Monday, September 24, 2012

One Weekend Wonder: Working Hard In The Garden

Today, I'm linking up with Claire's One Weekend Wonder post - a weekly link-up where bloggers share a special moment or experience captured during the weekend... one they want to cherish...

Our weekend was a VERY productive one.  It was non-stop for us all but we accomplished a lot, especially seeing as we did all we did with two little girls to look after and keep happy at the same time. The majority of our weekend was spent in the garden.  Paul worked especially hard (with Grace and I lending a hand) and between us, we managed to prune, weed and mulch the back garden and most of the front.  It's so rewarding to look out the window now or pull into our driveway seeing everything looking so neat.

Grace especially loved being Daddy's helper.  While I alternated between pruning bushes, doing chores inside the house and keeping Sophie entertained, she and Paul scooped bucket after bucket of mulch, carpeting the garden in pine bark chips.  She loved gallivanting about in her gumboots, climbing up onto the trailer and getting absolutely filthy in the process.

Now we just need to wait for all our frangipanis to come out in foliage again as things are looking a little bit bare and we need to buy some more ground covers and low growing shrubs to fill in all the 'empty spots'.  We're also thinking of planting some tall hedge / screening type plants along the other side of our fence in the top photo, to create a bit more privacy and to hide the view of nearby rooftops and palm trees. It will be nice to look out the back and see greenery above the fence line rather than roof tiles.

In other 'garden news', our little baby dove took its first flight yesterday and left the nest (that's her on the beam in the photo above).  I've found I'm still glancing out the window all the time out of habit though, expecting to see our little friend amongst the branches of the jasmine bush.

How was your weekend?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Finding Time

This week, I haven’t had the energy or enthusiasm for much blogging.  I haven’t had the energy or enthusiasm to do much at all really.  After my last post, the girls came down with colds and so since the weekend, I’ve been looking after two snotty little ones and trying to rest myself as I’ve been under the weather too.

In general though, finding time to be online lately has been more challenging.  For the past few years, my blogging session has always been when Grace napped.  The first half of my precious two hour or so block of ‘mama solitude’ is my ‘me time’ – time for recharging my batteries with a cup of tea, to put up my feet for a while and to write a blog post or read a few others.  Sure, allowing myself to have this online time rather than using it for chores means beds are occasionally left unmade and dust can be left sitting on shelves, but for me, I am able to do my job better as a Mum when I have a bit of down time each day and that takes priority over other tasks.  My girls are with me 24/7 and since I can literally count on my fingers the number of times I’ve had a few hours here or there to myself over the past year, I feel I can fairly justify me prioritizing my hobby over housework during nap time.  

However, it is now a rarity if Grace has an afternoon kip.  If I’m lucky, she’ll be exhausted mid-week and there’ll be one or two snoozes, but generally, she’s still full of energy come one thirty when Sophie is due to go down.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I know I’m lucky she’s napped past the age of three and I honestly love her company.  It’s just that now, I feel I can’t dedicate as much of my usual time slot to blogging and online browsing the way I used to.   

At the moment, I encourage Grace to have some quiet play or a rest in her room with an activity that isn’t too loud or disturbing for Sophie next door (books, puzzles, dress-ups  etc.)  However, after a while of that and once I've had a cup of tea, it’s time to do something together and so we have our crafting sessions, play a game or spend time pottering in the garden... and hence my online time has become more restricted.   But for now, spending time with my big girl is my priority and what makes me happiest... it just means I have to be more creative sneaking in my blocks of ‘me time’.  Nowadays, in the evening, when the madness of the tea/bath/bed routine is over and I can finally put my feet up, I allow myself an hour of online time to catch up on my favourite blogs or to browse a bit on Pinterest.

I’m really interested to hear when you all find time to be online?  Do you get up early?  Are you a night owl?  Do you browse in your lunch break at work?  Do you browse on your phone or iPad while commuting to work?  I’d love to know what works for you… 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Our Week...

