Monday, September 23, 2013

movie night - because now she's 10

Last week we entered a new realm of our lives.  Our first born turned 10.  Our once tiny little baby has clocked over into double digits, making us feel just that little bit more old than we did the week before.  

We also entered a new realm of parenting.  The First Sleep Over Party!  A house full of giggling girls, with lots of mattresses to bounce on, and some sugar to burn off made for a late, but very fun night!  Here's a glimpse into our festivities, celebrating our LittleBee's 10th birthday.


With some bed sheets, fairy lights and a little imagination, we turned the lounge room into a cinema, with a message board to direct the giggling girls inside.



Setting up the movie room was a lot of fun.  Inside, the girls had access to their own private candy bar, drinks in jars, popcorn, a blankie pile and a nail salon basket.





And these cute little "popcorn" cupcakes.



Dinner was a "build your own baked potato" bar.  The dining table was lined with an array of toppings for the girls to add to their spuds.  How cute are these little heart signs?




After dinner, and some amazing face painting (thanks Krissy), it was onsie time!




Mrs Fox and Mr Badger came to visit...


how cute are we!


And no party is complete without a baked caramel cheesecake, right?  Yes, you read correctly! LittleBee loves caramel and loves cheesecake, so after a little Pinterest searching, I found a recipe for this amazing cake.  The only thing that was missing was the caramel sauce that normally would be poured over the cake, but I'd run out of steam by the time it was ready to serve the cake.  A little grated chocolate served quite nicely in its stead.





The mattresses came out, and the girls settled in for more movie time.  Even little Basil got a bit snuggly!



Ok, so while I was preparing for the party, I reminisced a fair bit about sleepovers that I attended growing up.  I was generally reminded about how little sleep we got as we watched movies all night, then stayed up even later watching music videos.  When I left the girls at around 12:30am, they were all snuggly and toasty in their beds.  So I thought that they would get to sleep relatively quickly!  How wrong I was.  From my recollection, I think the last of the squealing ended around 3am!  And the first sign of chattering reoccured at around 6:30am.  Even so, by the time pancakes were cooked and served, each little lady was sitting at the table ready for the special breakfast!




Although they enjoyed being awake, some still needed to hide out a little longer in their onsies...



Me on the other hand, after about 4 hours sleep myself, sat on the couch trying to rejuvenate myself with a hot cuppa.


What a ride!  It was so much fun creating this special night for LittleBee and I know she had a great time with her friends.  Happy Birthday our Little Lady!



... and thanks to everyone who helped make this happen!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

a winter get-together

This week has been blissfully spring-esque.  Sitting out on the back patio sipping my coffee the other morning, I had a distinct waft of wattle blossom brush past my face, as the warm wind carried the scent from a neighbouring garden.  It caught me by surprise as just last week it was still bitterly cold (well bitterly cold for Melbourne, which is really just 15 degrees!)

Do you remember how cold it was just last week?

Just last week I hosted a little Soup gathering.  A few friends came by the house on a particularly wet and windy day, all rugged up in jumpers and gloves.  That morning I had prepared two pots of soup for lunch, and it really couldn't have been a more perfect day to sit around the table and reminisce over a bowl of steaming soup.

To go along with our recent project to try and make healthy changes in our cooking, I got my cooking inspiration for our lunch this day from the Heart Foundation website.

First up... Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup.  This was a very easy soup to make.  We had wheat/gluten intolerances to factor in, so for this soup I omitted the stock and used the water the chicken was cooked in and seasoned it with good sea salt and pepper to add a bit of flavour.  Soy sauce was replaced with Tamari (a naturally fermented soy sauce) and I left out the noodles.  This soup is very fresh and, well, delicious!
photo source: www.heartfoundation.org.au


Next up was Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup.  I make a soup similar to this very often, as sweet potatoes are really like my favourite veggie.  Again for this soup I left out the stock and just added a little salt to draw the flavours together.  It was a bonus having fresh coriander sprouting in the garden as it goes really with this soupl.  I didn't serve it with yoghurt as we have dairy intolerances here too.


photo source: www.heartfoundation.org.au

(I didn't take photos of the soup I made, as I was too busy eating them!!)


