Thursday, 27 July 2017

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Since my last post we've celebrated four of our childrens' birthdays, including a first birthday and naming day celebration, two more parties and a half birthday! I should, of course, have blogged about those - and I do intend to - but if there's one thing that always motivates me to find the time to post it's celebrating the birthday of our family's favourite literary character.
Next Monday - July 31st - is Harry Potter's birthday. If you've been following my little blog for a while (like, back when I did actually blog regularly!!!), then you'll know that it's our tradition to read one Harry Potter book a year and follow that with a little party on his birthday while we watch the movie version.

This year we finished the book earlier than usual and the boys were so excited to have our little party we decided to do it before the 31st. This also meant that we avoided school nights, rugby playing nights, rugby watching nights and that Michael could join us while he was here on holidays!

They were so excited by this book that there's been a lot of imaginative play stemming from it. We've also been exploring Pottermore - getting sorted, choosing a wand and discovering our Patronus. We read about the Ilvermorny school too which meant they understood the reference in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (because we had to watch that too!)

The boys decided they wanted to make their own wands, so that became a school holiday project. There are heaps of wand making tutorials on Pinterest but all you really do is decorate a chopstick with hot glue (we used some braided cord as well to help make them look like our Pottermore wands)...
Then paint them...
They turned out really well and there have been a lot of duels going on since. I regularly find myself saying "NO Unforgivable curses in this house, please!" Lol! 
For our party I printed a few free book covers (via Pinterest), lit our 'magic' candles and hung our Hogwarts banners...
In the book we read this year, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry arrives at The Burrow late at night and is served a warming bowl of Mrs Weasley's onion soup. I'm convinced she must use this English Onion Soup recipe from Jamie Oliver because it is amazing! Pictured here without the little drizzle of Worcestershire sauce that takes it to another level...
After dinner we had a few classic wizarding world sweets. Chocolate Frogs...
...and Every Flavour Beans. I didn't order the special ones this year but did find some Gourmet Jean Bean "Bean Boozled" packs at the grocery store. We kept them separate from the regular jelly beans because they smelt disgusting! The idea of these is that each colour bean could be either a delicious flavour like chocolate pudding, peach or strawberry smoothie OR they could be dog food, vomit or dead fish. They were SO SO gross and I can't believe I bought them again but the boys thought it was hilarious and they loved sharing the 'fun' with their biggest brother.
Cloaks and wands are essential...
Quidditch is always their favourite parts of the books and we're always disappointed that it gets left out of the movies. I made a few tiny golden snitch cupcakes because my favourite part of this book is what happens after Ginny catches the snitch for Gryffindor!
The gluten free biscuits were a bit too crumbly to make good wings but I thought they were pretty cute...
We had a box of Chocolate Cauldrons too, thankfully without the disastrous side-effects like in the book!
And washed it all down with a delicious Butterbeer...
Because we found the last batch of Butterbeer way too sweet, I kept it simple this year and just popped some whipped cream (canned) on top of some Creaming Soda. It's even more delicious stirred through - like a spider. Yum!
Oh, these boys! I love them so. I also love making a little magic for them too.

Liam has been so taken by the storyline - and devasted by the end of this book - that he asked to read the next book straight away. My reluctant reader has hardly but it down since! Looks like we'll be having another Harry Potter party later this year.

What's your favourite Harry Potter book? 

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Fifth Birthday Milk and Cookies Party

"Lucky" for me and my little blog here, I injured my foot on the weekend so I am unable to much more than things-you-can-do-while-sitting. Like blogging - win!

I thought it best, as we head into the busy birthday season that is April, to finally share the sweet details from Rohan's Milk and Cookies party - from December! I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record but a) I'm a dreadfully slack blogger and b) how is it nearly April already?

Yep, my darling littlest boy turned the big 5 right after Christmas and started full time school at the beginning of this year. Honestly, where does the time go?

As has been our custom, we take down all our festive d├ęcor except maybe the tree/s and make the day all about him. Like his previous parties (when he turned two and three), we kept it simple - because who needs much ado just after Christmas? He invited a few friends for a little afternoon tea and play.

