Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Party Fever

We have two birthdays at the beginning of April in our family, so the last few weeks of March are always a crazy whirl of activity for me.

I thought I'd share a little sneak peak of this year's festivities.

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen our Spy Academy Invitation...

We're also hosting a knightly celebration six days later...
So, if I don't get to post for a while you'll know why!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Recipe: Nut Free Choc Balls

I'm constantly on the look out for healthy snacks I can make for my kids. This becomes a slightly harder task when you're seeking refined sugar-free, gluten-free (so I can eat them too!) and, as per school policy, nut free as well.

Fortunately, I have a dear friend on a similar mission and a year ago she found this recipe for a Raw Brownie on the My New Roots blog.  Amazing!  Soon after she sent me a very similar one where the mix was rolled into balls and coated in coconut- perfect for kids, but the nuts meant I couldn't pop them in a lunchbox.

So, I did a bit of experimenting and came up with these...
 Nut Free Choc Balls

1. Place 1/2 a cup of Pepitas, 1/2 a cup of Sunflower seeds, 1/4 a cup of Chia seeds, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and 1/2 a cup of cacao in a food processor.
2. Give it a whiz until it's a fairly fine powder.  (I like to process the small seeds too because I find the Chia get stuck in your teeth less!)

3. With the processor running add 2 cups (about 20) seeded Medjool dates one at a time.  You may also need to add up to 1/4 a cup of filtered water until the mix comes together in a ball.

4. Now to get messy! Roll 1/2 tablespoon fulls of the mixture into balls and coat in coconut (You'll need about 1/ cup.  Dessicated coconut is best, but I only had shredded).  My kids love rolling things in coconut!

5. Enjoy! (Although it's hard to stop eating them, because of the high fibre content, you might want to limit yourself to 3 or 4).  These also freeze really well so you can pop them into lunchboxes when needed.

What's your favourite healthy lunchbox snack?  Do you need to keep things nut-free?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Shape Maze

Here's a fun activity that requires very little preparation and equipment... a Shape Maze.
Start with a nice flat surface that you can draw on with chalk. (My kids were so excited by this activity they even swept the area for me first!)

Have the kids choose a shape and go to town drawing them all over your space. This provided a great opportunity to talk about the features of each shape - their names, number of sides, and number of angles.  Some of our shapes had to be "fixed" to make sure all sides were the same etc.
We tried to put one of each shape type in each "row".   Our rows really only came about because we made our maze on a paved area.
Then take turns jumping through your maze choosing only one type of shape at a time. It is important to take turns as more than one person jumping can cause collisions!
You'll find you end up with at least one shape that is an "easy" path and one that's a "challenging" path.   One of ours was so hard to jump through we had to add extra diamonds!
So, there you have it!  Great for shape recognition, a bit of exercise, and, if you can draw the maze undercover, it works really well on a rainy day when you've all had enough of being inside!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Musical Musings & Motherhood

For the last few months I've been completely unable to stop listening to the Twilight movie soundtracks. Specifically, Breaking Dawn: Part 1.

Actually, that's not strictly true.  There have been moments when my kids have protested "Not Breaking Dawn again!" and I've had to put on something else for a little while.  And that week after the Oscars were on and I spent my mornings prancing around the kitchen, clicking my fingers, channeling my inner Zeta-Jones, singing "All that Jazz" and frightening the children with my dazzling high kicks!  Hey, whatever gets you through the housework, am I right? ; )

Anywhoo, back to my Twilight obsession.  This is the result of the following reasons-

1. I'm a tragic Twi-hard.  (I made my eldest son accompany me to the midnight premiere of one of them. Eclipse, I think. He hid in his seat, hiding his face and panicking, "I'm like the only guy here!")

2. It's actually got a lot of really good songs.

3. And this is the main reason... One of those songs has become a bit of an ode to motherhood for me.

The song is Turning Page by Sleeping at Last. It's actually a song about love. Romantic love. In the film, they play it when Bella is walking down the aisle to marry Edward.