And of course a lunch isn't really complete until you add in some sweet Strawberry Muffins.  I had my work cut out for me a little here with the intolerances present in the room this day.  But with a little combined intelligence, these little beauties came to life...





These muffins kind of remind me of this week.  They are filled with fresh berries which just says Summer all over it!  But, they are really best eaten warm, which you need to do on a crisp winter's day.

I'll leave you with my adapted Strawberry muffin recipe, in case you want to bring a little summer into the last days of winter...

Strawberry Muffins

Makes 12
Cooking time: 18-20 minutes
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups gluten free self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used coconut palm sugar, which made them not as sweet)
1 cup lactose free (or other non dairy) milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
30g dairy free margarine, melted
250g strawberries, washed, hulled, diced
2 tbs flaked almonds
1 tsp icing sugar, to serve


Preheat oven to 180°C fan-forced. Line 12 x 1/3 cup muffin pans with paper cases.

Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together the the milk, egg and margarine, then fold this mixture in the strawberries. Mix until just combined.

Spoon evenly into the cases (about 1/4 cup per case) and top with a sprinkling of  flaked almonds. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from pans, and leave to cool slightly.  Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.


~ Enjoy ~


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

a common bond

Waking up the day after a funeral is a surreal feeling.  I remember waking last Friday morning, the day after saying goodbye to our Nanna Mc, with an intense awareness of my breathing.  Life giving breath coursing through my own lungs, and being all the more thankful for it, because this breath I take and each one after signifies my living and existence. 






It's a realisation that your life continues, in spite of the life that has been lost.  That although some days it feels like grief can take the breath right out of your lungs, each day you wake and take a knowing breath and continue on with all that life will bring across your path.  No matter how hard those days and those experiences can be.  We all still breathe.


I'm thankful for my grandmother's life.  She raised 12 children in a very difficult time.  She birthed a daughter that was not going to breathe outside of her womb.  She suffered in this grief, along with mourning the passing of her husband, and two of her adult children as she continued to breathe each day.  





I would have loved to have talked to Nanna about her stillbirth.  About the daughter, sister, aunty that I know we all would have loved to have had the chance to know.  I wished I had have talked to Nanna, and told her that I knew.  That I understood that pain of her grief.  That it was ok to long for and cry for the daughter that wasn't going to stay.  


Or to hear her tell me that she understood my grief.


We had an unspoken common bond.  A bond that I know I share with far too many women.  The bond of losing a much wanted and loved child.


Nanna Mc, you will always be remembered as my grandmother.  Your children that you've left here will always remember you and all that you did for them .  


And I want you to know that your precious Kaye will always be remembered too.





Tuesday, August 20, 2013

our first school camp (awwww)

6:24am, and I wake up a little frantic, thinking that it was really 8:24am and we missed the bus.  I rustle a very excited LittleBee from her pretend sleep... she'd obviously been restlessly awaiting the morning too.  For today, is Camp Day!

A wrap up a quick lunch for LittleBee to pack in her backpack for the day...


and off we go to school, hair dripping from her rushed shower, yoghurt in hand for breaky on the go.

Once at school, we throw the suitcase into the back of the school bus, and gather up her friends for a pre-camp picture (or three)




So the three friends can ensure they sit together on the bus, they hurry off and nab the back row!




And with an enthusiastic wave, she's on her way to her first ever school camp trip!  

It's only one night but it's so strange.  She's been away from home loads of times before, but this time is a little different.  It's a little more grown up.  And every day she's just growing up in front of our eyes.  Gaah!  Yesterday she said she was feeling nervous about camp.  Today she barely batted an eyelid all morning.  She's got her friends, and she's really thrilled.  I know she's going to have a fabulous time.  