Food wise this was the easiest party ever! Lots and lots of cookies...

 I did try to mix things up with some Choc Chip Cupcakes...

and some S'more pops...
We set up a milk bar too, 'cos you can't eat a cookie without a glass of milk.
Rohan invited some of the lovely friends he made at preschool last year...

And we had Grandma, two big brothers and a little sister to join the fun too. Hamish has had his haircut recently and I can't get over how different he looked back then. Also, so many heart eyes for Daddy with his daughter.
A rainy, overcast day meant indoor play. Lego, Duplo and Magnatiles are always winners...
And then there's the cake! I've made this one before - for Michael's 18th birthday - and it is just so, so good. Donna Hay's Cookies and Cream cake. Yum! Happy birthday, Beautiful boy!
We sent our friends home with a few little treats, and as many leftover cookies as they could carry! Slight sugar overload.
Now, I really must try to blog more often. I have a whole list of things I haven't shared in the last two years. I haven't even posted about Rohan's 4th birthday which we celebrated while on holidays in Brisbane. And though I'm pleased to have an excuse to rest for a bit, I am however hoping this foot heals itself soon - we've got three birthdays and Easter coming up!

Tell me, have you ever been on crutches? If so, please share the secret because I feel so totally uncoordinated on them I'm hobbling around holding onto furniture instead.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Ten for Tuesday

Happy New Year!

I'm getting my first post of the year in just this side of February - which is unsurprising given my recent blogging record but also just staggering that we are a whole month into this new year already.

We have had an amazing summer holiday break. It's been an interesting balance between doing lots of hard work around the house and having heaps of fun-filled family moments. Here are a ten of them...

1. Evangeline had a wonderful first Christmas and seemed quite excited about the whole thing. It was great to have both of our Mums here too. | 2. We celebrated Rohan's 5th birthday with a little Milk & Cookies themed afternoon tea with a few friends. More pics soon. | 3. We made a Holiday Bucket List and started ticking off some fun! Like ten pin bowling... | 4. ...taking this guy on the big slides at the waterpark because he's tall enough now. | 5. ...and we did some marshmallow construction that Liam read about. We made some cool three dimensional shapes which was educational fun but for them it was more about getting to eat a whole packet of marshmallows when they were done!
6. We've been cleaning, painting, doing up our outdoor entertaining area and getting ready for a pool!!! So excited! Will share some more pics of that soon too. | 7. Play time with baby girl is getting more interesting as she grows. Not at all interested in lying, rolling or crawling, though. | 8. Trying out Darwin's new trampoline place. | 9. The boys planned their own outing. Took care of all the details themselves. We went to the zoo... | 10. ...and the video arcade. I'm so proud of them and we had such a great day.

Do you have much time off over Christmas? If so, how were your school holidays? Did you do anything adventurous?

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Ten For Tuesday - Festive Edition

I've written so many blog posts in the last three months. 

In my head. 

Sadly - and mainly due to a seemingly never-ending spate of family illnesses - they've never actually made the transformation to typed word, let alone made it onto the blog. BUT, I really really hate that none of the fun things we did last Christmas were shared here* - my little space on the internet where my memories are held safe enabling me to take a stroll through them whenever I want. Sigh.

SO, I'm using this (rare) baby nap time to get ten of my favourite pics from the last two weeks up here because joy and merry and bright and twinkle! And even though I curse myself at eleven o'clock every night when I'm still baking, crafting or creating, I know that before long these little gifts of mine will be all grown up and too big for the magic of this glorious season.

My ten this Tuesday...

