Monday, 26 January 2015

Summer Holidaze


I dragged the kids to our local book exchange the other day. Actually they don't need dragging. There is a lolly store directly opposite, so even #4 who is least interested in the books (on account of not being able to read yet) is happy to go - as the promise of being able to choose something for $1 has everyone bouncing with anticipation and excitedly discussing just what they will choose.

The state of their teeth after this holiday is another question..

The book exchange is run by an older lady with strong opinions. Opinions she is not afraid to share. I remember when 50 Shades was at its height of popularity (I'm assuming, no hoping, that has abated - I mean no one's going to see the movie, right?) a sign was posted above her counter - I think it was a printout of the book cover, which she had amended to say: 50 Shades of SMUT! NOT WELCOME HERE!

Its nice to know some people out there aren't willing to sacrifice their principles for the sake of a quick buck.

So anyway, we went to the book exchange because I was in search of earlier thrillers in a series my husband and I had begun to read on our beach holiday.

"He can't write you know!" The shop owner declared loudly as I perused the shelves exclaiming over how many titles this author had produced over the years. (Note I'm refraining from saying the author's name here - they're spy thrillers, so I'm sticking with the mystery theme..)

"Yes I know," I replied, giving her a small smile. "But after seven weeks of school holidays all I want is something formulaic and a little bit thrilling to keep me going. You can see where I'm coming from?"

"I do". She said, smiling.

So here we find ourselves at the tail end of approx. seven weeks holiday. It is two weeks since we returned from our beach holiday and it is two days until school goes back. I've only just managed to restock the pantry (actually it's a cupboard but pantry sounds a bit loftier don't you think?) with Earl Grey tea bags for Jonathan and Russian Caravan for me... So maybe that will help me handle the approaching whirlwind that will surely be term 1.

Here are some of the highlights of the last 2 months (because my posts have been few and far between, I know):

In between what at times felt like constant shouting and crying (I've given up worrying about what the neighbours must think) I've been watching my kids grow up. Sometimes it happens without you realising it, and you look back at some old photos and get a shock at the changes. Other times the changing seems to be happening right before your eyes. 

My just turned four-year-old has started to write his own name, and to tread water in the pool. He is still sniffing his blankie so that is some consolation to me. 


My eleven-year-old has joined the tweenies. All it took was a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for Christmas and an I-tunes card to download some (vetted) music on his e-reader, and behold: 


He wore the headphones everywhere. Even when they weren't plugged in to anything.

Why didn't I ask for noise cancelling headphones for Christmas???

Meanwhile summery treats = happy children. At least until the gelato was gone.



Arch's birthday (the December birthday phenomena made slightly less painful when a pre-made and decorated supermarket cake entered the equation). Yes that's Lightning McQueen. $20 and worth every cent.





Christmas culinary favourites (old and new) made the festive season filling.  

A panettone coffee and berry bread and butter pudding was pre-prepared with ease, perfect for our large family gathering and totally scrumptious (I'll put the recipe up on my notes page, eventually.).



Even breakfasts get snazzier over summer. Crunchy cranberry and almond granola from our favourite holiday cafe (yes they sell take home packs!) served with natural yoghurt and frozen berries. 



And after the Bundaberg Spiced Ginger Beer sold out (before Dec 25th in most supermarkets, possibly thanks to me) we smoothly moved on to this lovely brew. Fruit is healthy, right!?



Days and weeks of chilling out, seeing friends, down times and up times have left us with plenty of happy memories and much to laugh and smile about - and I will. Smile that is, once I've forgotten the supermarket tantrums, early morning fighting, exhausting struggles to keep the house from falling into utter chaos and feeling like I haven't had five minutes peace in living memory!!!! But that time is coming....

So overall not a bad way to start the new year.

Is this Arch on a date? Sure looks like it!



Thankfully no occupational health and safety officers in sight.



I wish there were more random chalk boards in the world. Kids find them irresistible.



Sometimes you just have to settle for three out of four kids smiling...



And Happy Australia Day for January 26th! I'll try and post more on that prior to Easter, I promise!

I have a new Houzz story up now on 30 Sights to make you proud to be an Australian
I'd love you to have a look and like it for me!! We really would love to know your comments on what (if you are one) makes you proud to be an Australian.

And if you haven't already joined www.Houzz.com.au then you're missing out on stories such as:

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the Kids Go Back to School - super ideas on how to get organised and stay on top of things

Houzz Quiz: What Style of Kitchen Should You Have - I'm addicted to this quizz. The questions are insightful and even intriguing. The answers are inspiring!

