Sunday, November 30, 2014

30:11:14 Cicada

It's the last day of November. You know summer is coming in Australia when you hear the deafening sounds of the cicadas in the evening. I haven't often seen them in the daytime but saw this little one on a lunchtime walk.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

29:11:14 That time of year...

Can you believe December is almost upon us. Last week I start writing some cards. Overseas friends, yours went in the post first so watch out for the postman!

Friday, November 28, 2014

28:11:14 Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on....

Do you know Mrs Doyle from Father Ted? As irreverent a show as it is it makes me laugh. Every Irish Mammy has a little bit of Mrs Doyle in her. Pushing tea and sandwiches on any visitor and taking offence if it is politely declined! Recently I had a houseful of friends and young kids while the dads went to a boutique beer festival. We were a mixture of nationalities and the subject of Mrs Doyle came up. One of our friends is from Malta and had no idea what we were talking about. Me jumping around offering pretend cups of tea and saying "Go on, go on, go on, go on..." only added to the confusion on her face! We googled clips and watched them with tears in our eyes from laughing. 

Fast forward to today and one of those friends pulled up outside the house with a beautifully wrapped gift. I unwrapped it and found this inside.
My very own Mrs Doyle platter! Do you think it's a compliment...? I'm not sure? Time to go put the kettle on and have a nice cup of tea while I think about it. 

Do ya want a cup?

Ah, go on!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

27:11:24 Ginger

With recent exams and preparing for transition to High School and HSC coursework its no wonder butterflies have been aplenty in this house recently. Natural remedies have been googled and ginger comes up over and over again. I bought some ginger tea and ginger cookies and we have been trying them out to see if they help soothe. Have you any other alternative ideas to try?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

26:11:14 Poppyseed heart

My boy has returned!
My heart is happy again!
Expressing it in the best way I know how...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

25:11:14 Our Favourite Son!

Happy Birthday to our wonderful 12 year old. Here are 12 things we love about you...

1: Your face. You have your Dad's face and it melts my heart to see you grow more and more like him every year

2: Your smile. Just like your Dad you are almost always smiling. How can I be mad at you with a cheeky grin like yours?!

3: Your honesty. You cannot lie. It shows on your face like writing on a page. It is a good trait. Don't lose it.

4: Your appetite. You love every single meal I place before you. You give your dinners 11 and 12 out of 10 even if it is beans on toast! When the rest of the family push their food around the plate you critique it like a Masterchef finale! Sometimes number 3 (honesty) lets me see through the words but you always try to show gratitude!!!

5: Your whizz bang brain: You didn't get your brain cells from me, I'm grateful for that! If I could count the number of times you start a sentence with "Did you know...."

6: Your ability to share. If you ever have a bag of sweets or a bar of chocolate you are the first to offer to share it out in the family. Maybe you are hoping we will share back our treats with you but you never hesitate to offer even if you only have a small amount to share.

7: You are quick to apologise. Too quick sometimes. I remember one of your sisters being mean to you when you were smaller. Your face crumpled and I snapped "Say sorry" to her at which you immediately apologised to her instead. "Not you Gareth!" I was talking to your sister. We all burst out laughing. The tension diffused because of your willingness to be kind.

8: Your affection. You were always a very cuddly child. As you get older the public hugs and hand holding are getting much less frequent. That's ok. It's how it should be. But in the comfort of our home you still give great hugs and I cherish them!

9: Your wit. Oh boy do you have some quick smart answers for me! If there is a funny answer to a question I've asked it comes out of your mouth quicker than my brain can register! How many times have I stood there with mouth open lost for words? Don't lose it!

10: Your laughter. As I stand there, mouth open trying to think of a witty response and failing miserably you break into the most amazing laughter. It starts deep in your belly and explodes out of you. You have distracted me out of many a lecture because your laughter is so infectious I lose my train of thought.

11: Your memory. You have the memory of an elephant. The small details you can recall from events ridiculously far away astounds me. Again the brain of your father. Be grateful you got his. Be very grateful!

12: You. Plain and simple. You! For the love you bring to our family. You are the third child I wanted so badly. You make our family complete.

Happy Birthday to our favourite son!

(ok, you're our only son but who's counting?!)

Monday, November 24, 2014

24:11:14 Canberra here he comes.

An early start, a 6am selfie before he got on the coach to Canberra. 

My stomach is doing knots and loops as I count away the hours till he returns. This is surely one of the hardest parts of parenting. The letting go and allowing your child to experience adventures without you. To trust other adults with your irreplaceably gorgeous child and to pray that they will stay safe and happy until they are returned to you. 

It's going to be a long three days....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

23:11:14 Early birthday celebrations.