Our week has been a great one.  We haven't done anything overly exciting or had any special celebrations or occasions that usually occur in a such a week, but we've had a lovely balance of wonderful things - pottering around our home tackling our 'spring cleaning baby steps', visits to a few friends for coffee and playdates and lots of time spent outdoors enjoying the glorious sunshine...

...we've picked spring blossoms that are starting to pop up all over our garden.  The above shot is of Grace's arrangement - I showed her how to balance the different coloured flowers around the jar and encouraged her to add some greenery to her posy...

...we went to Spotlight and came away with some goodies for Sophie's upcoming party - pretty blue and white fabrics and ribbon.  I had intended on buying a piece of gingham to use as a table runner and then stumbled upon some check tablecloths (all sizes on sale for fifteen dollars) and since we need a new tablecloth for outdoor entertaining anyway, I picked one up...

...I made a small purchase in an effort to add more colour to my wardrobe.  As I looked through my clothes the other day, I realised that I own only five or so items that are not black, white or grey.  It left me wondering when I stopped wearing colour.  I used to wear lots of blue and aqua and pretty prints.  What happened?  When did my style morph into solely neutral territory?  When I saw the top above at Target as I was walking past (on sale for only twenty dollars), I scooped it up in an attempt to begin 'operation bring back the colour' ...

...I've been doing lots of de-cluttering and tidying this week, all in small spurts, but all progress nonetheless. I've given baby clothing away to friends, have donated several bags of items to charity and am about to list some bits and pieces on Gumtree over the weekend (and I haven't even gone through any of our wardrobes yet!!)  This spring cleaning business is SO good for the soul and extremely liberating!  I've also made a big dent in tackling the worst room in our house - the study. We have big plans for this room but I'll share those in another post next week. This room is still in way too an embarassing state to show you any photos though, so here is part of my nice neat laundry cupboard instead...

How has your week been?  What plans do you have for the upcoming weekend?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Satisfying A Sweet Tooth

While I love pesto and parmesan and lots of other delicious savoury tastes, I definitely have a fondness for sweet treats.  Once, if not twice during the week, I bake something sweet to 'have on hand'.  However, last week, for different reasons, our pantry was looking rather bare on the 'sweet front' and on a few afternoons, I found myself making a piece of fairy bread just to satisfy my cravings...

So, on the weekend, I decided to make a batch of biscuit dough that I could freeze and then easily bake at a moment's notice.... I made a batch of nutty chocolate chip dough using a Stephanie Alexander recipe my sister-in-law had shared at one of our Cooking Clubs.  I love the nut and chocolate combination and I love that I can pop a batch of these into the oven with little effort and be able to enjoy that freshly baked biscuit goodness...

Here's the recipe...

Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Makes 30-36

125g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
120g roasted nuts, chopped (I’ve tried both pecans and hazelnuts)
170g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
110g softened unsalted butter
cup castor sugar
cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

Sift flour, salt and bicarb soda into a large bowl.  Add chocolate and nuts (I roasted ours slightly on a baking tray in a moderate oven for ten minutes before finely chopping them in a mini food processor).  In an electric mixer cream butter, castor sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add egg, then fold in chocolate mixture.  Form into 2 logs about 3cm in diameter and wrap tightly in plastic film.  Chill for 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 175°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.  Unwrap logs and cut into 1.5cm thick slices.  Place on baking tray, allowing room for spreading and bake for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Logs of biscuit dough can be frozen (the suggestion in this recipe is to slip each log inside an empty cardboard tube from a roll of kitchen paper to prevent them freezing with one side flattened).  Thaw at room temperature before slicing and baking.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Babies Growing

With looming first birthdays and talk of Grace going to kindy next year, things have really been hitting home lately that my babies are growing up...

Grace all of a sudden seems so much older.  As I watch her tearing about in the backyard with those long legs of hers, I often forget she's only three.  She is desperate to do everything independently - from getting dressed, to drying herself after a bath to opening doors and checking the letterbox.  I can't tell you how many times a day I hear the words, "I can do it by myself Mummy".   