The Move to a Well Stocked Clutter Free Home - as someone who struggles with the stuff and clutter issues, this was great food for thought. May even help me to stay off starring in the Hoarders program in 2015!


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Cruising through..

Some years I cruise through Christmas in a happy flurry of festive food and cheer, cooking and shopping and decorating and wrapping. 
Other years the essential elements remain the same, but I handle them differently (like last year..). Small setbacks that would usually be laughed off instead cause sleepless nights and tense moments. 
Luckily this year was not one of those years!

Sign from Bed Bath N Table, gifts from Apple Core Living

Which isn't to say it was entirely stress-free.. But it was manageable, and much fun was had by all. 

This was Christmas night. Oh the serenity!


Prior to that, was the traditional period of cooking chaos. 

I found myself doing ridiculous things, like roasting and shelling hazelnuts. At 10pm at night.


But after coating them in a whiskey sugared glaze I knew the efforts were worth it.

The gingerbread cookie and decorating assembly line swung into action, with the prettiest results being eaten on the spot. Oh well.


I did rocky road in miniature (foil cases from Daiso, for $2.80).


And I made a chocolate meringue to die for! 
A minor Christmas miracle in the big scheme of things, but still one worth celebrating!


I rewarded myself by making a big batch of hot cherry sauce over honey and cinnamon yoghurt - a meal fit for any time of day in the Christmas season!


Here's a few of my favourite pics from the round of celebrations: 

I set up a hot chocolate station on a side table, that became everyone's favourite place to stop.

Here's how:
  • Group some of your favourite mugs (go with a colour theme like my pink/red/white or Christmassy styles if you have them) on a silver or decorative tray. 
  • Add some teaspoons (I used art deco ones I just happened to have). 
  • Place mini marshmallows in a serving dish, sugar swizzle sticks or any other food items that go with hot chocolate. (Hopefully you don't have ants… just saying).
  • Add a couple of tins of your favourite hot chocolate powders and mixes. 
  • If you have a Christmas pic you love (mine's from an old Zo Zo the Magic Queen calendar) why not frame it and place behind your arrangement to add to the look. 



Jesse as Santa at my parent's place.


Holly from the garden adorning tables.


Arch with his toy soldier cushion - love this.


Tea lights everywhere..


Cheap plates from Target that I fell for big time.


Handmade cards from my girls.


And a very Merry Christmas to you all!


Celebrating the birth of a Saviour never gets old. 
May you know His peace this Christmas time.



I'd love it if you liked my story!!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Quick Break

Some schools finish really really early in December. And if you are not one of those parents who proclaim loudly and solemnly, "Oh No. Eight weeks holidays with my children is just not long enough", then this  L O N G summer holiday can be a challenge.

The main problem with this very long holiday is that during it children are not allowed to go to school. 

That's it really.

I think I'm somewhere in the middle. It is lovely to have a break from the sometimes manic school routine. It's great not to have to make lunches and find four pairs of matching socks each day; and spend hours in the car driving back and forth to school. Replacing that with a more relaxed pace, some fun outings and even occasionally the odd hour of relaxation to be experienced. 

But it is also a long time to keep four children with a wide variety of interests, happy and harmonious. Did I say harmonious? Cue manic laughing on my part...

So last week on a bit of a whim, we left the wild weather of Sydney, and exchanged it for very wet weather down the coast. My parents were joining us while Husband stayed behind to work - it being early December and all. I haven't done that drive by myself before. Jesse, who has been carsick a couple of times was resisting the thought of hairpin bends on Cambewarra Mountain. I wasn't keen on the idea of cleaning sick from the car, so we took a different route. One I hoped might be a short cut. 
Which it wasn't.

Has anyone else ever driven for an hour with the time-till-destination on google maps not changing?

Finally we arrived in a little coastal town that appeared to have more kangaroos than people. 
My mum was keen that the kids should feed them and that we should film it on our phones and become youtube sensations. When one roo that must have been close to six foot high when standing attempted to come inside our house in search of bread, I kind of went off the idea. No one wants to be internet sensations for filming their small children being eaten by kangaroos. 



So after a few days of torrential rain, in which we were able to fit in one hour of tennis and several hundred games of Monopoly Empire (a particularly nasty strain of the game, which brings out the Gordon Gecko in even the most mild-mannered child), the sky cleared enough for us to race to a nearby beach. 

It was just as I remembered from childhood: idyllic.



We went back again the next day (our last morning) and cheered as the sun and blue sky appeared! Beach cricket gave us some happy memories and the wet weather was all but forgotten.

We were all happy we'd made the effort to get away. 




