Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Morning At The Fishing Boat Harbour

Despite a chilly start, today was forecast for blue skies and sunshine and so mid-morning, the girls and I went for an outing to the Fremantle fishing boat harbour.  Our first stop was the iconic Cicerello's, a new favourite spot of Grace's due to their three enormous fishtanks surrounding the eating area.  Even Sophie seems to enjoy watching all the fish swimming around.  While we were there too early today for fish and chips, we did enjoy a cup of tea and a babycino to warm us up before investigating all the marine life surrounding us.  Much to Grace's delight, she found 'Nemo' and 'Dory' as well as a puffer fish hiding in the rocks.  However, the firm favourite with her was definitely the huge octopus.  She was intrigued by it and its suckers.  I have to admit, I was fascinated myself when it made a dash from one end of the tank to the other in lightning speed.  Who knew such a creature could move so fast?

Our outing provided lots of questions from my big girl.  "Where do jellyfish sleep?" she asked.  When I told her I assumed they just closed their eyes and continued floating around the ocean she seemed concerned.  "But what about a cushion?" she said.

Grace was even allowed to 'pat' a baby shark and a 'Daddy' shark and got to hold a star fish.  Such excitement for a three year old!

Afterwards, we walked around in the sunshine out on the board walk jetty, looking at the huge fishing boats and stopping to watch a cargo train as it passed by before heading home for lunch.

How have you spent your Wednesday?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Childhood 101 Guestpost

Morning everyone!  Hope you've all had a wonderful, relaxing weekend.  Mine was fantastic, the highlight being high tea with my two best friends at The Duxton in Perth on Saturday afternoon.  It was such a lovely belated birthday get together and and we are looking forward to trying another venue for high tea soon.

Today, I'm guest posting over at one of my favourite blogs and parenting resources, Childhood 101 while Christie is on maternity leave having just had her second child.  I was very humbled when Christie asked me to share a post with her readers as her blog is such an amazing resource for parents and educators and one which I gain many ideas from.  It covers topics like everyday parenting issues, organising tips, craft ideas and schooling / childcare.  Christie also has an ebook called 'Art Not Craft' which I highly recommend as well as an online magazine called 'Play Grow Learn' filled with activity ideas for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Pop on over to read what I've shared about 'playtime in our house' and how I try and balance things with my two girls...

Friday, May 25, 2012

May Flowers

In our garden at this time of year, there's one plant which is definitely the show stopper... our pink camellia.  The photo below shows what I see every time I look out our kitchen and living room windows.  I couldn't resist rushing outside to get a photo to share with you while I thought of it so you could picture my exact view right this minute.  While the individual blooms are nothing spectacular and definitely not as pretty as the double style camellia we have in our front garden, en masse these pink ones look lovely, especially as their pink petals carpet the ground.

And yes, that's Grace in her fairy costume yet again in the photo above.  She is still living in it lately, although this week has been a break through in that we've had her stay in her pyjamas in her bed every single night.  Her reward for doing so is me promising to sew her something new for her dress up basket.    

I'm off to a high tea in the city tomorrow afternoon with my two best friends as a belated 30th birthday celebration for me - one had just had her first baby and the other was in Europe back in March so we agreed to do a little celebration later in the year instead.  I can't wait!... I hope the weekend ahead is a lovely one for you all too.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Grace's 3rd Birthday Party

Well, with Grace's birthday party finally over for another year, I feel as though I can now relax a little.  I'm still not on top of housework and our sleep has continued to be very disrupted thanks to both girls having had head colds this past week and Sophie teething badly, but not having the pressure of a party (albeit a simple one) to put together, means this week will be much less stressful.

I kept Grace's birthday celebration as simple as I could and decided that my focus should be on the birthday cake.  After all, when I think back to my own birthday parties as a little girl, it's the cakes that I remember.  My Mum and mother-in-law also made a few dishes to help me out with the food.

The good old rainbow cake really was a bit of an experiment and I had all my fingers crossed that it would turn out in the end.  On Saturday evening as I was icing it, I honestly thought it hadn't turned out as well as I'd hoped.  I had already decided to just stick to four coloured layers to make things simpler (four was fiddly enough as it was) and so I bought yellow, green, pink and purple food colouring paste.  I also bought packet butter cake mix to make things easier still.  However, as I mixed in the purple, I suddenly wished I'd gone for blue instead as the purple looked shocking.  It was a real grey, sick looking shade and I hoped that perhaps once it had cooked, the colour might change and brighten up.  No such luck and so the purple layer found its way to the bin.  In the end though, my three layers was plenty high enough and I actually think any more would have been a bit too much.