Gareth will be away from home on his 12th Birthday. He will be in Canberra with his classmates and teachers on their Year 6 excursion. We decided to make tonight his "official" early birthday and had a cake before he went to bed. It was a crazy day with packing suitcases and getting everything ready by the door for a 5.30am start in the morning. I'm still trying to come to terms with my baby growing into such a strong independant boy. Pass the tissues someone...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

22:11:14 NinjaBread men

I love the tradition in Gareths primary school of sending in some kind of cupcakes to school so that your child's class can celebrate their birthday with them. Most classes have about 30 kids and the teacher too. This is Gareth's last year in primary school and so it is the last time I will get to do this. 

This year however there is a small problem. He will be on his school excursion in Canberra. He leaves the day before his birthday and I wasn't sure whether I would still be able to send anything with him. Gareths teacher assured me that if I could parcel something up she could bring it on the coach and distribute it on the birthday. 

I told Gareth cookies would transport better than cakes as they didn't need to stay cold. He reminded me of the set of Ninja Bread men cutters that we have. The prospect of making and icing cookies for the whole year group broke me out in a cold sweat. 60 kids and 4 teachers. It was a mammoth cooking session that took up most of the day. The kitchen floor was drizzled in coloured sugar icing and Murphy had a ball licking around my feet. 

In the end it was worth it. 6 dozen cookies were baked, although not all survived with legs and arms intact! The best 65 Ninja Bread men were chosen to ice. They covered my benchtops waiting to dry so I could stack and box them up. There was one last minute casualty as one brave Ninja slid off the edge of the kitchen bench and shattered on the floor below. Murphy the dog raced over for clean up duties while the 64 remaining Ninja's were securely wrapped and boxed ready to deliver into the hands of Gareth's teacher on Monday. 

Another "last" to cross off the list as my kids grow up faster than seems possible. 

Safe Journey brave Ninja's. May you arrive in Canberra intact and ready to be enjoyed by Gareth and his friends!

Friday, November 21, 2014

21:11:14 Worry

I have always been a worrier. When I was younger I worried so much about school. I worried before exams, I worried during exams and I worried waiting for the results to come out.

My Dad used to tell me not to worry so much. I remember once as I stressed waiting for results of a maths exam he asked whether the worry I was feeling at that very moment could in any way change my result in that exam?

No. The answers were written and handed in. The teacher who marked it would simply go through my answers and add them up to give me my result. That result was now fixed and nothing I felt or did would have any impact on it at all.

It was a lightbulb moment. It never occurred to me how futile my worry was.

As I have grown into adulthood I still worry. When the anxieties build and grow and make my stomach sick and my head ache I try to stop and remember that conversation with Dad. I try to let the worry go. Much easier said than done, isn't it?

And now I have teenagers of my own. I see them worry and I know it wont help change their outcomes either. I am trying to pass on my Dad's advice. Recently someone posted a quote on-line from the Dalai Lama. It has stayed in my head, a variation on my Dad's words. I've needed those words a lot recently.

And so this morning I lay down on the grass in my garden and took a photo of the beautiful sky above me. I decided to put those wise words on it so I can print it and keep it where I will see it often. A reminder to take deep breaths and let the worry go.

Life is changing. Situations are unfolding. Some will bring tears, some will bring happiness. My worry is not going to change the outcome of  any of them. I have to breath deep and live each day at a time and focus on the good that it holds. Today it is blue skies and unfurling Agapanthus flowers.

One day at a time...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

20:11:14 Keep calm and glow

Gareth will be going on a school excursion to Canberra next week. He chose a new pair of pyjamas which had a message in glow-in-the-dark print on the front. Of course he had to check them out to see if they really glowed. 

A torch, a dark room and lots of laughter followed. I had to try hard not to get a reasonable photo because he was laughing so much!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

19:11:14 Sweet kisses

Nothing better than a freshly washed and brushed dog.

Except maybe sweet smelling kisses before he runs outside to roll in the garden!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

18:11:14 Something's missing...

Byron is away on business this week. 
It's strange seeing his red chair empty in the mornings. 
Do you think Murphy has noticed? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

17:11:14 Happy Days

Here is a fun card that I made recently. It involved flicking paint off a paintbrush, lots of which got on me and the kitchen bench but I think it was worth it. It was certainly worth making a few in one go as it is a flexible design and one that can be used for different occasions. 

So far one has gone in the post to a family member as a "Thinking of you" card. One has been delivered with a hot meal to friends who welcomed twin baby girls to their family. One was used as a birthday card for one of my daughters teenage friends.

