Book of Animals of the World. We also like ‘I spy’ books. We read books to Poppy and now when we are outside, I ask her, ‘What can you see?’ ‘What can you collect?’ And she is happy to go and explore.
Thanks for having us, Bonnie!
All photos by Bonnie Maher, except family photo by Sam Riles Photography.
Check out this amazing nature playground in Sydney.
You might also like these articles: 10 tips to help you get outdoors with your kids more often and Six ways to get outside when you live in the city.
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Bonnie Maher also did an online class with us in 2021, which you can purchase here.