And as a first time camp mumma, I think I will survive too!

See you tomorrow LittleBee!

Monday, August 12, 2013

little changes all add up ~ giveaway!

I'm just jumping right in here... I got thinking tonight about how I can make all these little changes for my family's health, and how they can have a huge effect on their lives and the health of their bodies.  Woah.  I know, such a deep thought process, and it's way past my bedtime already!  Because big changes are really really hard to make.  It's really really hard to say, eliminate all sugar from our diet.  It's tough to try and commit the whole family to regular outdoor activities.  Both of these changes would be super if we could flick a switch and make them happen like that.  But I think it's going to take a lot of little changes to see the whole picture come into focus.  

I've been invited to take part in a Soup/Heart Foundation's "Mum's United" project, and it's a pretty exciting project, because not only do I get to cook yummy food for some friends (more on that later) I get to share some of the fun with you guys with an exciting giveaway.  The friendly people at Soup have provided a shopping voucher to the value of $200 for me to give away to one lucky reader/commenter.  Details for the giveaway are below.

I'm thinking about a few things... are we eating enough fresh fruit and veggies? are we drinking enough water? is there to much hidden salt and sugar in the things we eat? how can we be more active? how can I convince LadyBug that broccoli really isn't evil and she should just try it, just once, and I promise she won't be sick?  Some pretty big issues, but ones I am hoping to break down into small little changes, that will add up to important changes for us all.

One of the first ones I want to tackle for us is the hidden salts and sugars.  Most nights we sit down to some extravagant meal I've spent all day creating.  Ok, not really, it's usually like a 30 minute dish that takes next to no time to make and is usually pretty amazing (if I do say so myself).  I call LittleBee to set the table for dinner, and out comes the sauces.  Because somewhere along the way, LadyBug has become accustomed to having sauce on everything.  Red sauce (tomato), brown sauce (bbq) and occasionally yellow sauces (mustard) are dolloped on her plate in a way to entice her eat her dinner.  And what usually happens is she happily licks the sauces off and leaves the actual food.  (There's a whole other blog post in that comment alone!)  As we sat down tonight to have a variation of "not fried rice" I realised that the sauces weren't at the table... and I didn't say anything (insert evil laugh here). When the components of the meal (rice, meat, veggies, eggs) are all mixed together I season the meal with tamari or soy sauce, and this way I can control the amount that is added.  But usually, the soy sauce is also at the table, and we all take turns in making our dish turn a charming shade of brown as we drown it in sauce.  One bottle of sauce we have in the fridge has over 12,000mg of sodium per 100ml of sauce!  Yikes!


our "not fried rice" topped with sliced egg


Salt is also hidden in many canned foods and pre made stocks, so I'm starting to look at either the "no added salt" varieties (the Heart Foundation Tick makes that easier when shopping), or even making these myself (which is very rewarding).  

So tonight it was a small change.  But I think that in changing our behaviour gradually, we will start to see how much of a difference it really makes just being a little kinder to our bodies.

There are lots more changes to be had... and little by little, they really will add up for us in the long run.


at least one of us is getting exercise!


Giveaway is now closed.  Thank you to all who entered!  Congratulations to Sarah, you will be receiving your grocery voucher in the mail very soon!


GIVEAWAY TIME!  Time to get thinking about your family... 


What ideas do you have to make some healthy changes in your family?  Like, what ways can you increase the veggie intake at your house, or what fun ways do you have to spice up meals to make them more exciting and healthy at the same time?  
Maybe you have a great idea for getting the family out together to get active. 
Comment on this blog post with your "healthy lifestyle change" idea, and you'll go into the draw to win a $200 shopping voucher for Coles Supermarkets to help you on your way.  Think of all the fresh fruit and veg you can buy with that!  


Start thinking about changes you can make... get commenting and good luck!