Back to Pinterest to get more inspiration for the next batch of cards...!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

16:11:14 Creative zone

Rhiannon's room has had a makeover. The colourful walls made the room cozy but also a little closed in. Her ever increasing love of drawing was taking over all flat surfaces and there was a clash of wills between whether her desk should be kept neat and ready to study at or covered in sketches at varying states of completion. 

I have finally conceded that what I think is the best is not always right and so three years after buying the desk we have joyfully decided it is a creative zone and I will no longer try to police it into staying neat and tidy. Studying will continue to be done on the floor/spare room/ downstairs with the in-tray being returned to the study organiser unit at the end of each day. 

This parenting journey is one of constant learning and flexibility and boy do I feel bent at times! Taking deep breaths and counting to ten as we continue walking forward in this teenage terrain...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

15:11:14 Murph time.

As we reach the end of exam week we breathe a sigh of relief. The cramming is over. The exams have been sat. The study notes are filed away. All over for another year. Results will trickle in over the new couple of weeks but we know the best effort was made and that's what counts. 

Time to sit back and let the stress go...

Friday, November 14, 2014

14:11:14 Encore!

Sian got her Piano exam results back and was delighted to have passed. She has really enjoyed learning to play the piano and finds it relaxing but she has chosen to stop her lessons now as she has begun her final High School year and will need to focus on studying for her HSC exams in 2015. 

We celebrated her amazing results with cards and roses for Sian and her teacher. I think she will always love Piano and even though she won't be actively having lessons she will still enjoy spending time playing the pieces she has learnt over the last few years. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

13:11:14 Study organiser

We are in the middle of end of year exams in our house. Every night sees piles of notes scattered over the floor in different rooms of the house. Recently I went to a very interesting evening teaching effective study skills to students and their parents. I learned a lot as my three kids are so very different and study in vastly different ways. I was absorbing ideas on how to apply the advice to each of my kids in different ways. 

One of the suggestions for kids who don't file notes in folders on a regular basis was the alternative idea of in-trays. All the student needs to do is throw the weeks notes into the relevant in-tray and then as exams approach they can remove the in-tray to wherever they study and know that they have all that subject information in one place. Subjects can be colour coded and the colour can be used on name tags on the spiral bound books to make it easier to group and locate everything relating to that subject. 

After that info night I decided to buy an eight cube shelving unit, 8 white in-trays and a packet of 8 fluoro high-lighters. We have set it up in Rhiannon's bedroom as it seems to match her study needs. We are nearing the end of this academic year and we hope that getting organised now will help us start the next school year running.

Fingers crossed this will be a system that helps to keep the stress of mountains of study notes under control.

Watch this space...!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

12:11:14 Airplants

Looking on Pinterest for ideas to  create a calm space in her bedroom Rhiannon came upon images of Airplants. These plants absorb water through their leaves from the moisture in the air. Even though it is recommended to mist them weekly they sound pretty resilient and an easy bedroom plant. 

We bought two varieties. The one in the lowest jam jar will keep growing as a single plant but the two jars above it have a clump of tiny individual plants that like to live as a mass of tangles. We used jars that were waiting to be filled with chutney at Christmas and some simple cotton twine and hung them from the inside of the windowbox. 

They drift slightly in the breeze coming through the window and give a lovely calm focus for Rhiannon as she lays on her bed. A very simple and cheap addition to her room but worth every penny. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

11:11:14 Mandala

Rhiannon has a real talent and passion for art. She is so lucky to be given opportunities in school to learn about so many diverse forms of artistic expression.

This is a Mandala that she designed herself and painted. It is a quarter image that is turned and redrawn, turned and redrawn until a full circle is achieved. She got 100% in this project and was so glad to get to bring it home where she plans on hanging it in her room. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

10:11:14 Time Out

With exams looming study is taking up a lot of time in our house. Time for a break with some homemade mint and ginger infusion to settle pre-exam nerves.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

09:11:14 Warming my toes!

We decided that we would get the fire pit going tonight. A dismantled wooden chicken coop became fuel rather than landfill. A bag of marshmallows and sticks! Time to sit around and reflect. 

There's been a lot going on in the last few weeks and tonight tied up some loose ends. Deep breathing and renewing our batteries before a busy week of exams. It will be a week with it's fair share of stress but I've cancelled all my evening plans. No sports, no school meetings, just time spent in the home soothing frazzled nerves and helping with last minute revision. 

