Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A wedding and a family photo

Just a lovely family photo we managed to capture at a wedding we were at over the weekend. This was the best shot we had of both kids looking a the camera (although we had a mini photo-bomber in the background).

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We don’t have many family photos of all of us in the frame altogether at the same time. The last family photo we took was over five months ago.

Most of the time the photos we snap are of the kids, or with just one of us in the frame. I’m usually the one behind the camera 99% of the time. Not because I’m particularly camera shy, but I’m generally quicker at pulling out the lens to capture a moment before it disappears. Classic blogger attribute I suppose.

Here are some other lovely snapshots from the wedding we attended… the couple had pretty vintage theme for their wedding with flowers in mason jars and bottles, wooden, crates, doilies and various old style bits and pieces.

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My parents happened to be in town visiting and were happy to babysit, so we were able to head out to the reception dinner later in the evening for a full-fledge adults only affair. I pulled together an outfit of a green shift dress, a string of pearls and my black & white peep-toe heels.

I snapped this while I was in the ladies at the hotel where the reception dinner was being held. I was just heading out the door when I caught sight of my image in the ginormous mirror they had in the hallway. I don’t have many occasions for getting all dressed up so this seemed to be an image worth capturing.

 

When was the last family photo you took together? Or the last photo you or someone snapped of you?
Do you sometimes wish you weren’t always the one behind the camera all the time?

 

Linking up to
Twinkle in the Eye and
Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mummy the Lumberjack

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For the longest time, we have let our rosemary bush in our backyard grow out of control.

We had planted it in quite a prime spot in the garden because I thought it would be nice to have easy access to fresh rosemary whenever I needed it for recipes and cooking. And we were told that rosemary would a terrific herb to plant as they are very hardy and easy to grow.

Little did we know the monster it would grow into.

Like the fabled enormous turnip, this rosemary bush just grew and grew and grew!

The biggest problem was that it became somewhat of a hazard and kept growing across the walkway leading to the backyard and play area. Quite dangerous for little children, actually.

I decided that it was finally time to destroy this monster.

It was a pretty scary looking thing actually. The top of the bush stood even higher than our fence, and it had creepy octopus like tentacle-like branches extending out everywhere.

I got out our pair of garden shears (it was all we had) and started hacking away at the branches one at time. It was simply pathetic. At the rate I was going, it would take me a whole year, hacking away at it like that.

So I called my brother-in-law and asked to borrow his chainsaw. This time I would go back into battle, guns blazing.

I had never used a chainsaw before in my life. The only high powered gadget I’ve used was my food processor.

However I was really determined on getting rid of that rosemary bush as soon as possible. So I geared myself up with gloves and goggles, hoisted up the chainsaw and revved up the motor.

Vrrrrroooooooom!!!

Gosh, that’s one powerful motor.

I angled the saw against a branch and pushed the running blades against it and in less than two seconds, it was sawed off. Wow!

It was quite a thrilling feeling watching each big ugly branch from that bush fall off effortlessly one by one against the whizzing blades of that chainsaw.

I felt strangely powerful wielding this weapon in my hands.

So what’s the point of this story?

Nothing really. I just wanted to share how much I enjoyed using a chainsaw. But rest assured that I shall only be using it strictly within the confines of my own garden in my backyard.

 

What’s the most powerful gadget or machine you’ve handled? Did you enjoy using it a little too much?

 

Linking up to Jess at IBOT

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Creepy crawly things

I generally consider myself to be a fairly strong and stoic person when it comes to yucky stuff. I have quite a high tolerance level when it comes to the poop factor, and I hardly blink an eye when dealing with my children’s vomit, blood and other bodily fluids.

But when it comes to bugs and insects, I turn into a whole other creature.

Whenever I encounter a spider or cricket or any type of creepy crawly, I am reduced to a quivering damsel in distress. And my hubby will have to swoop in as my knight in shining armour to remove the offending creature.

But I have this uncanny ability of surprising myself.

This week, while I was plucking some oregano from the garden, I stumbled across this horrifying creature…

A wriggly, wiggly little caterpillar

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My first instinct was to run away screaming at the top of my lungs. But then my family day care educator mode suddenly took over. I immediately saw a learning opportunity right before me. So I carefully picked up the caterpillar with a spoon and transferred it into a clear plastic container (although the hairs on the back of my neck and arm were standing up the entire time).