For anyone on Pinterest or who blogs, a rainbow-style cake is a bit 'yesterday'.  But to my family who had never seen such a design, they were very impressed.  To make one like I did I used two packets of Green's Golden Butter Cake mix which I divided into four 8 inch round cake tins.  I doubled my recipe for buttercream frosting and so used 250g softened butter, 3 cups icing sugar and 4 tablespoons of milk and beat it for a very long time to get it nice and fluffy and smooth.  A palette knife helped ice the cake neatly.  This was exactly the right amount of icing for what I needed.  I layered the cake and iced it the night before, and kept it in an air tight container overnight.  To decorate the cake I just sprinkled hundreds and thousands on top and put Jaffas around the bottom edge.  If you like buttercream frosting, you will love this cake.  I'd like to try one with different shades of the same colour next.

Sitting down after the party yesterday afternoon, I was so happy with how it all went.  And while a lot of things I had planned didn't eventuate (rainbow tags for the favour bags, a 'rainbow' of helium balloons and a rainbow skirt for the birthday girl), it really was a perfect, simple, good old-fashioned birthday party.  The weather was gloriously sunny and warm, we had a good number of guests where I felt like I had the chance to speak to everyone, the cake was a hit and Grace enjoyed herself. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

All Over The Place

I feel all over the place today - lots has been happening recently and I have lots to do which has prevented me from spending much time online this week.  I had intended on sharing a post about Grace girl turning three, some recipes from our latest Cooking Club on the weekend just gone and a few projects I've been working on.  Then I got a blocked milk duct which prevented me from doing too much, I've been up every few hours most nights settling a very unhappy Sophie whose first two teeth have recently appeared and Grace came down with a head cold in the last few days.  On top of that, it's her birthday party this coming weekend and I feel as though I am way behind in housework and washing not to mention the many emails that I owe.  

So, I will share all these things with you eventually.... hopefully after the weekend - it may just take me a bit of time to get on top of things, to regain a bit more energy and to have a chance to take some photos of all that I want to show you.

Image above by Leslie Shewring at A Creative Mint

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sisterly Love

For me, one of the most rewarding parts of being a Mum is having the chance to watch my girls interacting.  Grace and Sophie have begun to really do so now and it’s just so special to witness.  I love how Grace walks alongside the pram as I push Sophie, holding onto her little sister's hand.  I love how Sophie's face lights up when she sees her big sister upon waking in the morning.  I love looking behind me in the car to see my two girls reaching out to each other from their seats.  Sophie is infatuated with her big sister and Grace fusses over ‘her baby’ like a mother hen.

A few weeks back, a comment on Childhood 101 left by Jenn of My (Not So) Glamourous Life really struck a chord with me.  Jenn shared this poem below which I think sums up perfectly the feeling many Mums have when expecting their second child…

As I hold your 2-year-old hand, basking in the glow of our magical relationship, 
I suddenly feel a kick from within, 
as if to remind me that our time alone is limited.
And I wonder: How could I ever love another child as I love you?
Then he is born, and I watch you.
I watch the pain you feel at having to share me,
as you’ve never shared me before.
I hear you telling me in your own way,
“Please love only me.”
And I hear myself telling you in mine,
“I can’t,” knowing, in fact, that I never can again.
You cry. I cry with you.
I almost see our new baby as an intruder
on the precious relationship we once shared.
A relationship we can never quite have again.
But then, barely noticing, I find myself attached to that new being, 

and feeling almost guilty.
I’m afraid to let you see me enjoying him.
– as though I am betraying you.
But then I notice your resentment change,
first to curiosity, then to protectiveness,
finally to genuine affection.
More days pass, and we are settling into a new routine.
The memory of days with just the two of us is fading fast.
But something else is replacing those wonderful times we shared, just we two.
There are new times — only now, we are three.
I watch the love between you grow, 

the way you look at each other, touch each other.
I watch how he adores you — as I have for so long.
I see how excited you are by each of his new accomplishments.
And I begin to realize that I haven’t taken something from you,
I’ve given something to you.
I notice that I am no longer afraid to share my love openly with both of you.
I find that my love for each of you is as different as you are,
but equally strong.
And my question is finally answered, to my amazement...
Yes, I can love another child as much as I love you – only differently.
And although I realize that you may have to share my time,
I now know you’ll never share my love.
There’s enough of that for both of you
– you each have your own supply.
I love you both and I thank you both for blessing my life.”