But there is just something about the lyrics that I identify with when I think about my babies. A couple of beautiful phrased lines that resonate with me in my role as a mother and this constantly-challenging, mind-blowingly-intense experience that is my life right now...

I've waited a hundred years.
But I'd wait a million more for you.
Nothing prepared me for
What the privilege of being yours would do.

If I had only felt the warmth within your touch,
If I had only seen how you smile when you blush,
Or how you curl your lip when you concentrate enough,
I would have known what I was living for all along.
What I've been living for.

Your love is my turning page,
Where only the sweetest words remain.
Every kiss is a cursive line,
Every touch is a redefining phrase.

I surrender who I've been for who you are,
For nothing makes me stronger than your fragile heart.

If I had only felt how it feels to be yours,
Well, I would have known what I've been living for all along.
What I've been living for.

Though we're tethered to the story we must tell,
When I saw you, well, I knew we'd tell it well.
With a whisper, we will tame the vicious seas.
Like a feather bringing kingdoms to their knees.

Music has power.  We know this.  The power to make us laugh, cry, dance!  The power to evoke memories of a particular time and place we hold dear in our hearts.

This song, and these lyrics, have the power of making me present.  Identifying what it is I'm doing right now- Surrendering who I've been for who they are.  Trying, as hard as I can, to be the best me that I can be...for them.  Being the strongest version of myself, because their little hearts are relying on me.

I also love the idea of this intense love writing My Story.  Every page full of sweet words describing our lives together.  That's what I want this blog to be - the story of the love I have for my kids and the sweet fun we have together.  That's not to say it's all sunshine and roses.  Without the dark how do we appreciate the light?  Whether I can bring myself to blog about the dark times remains to be seen.

So, if I had felt, seen and known all these amazing things about life with my babies, would I have known what I was living for? Hell, yes! Would I have felt incredibly overwhelmed and under-prepared? Most definitely.  I would have doubted my strength.  My suitability for the task.  But - and I have this song to thank for putting it into words - I now know that tethered as I am to my little loves, together we can tame vicious seas and bring kingdoms to their knees.  

For them I could do anything.

Photo by Infocus

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Supper Tea Party - Downton Abbey Style

My favourite television programme returned for its third season last month.  I love Downton Abbey!  I love the incredibly authentic sets, the gorgeous costumes, all of the characters- poor Mr Bates & Anna, Carson is just delightful and dear Mrs Hughes...okay, so I love them all really!
To celebrate the return of my favourite - and get a few of my friends addicted to it - I threw a little Downton Abbey Style Supper Tea Party.  
I tried to include a few little touches to make it look period and, while not authentic, hoped they'd add a certain charm.  
Lace, tablecloths and linen napkins are a must.  I pulled out some of my wedding silver wear and these cake forks were actually one of my Grandmother's wedding presents! (There is the most amazing, aged paper note inside the box presenting them to her on her wedding day in 1942!)
We had some yummy sweet treats to eat.  Dainty little Meringues, an Orange and Almond Cake, a Coconut and Lime Cake, Scones with jam and cream, jam daisies and coconut macaroons - all served on doilies of course!

Pretty flowers are essential.  Do you think Lady Violet would approve?

To drink? Two kinds of tea, to be served in my Grandmother's pretty china tea set.  (Another nod to Lady Violet!)

Plus a little cocktail fittingly called the Lady Mary that I found here.

I saw this little gem on Pinterest and just had to frame it!

And we played a little Downton Bingo.  I found the link to these on Pinterest too.

One must dress appropriately too.  I dug out the closest outfit I could put together, added some pearls and the essential long gloves for evening.

Here's my attempt at a Lady Mary up do.  Wouldn't you love to have an Anna to style your hair everyday?

I love that my invited guests arrived in their pearls too...

So, tell me, what's your favourite TV show? Does it motivate you to celebrate in style?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

International Food Night

This is one of my favourite family traditions. 
It started way back in 2002 when the Australian Soccer Team, the Socceroos, made it into the World Cup for the first time in years. I decided that it was a great excuse to learn a little about the world and so, to celebrate the team's achievement, we'd cook and enjoy a meal from each of the countries the Socceroos played. Brazilian Feijoada was delicious and, while we adore pasta and Tiramisu, our Italian food was a little hard to enjoy after they kicked us out of the finals!