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I then called the kids over to have a look. They were completely fascinated and mesmerised. They just looked and looked, asked a million questions. We went out to the garden to plucked more leaves to feed the caterpillar. The whole activity kept them absorb for close to half an hour. And throughout the day, they kept asking to look at their baby caterpillar.

I consider my act of bravery completely paid off at the sight of these little ones learning and observing.

What’s your ick factor when it comes to creepy crawlies?
Have you ever surprised yourself with doing something out of the ordinary?

 

Linking up to
Twinkle in the Eye and
Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Growing up too quickly

You know the saying about parenting a first child versus a second or third child? Well, I’m now really experiencing the difference first hand….

Funny Baby Ecard: First child eats dirt. Parent calls doctor. Second child eats dirt. Parent cleans out mouth. Third child eats dirt. Parent wonders if she really needs to feed him lunch.

It wasn’t a conscious decision really. In fact, I had set out determined to treat each child equally and offer the same level of serious attentiveness to baby #2 as I did with baby #1.

But I eventually I had to accept reality. Parenting a second child is just totally different from the first time round.

  • For one thing, I’ve learnt to let things go a lot more and just go with the flow. No book or article can ever factor in every single situation when you now have more than one child to look after.
  • Secondly, I realised that baby #2 has an older sibling she wants to copy and follow. So often she will naturally want to try to do things that are seemingly ‘advanced’ for her age.
  • Thirdly, I’ve learnt that babies are not just helpless creatures that need constant protection and hovering over. They are also just children growing and exploring the same as any toddler or older child.
  • Fourthly, I discovered that the sibling relationship between Nathan and Grace really thrived as I let Grace join in many of the supposedly ‘older child’ activities with Nathan. So Nathan sees Grace as more than just a baby sister, but also as a real companion and playmate.

Here are some highlights of the ‘liberties’ I’ve allowed for baby #2…

I let her munch and suck on soft whole pieces of fruit at 5 and 1/2 months old
(The downside to this was that she very soon refused pretty much all soft foods and thinks that we are tricking her to eat baby food whenever we try to offer her any kind of porridge, fruit puree like applesauce or even weetbix)

Chomping on a big juicy papaya

At 6 months old she was already getting stuck into our water play, sensory play,
construction play, obstacle course play, music, dancing, story book role play…
(basically pretty much any type of play her older brother was doing)

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Splashing around in the water play tub

She found her first taste of chocolate at 7 months old – totally not intended at all!
(And I surprised myself with the reaction I had to this horrifying incident)

Baby’s first taste of heaven

At 8 months, she was roaming free all around our yard, in the grass, dirt and sand
(Yes, she would sometimes get grass, leaves, twigs, pebbles, dirt and sand in her mouth, but
I consider it all part of her learning experience, exploring her world and her senses)

 
 

 At 9 months old she is now already stepping around steadily on her walker
(And very proud of herself over this big achievement I must add)

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Stepping around with the walker

My baby is really growing up much too quickly. I can barely keep up with her sometimes. I have very mixed feelings about this… on one hand I am glowing with pride and happiness over her development, but on the other hand I feel such an overwhelming sense of wistfulness over the fact that she is already starting to slip away from babyhood. I find myself actually missing her newborn and younger baby days, even as we speak.

The truth is, since the beginning of her very first day in this world, it was already the beginning of the end. All I can do is simply to cherish every single day and moment, because each first is already the last.

 

How old is your ‘baby’ now? Do you find yourself sometimes looking back wistfully, missing their baby days?

 

Linking up to Jess for IBOT

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A birthday party for our cuddly friends

Nathan has recently been completely obsessed with birthdays. Since celebrating his third birthday (pirate style) last Christmas, it’s now become one of his favourite topics.

We’ve also attended a couple of birthday parties earlier this year (both major show-stopping events) which simply added to the whole appeal and grandeur of the entire affair.

Almost every night, when tucking him into bed, he’s been asking who’s birthday is coming up next… His? Daddy’s? Mummy’s? His friend Sophie’s? And he goes on and on about it like a broken record.

