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I'm a nomadic mama with four lovely daughters. We're travelling Australia in a small housebus — meeting inspiring people, learning lots and re-thinking everything. I feel passionately about travel, good design, alternative education and conscious parenting.

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25 August 2014, 19:40

On our children’s birthdays, I interview them, asking them the same set of questions each year. This allows us to see how they’re changing and if they have interests that remain the same. I call these the Birthday Interviews.

Lauren Bissett Fisher and Brioni Elise Fisher, August 2014
Brioni's eight, and I'm 37.

What are you going to do when you grow up?
I’m going to live in a treehouse.

What’s that going to be like?
Really fun! I’m going to have a pet dog and a pet horse. I want to have the horse because I don’t want to have a car.

What are your favourite toys?
My wolf toy, my creeper and my seal.

Who are your best friends?
Satria and Tali.

What makes you happy?
Shadow [her pet rat].

What makes you sad?
I don’t know.

When you dream at night, what do you dream about? Can you remember any of your dreams?
Shadow having babies.

What do you like to do with Lauren?
Play silly games.

What’s your favourite colour?
Black.

What’s your favourite book?
Billie B Brown.

What does Lauren do during the day?
Well, she plans all our trips.

What do you do during the day?
Play!

What do you want to learn or do or visit before your next birthday?
I want to see snow, and I want to learn how to read more.

Want to see how she’s changed (or not)? You can read Brioni’s interviews when she turned seven, six, five, four and three. (You can access the rest of our girls’ birthday interviews here.)

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24 August 2014, 22:53

We’re thrilled to be celebrating Brioni’s eighth birthday party at the home of close friends in Melbourne, Victoria. After spending several months here earlier this year, this feels like home, and we’re surrounded by a wider group of friends who joined us today for a very special vegan birthday party.

Hagai Erman and the vegan birthday cake — a carved watermelon — for Brioni's 8th birthday, August 2014
Our friend Hagai has created a masterpiece in carving Brioni's name in a watermelon and then decorating it with fresh fruit! He says that although this is sensational, it is the simplest birthday cake he has ever made — it took less than an hour instead of the usual five hours of baking and decorating.

Hagai is a “foodie”. I have a special knack of attracting people into our lives who love to talk about, shop for and prepare elaborate dishes. So when I called him up last month and explained that we would be in Melbourne for Brioni’s birthday, Hagai was delighted to organise a special menu to cater to Brioni’s vegan sensibilities as well as more conventional tastes!

Vegan lollies and treats at Brioni's 8th birthday party, August 2014
Brioni fills bowls with vegan treats that we bought yesterday. Although when we purchased the lollies yesterday, I thought we were getting them just for her to eat (and set them aside so her sisters wouldn't access them), Brioni chose to open the packets and serve them up for her friends at today's party.

Carved watermelon cake at Brioni's vegan birthday party, August 2014
Brioni's friends and sisters have kept her out of the kitchen all afternoon, so the "cake" is a total surprise — and delight!

We almost had a tragic moment in the kitchen earlier when the cake was half-finished. Lana rushed at Hagai to hug his leg, and — in responding to her — his arm knocked the partially-carved watermelon into the sink where a mug neatly sliced off the letter “B”. Thankfully, toothpicks saved the day as they pinned the “B” back into place, and the mishap was never noticed by the birthday girl or any other party-goer save the witnesses in the kitchen!

Ana Strawberry painting Brioni's face, August 2014
Ana brings out her face-paints and, starting with Brioni, fulfills each child's particular request.

Brioni with a wolf face-paint, August 2014
Brioni is currently enamoured with wolves, and when she sees the wolf-face Ana has painted on her, she's thrilled!

Children with their faces painted by Ana Strawberry, August 2014
I love the versatility and creativity demonstrated in the variety of looks within the whole face-painted gang! (Not all the children who came to Brioni's party — including Aisha — wanted to have their faces painted.)

It was a chaotic, noisy afternoon, and exactly what Brioni wanted for her party. We caught up with friends we hadn’t seen in months as well as met new faces who rapidly became friends. The girls had wrapped up and hidden presents earlier, creating a treasure map to lead Brioni to the stash. Other games were improvised, and Ana’s special face-painting led to noisy confrontations between the predators and more delicate butterflies.

Brioni's name in carved watermelon letters, August 2014
At the end of the afternoon, the success of Brioni's party is evident in the complete destruction of the cake — but the letters survive!

Sometimes it’s difficult to meet the expectations of a person like Brioni who is very specific with her (sometimes inadequately-expressed) ideas. However, with this party we seem to have gotten everything right — especially with the cake! I’m so thankful to Hagai for hosting us and carving up such a beautiful treat. Brioni loves being here for her eighth birthday and will remember it as a special one for the rest of her life!

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23 August 2014, 22:52

Christoph Niemann’s The Pet Dragon is an excellent introduction to the pictographic elements of the Chinese alphabet. Although it’s a simple story, the illustrations demonstrate 33 Chinese characters that are related to the physical attributes of the word they convey.

The DFF Book Club

The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann
It's a story about adventure, friendship and Chinese characters.

The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann
Right from the start of the story, Niemann makes a graphic correlation between the characters and the words.

As a graphic designer, one of my professional inspirations is Christoph Niemann who demonstrates an artistic versatility and cultural wit in his work which is regularly published by the New York Times. I’ve followed his career for years and knew about this book when it was first published in 2008. Soon afterwards, I sent it to my sister’s family in Hong Kong to assist in their cultural appreciation of the Chinese-language characters around them.

The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann
Chinese pictograms start to take a more obvious meaning.

The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann
Hopefully, once we're familiar with the characters in this book, we'll start to recognise them outside the book too!

The book lacks a pronunciation guide, and Niemann has expressed that he didn’t ever mean for The Pet Dragon to be an introduction to Chinese. Instead, he wanted to illustrate the connection between the pictograms and their meanings, whetting the readers’ appetite to learn more of the language through other sources.

The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann
With the help of Niemann's illustration, the design of words like "above" and "below" become meaningful.

The Pet Dragon also serves as a fantastic introduction to the wider ideas of hieroglyphics and other cultures that use pictograms or non-Latin characters. J.R.R. Tolkien created his own Elvish characters for Tengwar, and my girls have loved making up their own secret writings as well.

The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann
Especially for visual learners, this book will be very helpful in learning 33 common Chinese characters.

We’ve been preparing for our trip to China for months. Originally we were going to visit our extended family who reside there, but in the last month they’ve relocated elsewhere. However, our family’s recent immersion in Chinese-language programs, stories and books means that although our time in Beijing is now cut short, we’ll be able to appreciate more of the cultural aspects of the world’s current super-power.

Perhaps because of Niemann’s celebrity, The Pet Dragon remains widely available online and in bookstores. It’s great for any household with an interest in design, languages, Asian culture or travel.

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