The idea also worked really well with this colouring book I'd found in a discount store for my eldest son...
Rumbo and Jumpo are a koala and kangaroo who take a trip around the world. Each International Food Night we'd colour in a page, make sure we had the flag correct and enjoy our out-of-the-ordinary meal.   I'm so glad that I've added handwritten notes to the bottom of each page to remember when we "visited" and what food we enjoyed.

Through the years we've continued the tradition on and off.  We've chosen countries based on who the All Blacks were playing (I'm afraid we support Australia in all things but Rugby- the children have been raised according to their father's "religion"), or the next page in Rumbo and Jumpo, or we just choose at random!

Since the book is now all coloured in, we've added a few other activities:
* We make a flag to hang on the wall in the playroom (we started over again towards the end of last year)...

* We find the country on our globe and read a bit about it in our informative Atlas. 

* We complete our passports activity pages. I'm going to do a whole post on this soon and show you where I got the idea, because these are awesome...
* If a country is famous for something we'll do a little You Tube searching too. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo for some bagpipe music when we visited Scotland, some traditional Nyckelharpa music from Sweden (and this Gummi bear clip the kids thought was hilarious!)

Last week we went to Malaysia. I made a Beef Rending and a Nonya-style Chicken and Lime Curry. Then the kids built their version of Kuala Lumpur's Patronas Towers. 
I love International Food Night so much because it encourages the children to try new foods and appreciate the diversity of cuisines. They learn a little bit about geography and a few facts about other countries too. 
So tell me, which cuisine is your favourite? And, for those reading outside of Australia, if we were to "visit" your country which of your nation's traditional dishes do we just have to try?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Monthly Organising Challenge: Kitchen

Okay, so I'm a bit late on this one.  February's iheartorganising challenge was the kitchen.  Frankly, 28 days was nowhere near long enough for me to reorganise the kitchen!

I have made progress, though.  I started out by rethinking how everything was stored.  Why were my small appliances in three different cupboards?  Did it make sense to put all the items I use for baking in the one place?  Isn't it better to have a tea and coffee zone with mugs, kettle and condiments all together?  Then I rearranged.  And moved things again (and again!) until I got it right.

Today I'm just going to show you the pantry.  Here is my gratuitous before shot...
Mostly well organised, just messy - and needing a fine tuning in the placement items to maximise the space.  And to get rid of those hideous yellow labels!

I started by moving the baskets into the middle of the shelves.  This freed up the sides and allows me to use the baskets more like drawers.  I have eight - Baking & Seasoning, Baby Food, Oils & Vinegars, Meals, Spreads, Snacks, Potatoes and Spares (for all those extras you get on special).  The baskets also make it easier to clean up, especially the oils and sticky spreads.

Then I reorganised the jars.  These gorgeous things are the Olde English range by Maxwell and Williams.
The items I use a lot of were placed into the biggest jars, and those I'm using less off (like sugar - more on that in another post) in smaller jars. Then I placed those jars containing similar items together, such as my baking goods...

The labels were simply made in Word using the template for the Avery adhesive labels.  Then I cut them out to fit the jars and/or into shapes with a bit of interest.

Anything attached with a mini wooden peg makes me smile.

My cans are now organised according to type in these fridge bins that are actually designed to store soda cans in the fridge.  Sadly, they don't stack, so at the moment they are separated by cutting boards!  Also, Howard's Storage World only had five, so I'm waiting and using the time to see if I can make use of some more to keep the kids mini snack tins - baked beans, spaghetti and tuna - as well.

Here's the after...
A more efficient use of space and so much prettier!  Though, I may need to move the garlic and potatoes up - my 14 month old likes to crawl into the pantry and eat them!

Next challenge - the spice rack!  Any tips?

You can see last month's Home Office Challenge results here.

I'm linked up to...