So on a whim one evening, I suggested maybe it might be his favourite stuffed toy Quack-Quack’s birthday next. His eyes immediately lit up and he latched on to the idea on the spot. He told me all about what Quack-Quack wanted on his birthday… cake and lollipops and chocolate and sweets (you get the idea). He then went on to tell me that his second and third favourite stuffed toys’ (Bao-Bao the hamster and Hoot the owl) birthdays were coming up too.

So we decided to have a birthday party the next day. For all our favourite snuggly cuddly friends.

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We made play dough cake with candles and cupcakes with cherries on top and lollipops and ice cream.

Then we all gathered round and sang happy birthday, cheered hip-hip-hooray, blew out the candles and cut the cake. And we did it again. And again. And again. For every one of our cuddly friends.

It was a great party.

Hope you’re having a lovely week!

 

Linking up to
Twinkle in the Eye and
Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One of those women we love to hate?

With the whole myriad of things I’ve been taking on…. having kids, cloth nappies, cooking, sewing, blogging, running a family day care… it’s crazy how I’m still managing to juggle it all and keep all the balls going.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve now become one of those women we love to hate. But the truth is, behind that seemingly pristine looking front, is a huge mess of dropped balls all over the place.

Family meal at the kids table

So here is an honest reveal of the reality behind my shiny looking blog…

I now make my family live straight out laundry baskets to save time on folding clothes. I blame this inspiring article. As long as no one is noticing mentioning the wrinkles, I think we’re good.

Our dining table is now gathering dust because we’ve started eating together at the kids table in the kitchen to save time on cleaning up. I figured it doesn’t matter where we eat, as long as we’re all together as a family.

I sometimes eat standing up in the kitchen and cook or wash dishes in between bites.

I served up spaghetti bolognaise three meals in a row last week.

I probably only shaved my legs just twice this entire past summer.

I realise that in an effort to keep the whole clockwork as a whole moving forward, I have to let a few balls drop here and there…. as long I keep holding on to the important ‘balls’ in my life.

Three important ‘balls’ in my life

Do some folks see you one of those women or mums others love to hate? Maybe you are just a really good juggler? How do you manage to keep all the balls up in the air? Or what balls have you decided to let drop and which ones have you decided to keep?

 

Linking up to Jess’s IBOT party

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The easiest four-ingredient cookies

I recently discovered this great recipe for the easiest cookies using just four basic ingredients. It was so deliciously simple that I simply have to share it with you.

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When I first read the recipe, the amount of sugar seemed excessive when combined with the sweetened condensed milk. But actually the sweetness turned out to be okay. Don’t forget that you are combining it with five cups of flour to make a massive batch of cookie dough. Though I think you should be able to reduce the amount of sugar slightly depending on the types of additions you plan to mix in.

This mega batch of cookies lasted us for over a month, I actually kept the dough in the fridge and baked the cookies in three separate batches as I didn’t have time to bake everything in one go. Whenever I wanted to bake a batch, I just took the dough out of the fridge 15 minutes earlier to let it soften a bit before working with it.

Easy Four-Ingredient Cookie Recipe

Ingredients
395g Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
500g Margarine or Butter
1 cup sugar
5 cups Self Raising Flour

(Makes approximately 100 cookies)

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Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cream butter and sugar together.  Add milk and flour to the sugar and butter mixture and mix well together.

Next comes the fun part, throwing in your additions. You can mix in pretty much anything you like -- chocolate chips, m&ms or smarties, hundreds&thousands, raisins, oatmeal, coconut. I divided my dough into two batches, and made mixture of oatmeal raisins for one, and dates and coconut for the other.

Then roll tablespoonfuls of cookie dough into balls, place on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

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If you are short on time or like me, prefer a shortcut method, I melted the butter in the microwave, mixed all the ingredients together by hand, then refrigerated the dough for 20 minutes before shaping the cookies. The cookies still seemed to turn out okay even without the creaming step, just make sure you mix the butter in thoroughly with the sugar and flour.

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Happy baking!

What favourite additions would you throw into your cookie mix?

 

Linking up to
Little Drummer Boys & Twinkle in the Eye

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

My two little daily reminders

When I was pregnant with Grace, people kept giving me dire warnings about the many issues I would encounter dealing with sibling rivalry, fights and tantrums. I admit that I got pretty stressed out about the whole thing.