This giveaway is open to Australian residents only.  The prize has been supplied by Soup, and the opinions in this post are my own.  The winner of this giveaway will receive a supermarket voucher valid at Coles Supermarket stores, to the value of $200 (plus postage).  The winner will be drawn on Monday 26th August at 5pm using random.org.  The winner will be notified, and the winner will also be announced on this page.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

say hello to Khao Soi

It's only been two weeks since we were in Thailand, and it feels like the longing for the food sets in a little more every day!  Really, every day!  We had a lot of really wonderful food in Thailand, and there is so much I want to try and recreate at home, to help keep the memory of our short holiday alive!

One of the most amazing things I tried in Thailand was Khao Soi.  It was a hot Sunday afternoon (really, every day was hot) and we had chosen a quaint "antique store come restaurant" for lunch after church.  We were nearing the end of our time in Chiang Mai, and one dish that I had been told to try was Khao Soi.  Khao Soi is a rich, tangy coconut curry, usually served with meat and noodles, and garnished with lime and other tasty toppings.  It was spicy hot, just how it should be.  I will admit to loving it, but not being able to finish the whole dish because my taste buds were trying to cry from the goodness and heat all at once... and I'll also admit to even being out eaten by a 10 year old girl, who downed every drop of her curry without batting an eyelid!


the rich golden colour courtesy of the red curry paste, and turmeric


I think it's going to take some time to recreate this dish just like we had it that day.  Firstly, I'm not Thai.  Secondly, I'm not in northern Thailand... but we do have to start somewhere, so here's my first go at Khao Soi.  If you want a "make your mouth dance and sing" kind of coconut curry, this is for you.


my Khao Soi

This is my adaptation of a recipe I found over at food.com.  The recipe serves 6, but if you want seconds, don't invite that many people over to eat it!  You can use beef or pork in place of the chicken if you like.  The lime is essential for cutting through the heat, which of course you can adjust by adding more or less of the paste.  I will say, don't be shy with the curry paste.  It's not a real curry if you can't taste the flavour!

Khao Soi

serves 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, finally chopped
2 tablespoons red curry paste (adjust to liking)
500g chicken breast, sliced thinly
400ml coconut milk
400ml cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
juice from half a fresh lime
approx 250g noodles (works well with spaghetti)

Garnishes:
Traditionally garnished with pickled cabbage, sliced spring onion, fish sauce, sugar, chilli and crispy fried egg noodles.  We chose fresh coriander, lime wedges, fried onion and peanuts.  Ultimately you want a fresh green and a nice crunch to go with the curry.




Directions:

Put a large pot of water on the boil, to cook your noodles.

In a medium pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and curry paste, stirring the paste to release the flavours.  Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken slices.  Cook, stirring for another couple of minutes to brown the chicken, and endure the chicken is well coated with the curry paste.

Next add the coconut milk, chicken stock, turmeric, soy sauce, sugar and salt.  Stir well, then bring to the boil.  Reduce to a rapid simmer for about 15 minutes, ensuring that the meat is cooked through.

Whilst the curry is simmering, prepare the garnishes, and cook the noodles.  Once cooked, the noodles can be drained and divided into individual serving bowls.

Remove the curry from the heat, and add the lime juice.  Ladle the curry over the noodles in the bowls, and take to the table to be garnished.


see the splash mark round the edge of the bowl? That's what happens when you drop your phone in your soup while trying to take the perfect picture!  Oops.  Thankfully the cover wore most it, and the phone is fine!


Let me know if you make it at home!  I'd love to know if it's a new found favourite for you too!

Friday, August 2, 2013

better the second time around?

LittleBee was 3 years old when she was first introduced to Barbie on the small screen.  "Barbie in Nutcracker" was the first movie she saw and she was so mesmerised by seeing this magical dancing Princess come to life on the screen, albeit a little scared of the King Rat.  And for a long time following we were thrown into the deep end as the Barbie Movie Making Factory went into overdrive, spitting out story after story after magical story.