1. Scout's back! He's upped his Hot Chocolate game since the last time too. | 2. He has great taste in PJs too. Love Peter Alexander. | 3. And this festive Memory game made with our Instagram photos is just bursting with joyful christmas' past. | 4. Lots of awesome advent activities happening too. Gluten free gingerbread worked out okay. The boys had fun decorating it with lots of things I can't eat, though! | 5. We camped out under the Christmas tree and watched The Polar Express. Cranky baby went to bed, though.
6. We had a little Cookie Decorating Party. The boys got to invite one friend each and it was so much fun! | 7. Making snowy terrarium scenes and pretending it's not 36'C and 90% humidity outside! | 8. All the heart eyes for my Santa Baby xx | 9. Snapped this pic of Evie with Rohan and instantly thought of... | 10. ...this pic of Hamish and Liam. Seven years ago. Same Santa suit!
*In saying that I did at least Instagram last year and you can see all our past Advent Activities at #sahtadvent and Scout's antics at #sahtelf.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Yesterday was my thirty-eighth birthday.

I don't usually make a big deal of my birthdays, but for the first time since turning 30 I chose to celebrate my birthday with more than just my sweet family. So I had a little girly high tea party last weekend at the divine Chantilly Kitchen Tea Room.

Miss Evie and I got all dressed up...
There was High Tea...

There was champagne...

There was lots of talk and empathy and love and an enormous feeling of gratitude on my part to have made so many wonderful friends since relocating to the Territory eight years ago. 

And yesterday I got to enjoy morning cuddles and homemade cards, my favourite takeaway for dinner and yummy raw cake. 

How hilarious is E's sad little face in this pic? Poor baby's too little for cake! (I promise she was smiling in all the other shots we took!)
Life is good at 38.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A Breastfeeding Action Plan + Tips for Success

Recently I started asking friends, family and all my awesome blog readers about their best tips for new mums and I'll be collecting all those together in a post soon. While chatting to a friend of mine about all of this, she mentioned the importance of putting together a plan for feeding before baby arrives. After all, we are asked to have a birth plan but what happens after? Shouldn't we plan for that too?

**This has turned into a really long post so you might want to go make a cup of tea first!**

Now, like most mums-to-be, I attended antenatal classes before my first baby and, to be honest, dismissed most of the information presented about cesareans and complications because that wasn't going to happen to me! And breastfeeding? Looks easy. Sounds easy. It's a totally natural process and I'm going to feed my babies for years.  Right?

Well, it's very different when you've got your tiny baby's head in one hand and a boob in the other! No diagram in the world can truly explain it. So, why is it so hard for us intelligent, modern women to figure out? Mostly because we're not exposed to it. (Don't get me started on all this anti-nursing-in-public crap that fills my Facebook feed). The best source of support new mums have is other mothers. Things would be so much better for us if we could watch others birth and breastfeed. 

I should mention that there are a few medical reasons (such as chemo, HIV, other medications) why you might not be able to and this is something to discuss with your health care professionals. However, most mums should be able to successfully start feeding and continue for as long they choose. At the same time, though, we need to avoid guilt entering these conversations.

A decade ago it was the norm to say "breast is best". This is because it is. Not only is it the best nutritionally for our babies it also does a whole host of things for their immune systems that we can't really replicate and probably a lot more 'amazingness' that we still don't fully understand. These days, however, if you say that then, apparently, your only motivation in saying it is to make mums who can't nurse feel guilty. Gah! 

I see it this way: Mums worry. We're good at it. Gold medal worriers. And it starts pretty much the moment you find out you're pregnant. The zinger is that this worry ever so easily translates into guilt. We put it on ourselves! We do it! It's not about what other people say. We control that response. And we really need to stop being so down on ourselves. Accept what is and focus on the positive. Besides, there are plenty of things to worry out throughout this whole motherhood experience!

So, it seems that you're dammed if you say breast is best but, the other side of it is, that telling mums that "it may not work out and that's okay" isn't really great motivation either. Because it can be hard to get right and it is bloody painful in the beginning. And giving permission to quit is a bit wrong. We need to offer encouragement and support instead.

Feeding can be a different - and difficult - experience with subsequent babies too. It was for me even the fourth time around! I've heard it compared to dancing with a new partner. Even though I know all the steps - and baby has natural rhythm - we've still got a fair amount of rehearsing to do before we get it right. 

So, bottom line, the one thing you really need for success is a determined attitude. Alright! Ready to give a good shot? Let's make a plan!