- Author unknown -

Wishing all of those with children a wonderful Mother's Day on Sunday, all those who will be spending time with their own Mums a special day and all those who cannot be with their loved ones, precious memories to reflect on of your time together.

Edited on 31 May 2012: This post was featured in the May 2012 edition of  The Post of the Month Club.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lemon Butter Biscuits

I’m not a huge fan of packet biscuits.  I’ll eat them but I’m one of those odd people who isn’t keen on Tim Tams and even the Easter eggs we still have in our fridge have not tempted me.  I do however crave something sweet with my cups of tea in the morning and afternoon and with less time to bake these days, I’ve been finding myself opening packets of biscuits hidden at the top of our pantry more than I’d like.  Last night it was a Mint Slice with my mug of Milo.

It is for this reason that I love a new recipe I came across recently in a book I borrowed from the library called 'Frost Bite' by Susan Austin.  With these biscuits, you can prepare a whole batch up to the baking step and then ‘flash freeze’ the balls of biscuit dough all ready for one of those moments when you are craving something sweet or have an unexpected visitor.  The beauty of these biscuits is you just place them on your baking tray still frozen and ten minutes later, they’re ready to enjoy.  Here’s the recipe…

Lemon Butter Biscuits

Makes 35-40

125g butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
zest of 1 orange, finely grated
1 cup plain flour
⅓ cup cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
flaked almonds

Melt butter in a saucepan and continue to cook for a few minutes until the butter becomes light brown in colour.  Don’t walk away from the stove as it quickly goes from yellow to brown to burnt.  Cool butter (make sure it’s still a liquid, not solid) then add sugar, egg and zests and mix well.  Sift flours and baking powder together then add to the mixture and stir until all flour is incorporated.  Use your hands to shape the dough into balls and flatten slightly.  Place on a tray lined with baking powder.  If the mixture is too soft to handle, place it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so to harden slightly.  Press a piece of almond into the top of each biscuit.

At this point, either ‘flash freeze’ on a tray lined with baking paper and then transfer to a freezer bag or container or bake immediately. 

These can be cooked from frozen on a tray lined with baking paper in a 180°C oven for 10-12 minutes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Planning Grace’s 3rd Birthday Party

Here in our little household, I'm in full party planning mode as Grace’s birthday is midway through this month.  Not that I’m planning anything over the top, it’s just that I want to be organised.  With her party set to be on the weekend following her actual big day, that gives me pretty much a fortnight to sort things out in amongst the usual day to day running of our household and looking after our girls 24/7. 

So far, I’ve made a little birthday countdown calendar based on a Christmas Advent one I’d seen on the Mondocherry blog.  Each morning after breakfast, Grace carefully removes a link and we count how many sleeps are left until her big day.  It’s a great way for her to understand the concept of passing time. 

I’ve been thinking of ideas for Grace’s party pretty much since the start of the year but in the end decided to let Grace choose which cake she would like, seeing as it is her birthday and not mine.  I saved a few images in a file and let her flick through them to see what she liked.  Each time, she kept coming back to the layered rainbow cake.  Nothing could sway her decision towards a ‘simpler to make cake.’  However, I’ve decided to keep things as easy as possible and will limit the cake to four different coloured layers instead of the traditional seven, make some simple decorations and lolly bags and if time permits, a rainbow skirt for the birthday girl to wear. 

Yesterday, using a file of digital images I purchased from ‘hello love too’ on Etsy, I designed and printed Grace’s invites which you can see above.  Paul suggested I just email everyone to make things easier but I really enjoy designing invites for our parties and I still think there is something special about receiving one in the mail.  Grace helped attach the stamps and we posted them this morning.  My next job is to sort out the food and perhaps even make some things to freeze ahead of time. 

Also, thank you all for your advice on my last post.  I appreciated all of your suggestions in my comments.  Grace woke up yesterday still in her pyjamas.  I jumped around in excitement and told her how happy she’d made her Mummy.  However, when I checked on her last night, she had done a change into her summer pyjamas!!  I’ll keep you posted on our progress…

Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Dress Up Dilemma Take Two

I thought I’d fill you all in on the latest with Grace’s dress-up obsession since I last wrote about it.  After the night where we found Grace in bed complete with fairy dress, crown and wand, I told Grace I 'had to do some alterations’ to a few costumes and so I kept the dress-up basket in the living room that night just to see what she’d do.  When we did our usual check on the girls as we headed to bed, we found Grace in bed in knickers, her bathers and a beach hat!!  It was hilarious.  Once again, she was in such a deep sleep, I could easily change her back into her pyjamas.  The following night, with the dress-up basket still in the living room, Grace decided to change into her floral party dress before hitting the pillow.    It’s become a case of ‘what outfit will Grace have changed into tonight?’