You probably could ask her which one was her favourite, and I think I might be able to say with some assurance, that Rosella is still number 1.  When LittleBee turned 5 we celebrated her birthday with a Barbie as the Island Princess party.  That was a lot of fun, and for quite a while Ro was all that she would talk about, watch, dance or act out.  For a while, LittleBee WAS Rosella.

As LittleBee went from toddler to preschooler to school girl, we watched her either watching a princess/fairy movie or we were subjected to a princess/fairy reenactment.  And as cute and endearing as our little Princess was, there came a time when the Barbie movies were met with painful groans from us parents, because, let's face it, there's only so much plastic magic these big people can take!  

But all little girls grow up, and (sadly?) LittleBee's imagination began to grasp new stories, as Barbies, fairies and princesses were replaced with adventure stories, mystery and suspense.

That still leaves us, the adults, with an ingrained memory for the movies we endured for all those years.  All those songs, and dances, corny one liners and happily ever afters are stuck in our heads (argh).

Then along comes LadyBug... and now that she is three, and has awoken the once dormant pretty in pink stories of Barbie in her fantasy worlds.  It's like the classic princess story that ends with a handsome Prince breaking the spell.  LadyBug has stirred up the plastic Princess, and she has once again become an ever sparkly presence in our lives.

But this time it's a little different.  Not only do we have the "old" (say, from 2001) movies we were forced to become accustomed to, but 12 years on and Barbie has not stopped releasing new stories.  When I say new stories, really I mean remakes of old stories.  Just what's needed to rake in a whole new generation of Barbie loving tots.  

Tonight we sat down together and watched the latest instalment, Barbie in the Pink Shoes.




As we watched I observed a preschooler being entertained by the graceful story of brave and heroic dancer... and a big sister complaining about how all the new barbie movies are just stupid, because they are just making the same stories over and over again.  But that quickly turned into said preschooler being bored out of her brains, and the big girl sitting there just enthralled as the story unravelled.

I think secretly LittleBee is really enjoying reliving the tales as her little sister becomes acquainted with these beautiful dancing, singing, fairy, princess, sparkling Barbies.  (I know this for certain, as LittleBee has been ballet dancing all over the house since the movie finished!)

So are they any better the second time around?  Depends on who you ask I suppose.  For me, it's kind of fun to see a new common bond between these two girls of mine, especially as they are 6 years apart in age.  The story lines never change, but it's seeing them through new eyes that makes it a little more bearable!

Here's the full list of Barbie films to date.... do you have a favourite? Barbie Movies


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

bedtime stories

A little while ago I decided to start reading to the girls at bedtime.  We've never really had "bedtime" stories before, and LadyBug was just starting to get excited about stories.  After reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" for the 87th night in a row, I knew that it was time to make a change!

So began the nightly ritual of "story time!"

And tonight, we just finished reading Old Yeller.

You know the story about a boy and his loyal dog?  These stories don't even end out too well.  Just about every story or movie that has a kid and an animal is going to be a tear jerker.



And look, I know I'm not giving too much away, when the ending is spelled out there on the first page.




Eek!

Thankfully, LittleBee hadn't registered that the ending was given away at the start of the book, so she was oblivious to the crux of storyline the whole way through.  Me on the other hand, I had my heart in my throat whilst turning every page, just waiting for it all to fall to pieces.

LadyBug snoozed through most of it (I must have the best "toddler-put-to-sleeperer" voice ever!)

It was a wonderful story really, full of adventure and excitement.  LittleBee wants to read more of their adventures, so I have researched two more books by Fred Gipson which follow on from where Old Yeller finishes.  Now to see if we can get our hands on a copy.


But tomorrow night, we just might start on The Never-ending Story.


What are some of your favourite childhood stories?

Monday, July 29, 2013

back to reality

How do you know when reality is in full swing again?

It's been five days since we touched down in Melbourne again after being away for two weeks.

And as I stand in the kitchen I realise that the holiday is officially over!