First, Get a Support team 
This is probably going to be your partner. If not, a parent or close friend. Regardless, have a good chat about how important it is to you to succeed at nursing. Talk about ways they can help - offering encouragement, making sure you're comfortable and getting you a glass of water every time you feed is a great start.

Things like doing the cleaning or cooking so you can spend time focusing solely on baby and holding baby while you sleep sure help as well.

Sometimes you just need someone to talk you through it. I remember being so tired and my nipples being cracked and bleeding at the end of that first week (from Liam feeding for an hour every two hours!) that I begged hubby to go and buy bottles and formula. He said he would if he honestly thought that was what I wanted but that he knew how important this was to me. So, we decided to go to a Lactation clinic the next day and to give it our all for six weeks and reassess then. By that stage, all was healed and everything was going fine.

Then, Learn all you can
As I've said before, knowledge is power. Go to a class - some have a demo mum who expects you to look closely and ask questions. Visit a friend with a new bub (bonus tip: take her a home-cooked meal to stick in the freezer) and learn from their experience. Join the ABA. Watch videos. Be informed.

Now, Make your plan
Know what you want to happen after delivery. Immediate skin to skin is best and baby will pretty quickly start looking to latch on. Also, have a think about what you'd do in case special care is needed for you or baby. What do you want to happen if you have to have surgery? Or if baby needs a humidicrib and can't attach?

This template is a great starting point and has lots to think about...

And now here are My Top Tips for feeding success once your precious bundle has arrived..

1. Feed Baby Regularly
Before babies I'd always heard "never wake a sleeping baby" so I didn't with my first the first day or two and it meant a big delay in my milk coming in and baby getting dehydrated. Babies who don't wake for feeds should be woken every two to three hours. While you may not be producing milk yet, the colostrum they receive is liquid gold and all that suckling will stimulate milk production. 

2. Proper Attachment is Key
The biggest tip for breastfeeding is get the attachment right. Nose to nipple, chest to chest. Get their mouth to open wide and take the whole areola. If it hurts while feeding, or your nipple comes out of baby's mouth flat, your attachment is wrong. Don't continue if it hurts. Dislodge them by slipping a little finger in to break the suction and try again.

Sometimes getting attachment correct is as simple as pulling their lip/s back or lifting them higher on your chest. Ask for help. Midwives are a great help (though, I've had a few cranky old bats in hospital who just made me confused and frustrated!) So too are lactation support groups. I went to one with Liam because, as I said, my nipples were so sore, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and I was ready to give up on the whole thing. The consultant showed me how to do a football hold which worked better for us at the time and it changed everything.

3. Get in a Comfortable Position
You may be okay sitting on a bed, but a comfy yet supportive chair where your feet can sit flat on the floor is the best to begin. As you gain confidence you can try different holds and positions - lying down is my favourite first thing in the morning when I'm too sleepy to sit up...

I like my feeding cushion too. All that nursing can be hard on your neck and shoulders - mine are suffering really badly this time around. Heat packs, massage and physio are easing it.

4. Take Care of Your Needs
There'll be more of this in my general tips post, but the most important things relating to nursing are:
Water - drink a glass at every single feed. Even in the middle of the night. I have a full caraffe and a glass next to where I feed (because I hate drinking out of plastic bottles).
Nutrition - supplements can help but make time to eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Prioritize salads and vegetables. Handfuls of nuts are great too. I took a jar of nuts and seeds to hospital with me too.
Also include galactogogues - which are substances that help increase milk production. Oats are a great source, plus they're good for you and porridge is easy to make and tastes yum. I've even found oats with minimal traces of gluten at my healthy food store which I don't seem to be reacting to. 
Brewer's yeast and Fenugreek have them too but they are harder to incorporate into your diet. Try the cookies and tea mentioned here. Or this recipe.
Sleep - sleep whenever your baby does. Forget all housework that isn't absolutely necessary. Better yet enlist someone else to help out.

5. Treat Sore Nipples 
My best tip for sore nipples is to express some milk and rub it in regularly, let them air and bask in indirect sunlight daily (morning sunbeams as they come in through a window are ideal). I found creams like Lansinoh provide extra soothing and protection when they're cracked and bleeding too.