One night in that same week, as I was creeping out of Sophie’s nursery having done an early morning feed, I thought I’d poke my head in to see if Grace was warm enough.  There she was sitting on her bed, ‘mid-change’ getting dressed into the fairy costume yet again.

Following on from all the advice on my last post, I’ve decided Grace can dress up all she wants during the day at home.  As I said previously, there’s only a certain window in a little girl’s life where it’s acceptable to do so.  Over the past few nights however, I’ve come to the conclusion that the issue I have is Grace getting out of bed after she’s been tucked in.

Over the past week, each night, after I’ve read her a story, had cuddles and tucked her in, she’s either done an outfit change or been creeping around the house ‘borrowing’ things to bring back into her room.  Every night she’s ‘borrowed’ the torch I keep next to my bed as well as the little light-up clock in Sophie’s room which I use to see the time during the early morning feed. 

So, how should I deal with this?  I’ve explained to Grace that once Mummy has tucked her in, she’s only allowed out of bed if she needs to go to the toilet and that if she does get out of bed, there will be a consequence.  Last night, she still hadn’t learnt and so her consequence tonight is that she must go to bed before Sophie (lately, she’s been allowed to go to bed after Sophie seeing as she is older).  I’ve told her there will be no DVD (she is normally allowed to have ten to fifteen minutes of watching one while I feed Sophie).  Tonight it will be bath, pyjamas and straight to bed.

However, I’ve been wondering about a few things:

·         Should I find some more appealing pyjamas for Grace?  I did try letting her choose which ones she wore to bed in the hope that she would be happy with her choice.  However, that night she came into the living room naked, nightie in hand announcing she needed to change into another one.  I’ve also been giving her a choice of two outfits each morning in the hope that giving her a bit more choice might help.

·         Is Grace not tired enough when it’s bedtime?  With our new night time routine, her bedtime has moved back by half an hour which I don’t want to change.  However, on most days, she is still having a very long nap after lunch and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing for an almost three year old.  Yesterday she slept from half past one until after four.  I’ve been contemplating shorting her nap in the hope she’ll be so tired at night, she’ll be asleep before she even thinks about wandering around the house.

I’d appreciate any ideas or advice anyone has on how to deal with this.  As I said, I’m not worried about the ‘dressing-up’ part (although having outfits pulled out of her wardrobe each day is beginning to drive me crazy) but what I don’t want is Grace wandering around the house in the middle of the night or early in the morning before I’m up.  Not only is it naughty, it could be dangerous.  What would you do if you were in my shoes?  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Our Autumn Garden

Here in Perth over the last week or so, it’s really begun to feel like autumn.  Crisp mornings, sunny days, the odd shower and cooler evenings have all been welcomed in this household.  I love that it’s cool enough to put on slippers and cosier pyjamas, but warm enough during the day to spend time outdoors in the sunshine.

With the arrival of the slightly colder weather, we finally got back into the garden over the weekend.  Paul is always out in the yard over the weekend mowing the lawn or weeding, but this is the first time in months we’ve done any actual planting.  The girls and I headed to Bunnings on Friday and bought a whole bundle of flowers to add some colour around the place and with the assistance of my gardening helper Grace, we managed to get them all in before a good downpour that night.  On Sunday, we went and got some more flowers as well as some seedlings to start off our vegetable patch again.  Our previous crop of vegetables got fried during the long heatwaves Perth experienced over summer but we are now growing some cherry tomatoes, beans, pak choi, lettuce and baby spinach with some seeds of chicory, beetroot and spring onions still to be planted.

Our garden is one of the parts of our home that has really changed over the years.  We’ve invested a lot of time and money into changing things to suit our taste.  However, changing things in the garden requires a great deal of patience as lots of shrubs and trees we have planted are yet to grow to their eventual size and so when I look around, I often feel as though there are bare patches in our garden.  What's needed now are some low border style plants and groundcovers to 'fill in the gaps'.

Anyway, all this talk about gardens has made me realise I'd better go and water our vegetable patch before dinner...