Sometimes you need to de-clutter the mind, the house and the calendar and bring things back to  basics. And sugary melting marshmallows helps!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

08:11:14 Piano practise

This weekend Sian sits a piano exam. She has put in lots of time going over and over her pieces. As I walked up the stairs with a arms full of laundry I stopped and watched her. I couldn't resist quietly putting the pile of clothes down gently and reaching into my pocket for my phone. A chance to capture an everyday moment. The concentration, the perseverance until each note plays perfectly. No matter how the exam goes or what result she gets she makes me so very proud. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

07:11:14 Rusks

Sian has a South African friend who introduced her to some foods that are normal to her family but unknown to ours. Sians favourite discovery was rusks, hard baked biscuits that you dip in tea for breakfast. Every year Aldi do a South Africa week and we stock up but sadly the stash doesn't last forever. This week I was driving near to an international food warehouse. I had about ten minutes to spare before I needed to be somewhere so I pulled in and searched for them. Although I couldn't find the buttermilk ones Sian loves I found similar ones and surprised her with them. Isn't it funny how something relatively small and inexpensive can be worth its weight in gold. I wish I could have bottled the big hug I got from Sian when I surprised her!

P.S. If Granma Ouma every finds herself reading this blog post we are SO open to writing anything you want about your wonderful food in return for a lifetime supply of breakfast rusks... just sayin'...!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

06:11:14 Sorry Miss...

My dog ate my homework....

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

05:11:14 Jacaranda

The beautiful Jacaranda trees are in bloom. Everywhere you look deep purple flowers are covering tree limbs that are twisted and gnarled. Blossoms fall like confetti and carpet the footpaths. Like walking through a magical Disney village scene for a couple of weeks each year! 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

04:11:14 The hidden dangers of Australian laundry...

Rule One: Look before you peg...

Monday, November 03, 2014

03:11:14 Meal Planning

Todays photo is of my weekly meal plan and shopping list. A friend saw me shopping with it last week and mentioned it on a Facebook post. I tried to put this photo in the comment box because one of her friends had asked if she could share it but I couldn't work out how to do that? I'm sure I've put photos in comments before but Facebook changes its rules so often I can barely keep up with it. Instead I was motivated to use it for todays blog post and then I was able to share the link instead. 

*disclaimer* I am a scatty head and not nearly as organised as this post may suggest. It's only by trying to plan ahead that our week goes by without too many hiccups. This weekly shopping list only works when I actually fill it out and often our dinner plans change at short notice so a lot of flexibility is needed. Aim high and at best our meals will be wonderful and organised, at worst there is always beans on toast!

At the start of each school term I print out the number of sheets for the weeks in that term, staple them together and put them on a clipboard that hangs in my pantry. The clipboard comes with me on my weekly shopping day and sits in the front of the trolley so I can cross things off as I shop.

The sheet is a basic Word document with columns. There are boxes for each days meals, sometimes split in two if it's a 5:2 Fast day for us and a normal meal for the kids. There's a small box below each day to remind me if we have something happening that evening. The dates next to each day help me choose produce, particularly meat, that will be well within its expiry date for when I want to use it.

The lower columns are the weekly shopping list. I have typed in my most frequently bought items in groups that follow the layout of my local Aldi. This saves a lot of time when I am dashing out the door and helps me check what I need against what I already have in the pantry. There are lots of extra empty boxes to allow for adding things on that aren't on the main list.

The very right hand column is for Woolies items that I know Aldi doesn't stock. I can tear off this part of the sheet when the Aldi shop is finished and safely packed in my car boot and I can run in to Woolies with a basket and not have to carry the clip board with me. 

The clipboard goes back in the pantry when I'm home so I can see what's for dinner over the next few days. I usually tear off the used lower half of the sheet leaving next weeks blank shopping list ready to write things on as the week goes by. Often the kids will try to "add" things like chocolate and desserts in the hope that I will be conned into buying them for them! 

I am more than happy to share my list with anyone who wants it. It's a word document that I can email you and then you can change my regular items for ones that suit your families meals. 

Do you Meal Plan? Or do you manage fine without it?!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

02:11:14 One Hundred Projects...

I saw this cute journal when I was in a stationary shop today. I love the idea of a book "to do when I have time" but it made me laugh. My mum, sister and I are forever saying similar things like "When this month is over and everything calms down we will have time to..." The busyness of day to day life can be overwhelming at times and we often wonder will there ever come a day where we are bored and have nothing to do? Not likely! 

I was tempted to buy the journal for my sister as a laugh but knowing how unlikely she was to ever have the time to even write the list of 100 projects down I decided a photo of it would give her a giggle without the pressure of trying to make time to fill it in! 

If you had this journal would you have 100 things to put in it....?!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

01:11:14 Happy Halloween!

I know Halloween was yesterday but I had to share with you a photo of this beautiful Halloween themed flower arrangement a friend gave me today! The colours are so warm and many of the plants are Australian natives that will dry out and still look wonderful weeks and weeks from now. I love it!