And now we've returned to the speedy run down to Christmas. Digging feet in to snowy white sand is no longer an option.

I'm trying to stay on top of things, and trying not to wake up in the night in a cold sweat about to-do lists - cause that would be silly, right?

Decorating has continued apace, and I may even have everything just the way I like it by mid-January. 
We'll see.



Thinking too of the poor families who have lost loved ones in Sydney this week. It was a time in Sydney where for a while time seemed to stand still as we waited (and dreaded) the outcome of an act of violence and terror. Our hearts are breaking for the young children left without a mother and the families left without their wife, daughter, partner, son…

Hard to imagine Peace on Earth.. but praying they and everyone will know Jesus' love and true peace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0

Thursday, 11 December 2014

What's Your Christmas Decorating Style?

Here is the link to my latest story, published on HOUZZ.com.au

I'm really excited about this one - it was hard to narrow Christmas decorating styles down to just ten, but I've attempted to capture a range of looks that people will like and relate to.

I hope you'll click on the story and comment on your preferred style. Do you have a definite look for Christmas (traditional red and green; monochrome and metallics; shabby chic or rustic?) style or do you like to mix it up a little?

http://www.houzz.com.au/ideabooks/34166269/list/whats-your-christmas-decorating-style

Here are some of my favourite pics from the last few years,  illustrating how I like to mix it up a bit by using different festive accessories and styles:

Crafty - pom poms in glassware make for a softer look than baubles.


I love collecting embroidery hoops for framing fabric remnants.


A blue and white theme is not my usual style, but these hand-painted wooden hanging ornaments didn't have to go on the tree to be enjoyed.


Larrabee platinum spot by Kate Spade makes a perfect Christmas setting.


These little pink trees from the $2 shop were too cute to be tacky.


Loved the contrast of the hand sewn heart in the mercury glass. These were my best find from the Reject Shop last year.


My adored found-by-the-roadside chair suits a Christmas scene to a tee.


Decorating with letters.


Baking fun.


Sometimes a simple wire ornament is all you need.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

December So Far....How to get Christmas spirit, and quickly!

The month of December felt like it would never get here.

We put up the tree in early November, as part of a carefully orchestrated plan to squeeze the most Christmas cheer out of the (extended) holiday season that we could... and we even managed to, all on the one magical Saturday, attend a friend's wedding, see a wonderful performance of the famous Dickens play, A Christmas Carol, and get the kids' photo taken with Santa. (Previous Santa photo post)

It felt like all of our Christmases had come at once, and it wasn't even December yet!!


So if you find yourself stumbling, abit dazed and confused every time you spot a Christmas decoration and the sound of faint carols seems to be getting louder by the day.... that's because it probably IS getting louder by the day!! You can't fight it. You have to get with the program!!!

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!!! Aghhhhhhh!


And now the first week of December has passed, I have gone from feeling smug ready to panicky like everybody else! 

Here are some quick ways to get instant Christmas cheer (in no particular order - panic does that to you..):

Christmas drinks - Okay, this is my version of getting Christmas Spirit, without the "spirits". It won't cut it for some, but for me, it's calming, it's festive and it can be drunk out of a sparkly glass. What more could you ask for?

Am loving Bundaberg's Spiced Ginger Beer (4x pack in Woolworths - go silly!). I'm drinking mine out of my Target glitter goblets (75c after Christmas sales last year) with fresh pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top. Splendid!


Squeeze baubles (cheap ones are fine as everything looks better under glass) into as many glass jars, bowls and cloches as you can find. Place one on each table/spare surface and you have instant decorative wow factor! Much quicker than hanging the blighters on the tree!


Start buying/baking/eating mince pies. They suit any meal or snack time and are great to have on hand if in-laws decide to suddenly drop in, unannounced. Piles of dirty washing will be ignored if you pull this domestic goddess pleaser. My grandma used to make them ith suet - her special ingredient. This one above was in a pack of 6 for $1 from Woolies. There was definitely no suet used here. Remember, drenched in brandy custard ANY mince pie is edible.


The very edible Heston Blumenthal's Christmas fare is in Coles again this year. I already tried this - and it was fab!



The lovely fete /holiday issue has a great sounding recipe for mince pies if you're looking for one. 

Get out your sparkly stuff in readiness for party season. Okay, maybe the preschool concert is all you have to look forward to on your calendar so far (or is that just me?). But every festive occasion deserves a little bling! Just try not to let the three year old near you whilst finger painting demos are on.

Found this glomesh purse for $4 in an Op Shop!!

Branch out and do some fun stuff! 
Letting your hair down is highly recommended this time of year. 


How are you getting festive?
I'd love to know..