But since the arrival of baby Grace to our family, I kept waiting for the drama, the tears, the meltdowns. But there honestly hasn’t really been any. Sure there are some days that seem longer than others, but nothing that really resembled all the dire predictions I was expecting.

On the other hand, our days are filled with plenty of giggles and belly up laughter. There is no one else in the world that can make baby Grace laugh so much apart from her big brother.

Grace has become Nathan’s little shadow, following him everywhere, wanting to get stuck into whatever he’s doing. And Nathan more than welcomes his little sister’s company, and often seeks her out to join him as well. My heart always brims over with joy whenever I see them together.

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I don’t claim to have done anything particularly clever or ground-breaking to facilitate any of this.

I consider all this to be simply a gift --surrounded by grace.

Nathan (which means “gift from God”); and Grace (which means “unmerited favour”).

These two names are a daily reminder that life is a gift; that grace surrounds me everywhere I go.

 

Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it
No less than in the excitement and gladness:
Touch, taste, smell your way
To the holy and hidden heart of it
Because in the last analysis
All moments are key moments,
And life itself is grace.

- Frederick Buechner

 

Linking up to Jess for IBOT

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

I love verge collection season

It’s the time of the year again in our area for folks in the neighbourhood to clear out unwanted at items from our homes for our council’s bulk refuse collection service.

I always find it interesting to see the different bits of trash and treasure along the verges in the neighbourhood. I have a bit of a scavenger streak in me, so my scavenging eyes spotted quite a few finds (all in surprisingly pretty good condition) as I was driving around.

Kids table and ride-along toys

A couple of chalkboard easels

An outdoor kitchen complete with various utensils

Please tell me I’m not the only one who scavenges around during verge collection season. Hubby was actually rather apprehensive about sharing my finds as people might think that we must be some cheap, mangy bogans living off other people’s trash.

What do you think? Is picking up items from verge collection considered a dark, dirty deed? Or should it be embraced as part of our local Aussie culture?

(P.S. We put out some items on our verge for collection too, and it was gone in a few hours on the same day. The neighbours must be watching us)

Images taken from my Instagram @livingserenely

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Talking about my wedding day with my son

A few weeks ago on one ordinary morning, three-year-old Nathan happened to notice our wedding photo on display in our dining area. That photo had always been there but for some reason, it was only that day when Nathan really took such an interest in it.

He asked many questions about it.

Why are you dressed like a princess mummy? And why is daddy like a prince?

Because that was when mummy and daddy got married.

Why? Why do you want to get married?

Because mummy and daddy want to be together.

Why? Why do you want to be together?

Because we love each other.

And so on, and so on… (as you can see, we are very much in the thick of the “whys” over here).

It was actually the very first time he was asking about the concept of marriage. So I brought out our wedding photo album to show him. He spent ages fully engrossed in poring over each photo.

Three-year-old Nathan poring over our wedding photo album

We had such a wonderful time looking at the photos together, pointing out some familiar faces of various family members. And I enjoyed reminiscing the beautiful memories of that special day.

As I was looking through these photos, I came across these few special little touches on our wedding day which I really loved…

 

I carried yellow roses for my bouquet
I wanted to hold on to something bright and cheery to reflect the happiness of that day.

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We had a design-your-own card table for our guestbook
We prepared colour pencils, markers and cardstock for guests to get creative in designing their own message cards for our guestbook. The kids really loved it and it doubled up as a fun activity for them to do on that day.

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I prepared a ‘blessing bouquet’ for the bouquet toss
I divided the flowers into little posies tied with ribbons which had a little verse written on them. So when I tossed the bouquet, the posies would come apart to be caught by several girls instead of just one. I wanted the significance of the toss to be about passing on a blessing to my friends (instead of the traditional “you’re next!”)

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It’s been nine years since that day, but I still remember it so clearly in my mind. Like all weddings, it was a whirlwind of a day and was over in just a blink. But what remained after that day and what we still have today and for the rest of our lives together is our marriage.

 

Are you currently going through an onslaught of persistent little “whys” on a daily basis?
Have your kids ever asked about your wedding day? How did you share your memories of that day with them?

 

Linking up to Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays
Please also check out my fun interview with the lovely Lisa at Random Acts of Zen