We have just been on an amazing two week adventure/holiday together to visit dear friends in Thailand.  It was such a wonderful time together, in a place none of us had visited before.... or dare say even dreamed that we could get there.  Through the actions of very generous friends and family, we were able to take a break from our "reality" and get away for some time together. 

We stayed with our friends, and lived life with them for a while, watching our combined six children enjoy each other's company (most of the time).  



We stayed at a bed and breakfast, where friendly faces greeted us every morning, our laundry was done, and a hot breakfast cooked for us if we wanted.

We ate out at the market almost every night, enjoying the locally grown and prepared meals.




We just lounged around by the pool if we wanted to, or took a nap.






We survived the heat, we survived the humidity, we survived the long and somewhat gruelling flights with our two princesses.



We made memories.





And now we are home.  Home sweet home.

How do you know reality is in full swing again?  When there's no longer someone asking if you want your room cleaned.  When the laundry floor is filled with dirty laundry, especially after a little princess wets your bed.  When the pleading eyes of pets look up at you longingly asking for your attention.  When the dirty dishes on the counter top outnumber the clean ones in the cupboards.

Home.  Back to reality.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

the ladybug and the caterpillar ~ an adventure in turning three

Turning three has to be one of the funnest of times.  It's a magical time really.  The little person is old enough now to anticipare the magic that birthdays bring.  And I love creating magical memories for my little ones on their special days, helping their little dreams become a reality.
As The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the ultimate favourite book of the moment, I ventured out to make it a bit of a caterpillar birthday adventure indeed.

The day started with a wake up call for LadyBug so we could shower her with gifts before the day began.  Daddy took a while to get in the birthday frame of mind, it was 8am after all!

early morning festivities, waking dad and enjoying gifts together


If I may say, this present was a highlight for me.  Inspired by a post at buggyandbuddy.com, I spent a few nights working on creating this Very Hungry Caterpillar travel felt board for LadyBug.  Planning and cutting out all the pieces to tell the story was a bit tiring, but it was a lot of fun too.  The travel board is backed with The Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric.   It was certainly worth the effort to create.






By midmorning, we were ready to share morning tea with LadyBug's special friends.  We prepared the fruit from the five weekdays, poking holes in some of them to make it look like they were caterpillar approved.

the very hungry caterpillar enjoys yummy foods

I had plans for all natural raw cake pops, coloured with chlorophyl I had extracted from spinach... sounds quite epic, so I was thankful when LadyBug decided on cupcakes for her special day instead.  I think he's pretty cute (and he was tasty)

the delightful caterpillar made a brief appearance as a delicious birthday cake


The most fun part about turning three is enjoying it with special friends.  And it was a beautiful sunny morning to spend time playing outside.






Turning three is certainly magical.  We enjoyed making this special day as fun as we could.  Happy birthday sweet LadyBug





Thursday, May 23, 2013

the night before

I used to love going to bed the night before my birthday. A wave of excitement and anticipation would wash over me as I tried to close my eyes and sleep. I remember  thinking... "tomorrow when I wake up and I'll be 13" (these days it's more like "tomorrow I'll wake up another year closer to 40!")

Although LadyBug has no idea really what the excitement is all about. She does know something's going on,and  vaguely knows it's her birthday. 

We've been busy getting ready for a little gathering of little friends we are hosting for her, and she's watched with anticipation and joy as we do that but I think to her it's just another day. All week I've been telling her that she can wear her party dress on Friday. And all week she's been asking to wear it... "Oh, isn't it Friday yet?"


Today we shopped and came home to decorate and pack little party boxes for her friends. I've hung some paper flowers, coloured pasta green for a craft and baked cupcakes. 


I'm exhausted but I'm going to bed tonight excited for the fun day I know LadyBug will have tomorrow. 

Tonight I carried my sleeping LadyBug to her bed for the last time as a two year old. Tomorrow when she wakes up she'll be three. 

And three is so big!
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