6. Lumps Can Happen
Hard lumps can form in your breast and up in your armpits. For lumps in the breast, attach baby so that their chin is on the lump if possible. This helps to massage the lump and drain the milk buiding up in there. For other lumps, massage them in a hot shower and express a bit to drain them. They will eventually go away, but correct draining is essential to avoid mastitis. (Which I'm fortunate to say I've not experienced and therefore can't advise on. If you've got tips please comment below).

7. Know Where to Go to Get Help
Please, ask for help if you need it. Enough said.

8. Make a Note
Write down the time you started feeding baby and which side you started on. Tired brains forget. In my case, they forget pretty much everything. Ha! I use a little spiral notebook. This also means that hubby can read it in the morning, see if we've had a rough night and decide whether or not he wants to wake the bear or get the boys ready for school himself. (Which he does pretty much everyday because he's just awesome x).

9. Gather Everything You Need First
Before you sit down to feed make sure you have water, your notebook, feeding cushion, burp cloths, tissues, your phone/a book/the tv remote - whatever you might need. Also, go pee and/or wash your hands before you start too. Baby might cry a little but it's much easier to do it all before!

I prefer to feed sitting cross legged on my bed, so I keep everything on or next to my bedside table...

10. Offer Both Sides. Switch Each Time.
What has worked best for my babies is to feed them on one side, burp them, then offer the other. Then, next feed, start on the side I finished on. Some people offer one side at each feed and alternate but that always made me feel lopsided! Also, feed baby for as long as they want on each side but without them falling asleep! (Unless you're feeding a very tired and sad baby to sleep which can be a great strategy too).

11. Burp Baby Regularly
Always burp after each side. If baby is grizzly just after a feed it's probably because they have some gas needing to come up. If you experience a 'witching hour' - an hour or two around 5pm when they cry a lot - try burping more during every feed, say every 3-5 minutes. It really can help.

12. Expressing
Finally, my advice is don't quit - even if you think it's not working! As mentioned, feed baby regularly (every 2-3 hours for the first week or two) to build up a good supply. Then whenever baby needs it. Often you'll find they cluster feed for a day or two and then sleep a lot for a day or two. This is in order to support their growth spurts and to stimulate you to produce enough milk to support that growth.

Give it a good run and if you and a professional think baby is not getting enough milk - which is usually about not putting on weight and not about how much they cry - then try expressing first. Express after a feed to help increase your supply and feed baby this extra milk with a syringe, cup or spoon. I've had limited success with expressing but found an electric pump to be more effective. They are available to hire too.

Be aware that overtime, your breasts get used to the amount of milk baby needs and won't feel as full. This doesn't mean they aren't as full. Once you introduce a bottle of formula it can be very hard to keep your supply up. Please, seek professional advice first.

13. Clothing is a Matter of Preference
Nursing bras are obviously essential. Get properly fitted before and after, if possible. Quality bras are a good investment if you're planning to wear them for a year or two. Nursing singlets - like these Bonds ones - are great in hospital as they make skin to skin contact easy. (So too do Bonds zippys on baby. Which I rave about here.)

Actual nursing tops are not necessary - you can just lift your shirt - but I like to wear them when I'm out in order to hide my belly, which I'm pretty self-conscious about at the moment. Button-up tops and dresses work too but I prefer having something over the top of my breast. It's entirely up to you.

Breast pads may be necessary if you experience leaking during letdowns or when your baby (or someone elses!) is crying. Sometimes a bra is enough and, usually, this leaking eventually stops. I hate sleeping in a bra but found a singlet with a built in shelf bra was enough to hold a nursing pad in place, (now) stops me from leaking, but is comfortable enough to sleep in. Peter Alexander make good ones.

14. Feed in Public
For the love of everything right in this world don't hide away to feed your baby! It's totally normal and should be acceptable to feed your baby whenever and wherever you need to. Be comfortable with it yourself, obviously, but don't take shit from anyone. In ten years of feeding babies I have never had one negative comment or dirty look and have only ever had people smiling at my cute baby while I feed. I prefer to find a nice cafe or coffee shops to get myself a calming drink too!

For breastfeeding counselling in Australia, please call the Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 mum2mum or 1800 686 268 which is run by The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). The Breastfeeding Helpline is available 7 days a week. It is staffed by trained, volunteer counsellors who answer calls on a roster system in their own homes. The National Breastfeeding Helpline is supported by funding from the Australian Government.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

A Justice League Birthday Party for Two

So back in April we had a birthday party for Liam and Hamish. And in keeping with my slack-blogger-ness, here it is posted in August!
With the baby set to arrive only a few weeks later, we decided to keep this year's birthday celebrations simple. Okay, well as simple as this mama is capable of doing!

Firstly, they consented to have a combined party to make less work for me and, with all the excitement around the new Batman v. Superman movie, they easily agreed on a Justice League theme.

I just loved how well these invitations turned out! Yay for Pinterest inspiration!

Secondly, we hired a venue. As we can never be sure an April party won't experience torrential rain or ridiculous heat we chose to have this one at an indoor play centre.
I usually find these places insanely noisy, so we paid a bit extra to have the place to ourselves. This also helped with the numbers required for a combined party. Hiring a venue also meant limited set up and no clean up. Win! 

The boys had a blast catching up with all their friends, some of whom we hadn't seen since we started homeschooling.
We asked everyone to come dressed as a superhero or in their favourite superhero T-shirt. Liam's awesome Green Arrow costume was made by my amazing mum. Hamish went as General Zod because, for some reason, this kid has a soft spot for the bad guys!
How ridiculously adorable is Rohan as The Flash? Oh, my heart!
Because I like to have the food in keeping with the theme - and am not a huge fan of the party food they usually have at these venues - I did make it all myself. (This also means I can make things gluten free so I get to eat too!) I was, however, determined to keep the food really simple and easy to prepare and transport.

Loving my Baby Daddy in his Superman shirt. I had to skip the costume. For some reason my Wonder Woman outfit didn't fit- Lol! All the kids seemed to enjoy the food, though...
Marshmallow pops are so easy to make! I made some with The Flash symbol...
...and some for Green Lantern. I wrapped florist's oasis in gift wrap as a stand.
I found these long sweets and turned the yellow ones into Wonder Woman's golden lassos...
I found these wrappers and toppers in a pack at a party store when I got the plates, cups and napkins which made Superman cupcakes super easy too...
To add a few healthy touches we had themed fruit kebabs...
...and Green Arrow's quivers. Green Lantern's power rings and a few bowls of chips helped fill bellies too.
I didn't manage to get a shot of the Superman jellies before they were devoured, but here's my cute seven year old enjoying his (and look at the size of my belly in the background!)...
The mini hot dogs - with gun for tomato sauce application - were a hit too...

I can't believe my first born is ten! This kid is the most amazing and challenging combination of kind-heart, complicated brain and fierce sense of justice. He pushes me every day to be the kind of parent I want to be - and forgives me when I fail.
I love this picture of Rohan. I'm almost sure he ate that entire stand of cupcakes himself!
I kept the birthday cakes pretty simple too. Just store-bought fondant over a simple square cake (trimmed for Superman)...

After the kids had finished eating and run themselves to exhaustion we took turns singing Happy Birthday. First to Liam, who was ten on the first... Then to Hamish who was seven on the seventh...
This guy is the sweetest. And I'm really enjoying him at this age. So thoughtful and cuddly. He loves completely, feels deeply and is finding his own place in our crazy, expanding family!
If you're thinking these take home bags look familiar, you'd be right! I made these for Hamish's Avengers party last year. I did them again because, hello! cute! They're also pretty easy but look like they're a lot of work...
No photo of the treats inside, though, as I made the boys fill them half an hour before the party started while I ran around the house freaking out that we were "totally running out of time"! I just hope everyone got roughly the same collection of lollies and random bits of superhero plastic toys! 

Did you see Batman v. Superman? Lots of mixed reviews. Wonder Woman was definitely the best thing in it, though. Loved her!