Sophie... well she's desperate to copy anything and everything her big sister does.  She pulls herself up to standing at every opportunity.  You can see where I discovered her playing over the weekend in the photo above... at Grace's toy kitchen.  Over the space of just a week, she's started walking along the furniture and even been brave enough to let go a few times.  She is eager to walk (and I must admit, I'm eager for her to walk too as she is getting mighty heavy for my slight frame and I think I'm developing tendonitis in my elbow as a result of all the lifting).

It was two weeks ago however, after returning home from our holiday down south that I really felt as though my baby was gradually becoming less of a baby.  It was in Denmark that she dropped the two o'clock in the morning feed she's had every night since she was born.  And while I'd been hanging out for her to 'sleep through the night' for SO long and while I'm feeling SO much better finally getting a decent night's slumber after ten months, this milestone really is proof of my baby moving closer towards toddlerhood.  Facing that fact makes me a tad sad.

As for the feathered 'baby' we have been keeping a close eye on, she's growing bigger and bigger each day too.  It is so precious being able to watch her and the mother bird from our kitchen ever since we witnessed her hatching from her egg last week.  Even now as I sit here typing on the lounge, I can see the nest clearly with the little baby's head peering out over the top of the foliage. The photo above is of 'feeding time' (which from what I've observed is done 'beak to beak').   If you look closely, you can see the thin, fragile bones on the baby's wing which aren't yet fully feathered. Truly amazing stuff.  

Fortunately, my 'babies' are a LONG way off 'leaving the nest' and so while all this growing up saddens me slightly, I'm grateful and ever so excited about the many fun years we have ahead of us to look forward to spending with our girls... I am thankful every day for being blessed enough to be their Mama...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Planning Sophie's 1st Birthday Party

It's hard to believe, but in only six weeks time, our baby girl will be turning one, so over the past few weeks, I've been trying to plan and pull together ideas for her upcoming birthday celebration. We'll be doing something similar for Sophie to what we did when Grace turned one - a simple morning tea in our backyard and being in the middle of spring, I've used the sweet dress I bought back in April as driving my inspiration and decided to go with a picnic theme. Having seen both Nicole and Louise throw parties with a similar theme in the past, I'm looking forward to putting my own spin on all of the wonderful ideas I've come across so far.

At the moment my vision is for blue and white gingham, jars and jugs of white daisies, baskets and perhaps some bunting along with comfy picnic blankets and cushions placed under the shady area of our backyard for the little ones to play on.  I have lots of ideas floating around in my head and am eager to start making decorations and getting myself organized, especially as I'm thinking of hosting another Pink Ribbon Day fundraiser this year which also happens to fall in the month of October.

Do you have any suggestions for a picnic party?  Any ideas for a cake to suit this theme?

Image Sources (left to right)
#3 Chelsea Fuss of Frolic
#4 Kirsten Ellis of Beaux Arts Photographie.  Design by Kelly Oshiro Events

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Life

Just outside our back door we have a star jasmine bush growing up and around one of the patio posts.  It was there when we bought our home and year after year has continued to grow healthily, becoming carpeted in fragrant white blooms just before the warmer months set in.

In addition to this bush producing a mass of flowers, each year come spring, it becomes home for at least one nest of doves, if not more.  Some take up residence in existing nests, others 'house sit' the homes of their previous feathered friends.

A few weeks back though, our jasmine bush began looking a bit sick - straggly and bare.  Paul gave it a bit of a prune away from the beams and in the process, left a nest exposed right on the top branches, tucked under the patio roof.  This is where our latest little dove friend decided to call home.

Grace and I have been waiting patiently for action and after excitedly discovering several eggs, have been watching day after day to see if any had hatched.  After the weather here in Perth becoming decidedly spring-like over the weekend, yesterday it reverted back to winter with strong rain and hail.  And so, stuck inside, we kept an eye on our dove from the kitchen table.  Suddenly, we saw the little mother bird flapping around and realized one of the eggs had finally hatched.  I raced to grab my camera and zoom lens and managed to snap this precious shot below at just the right moment...

There's something so special about witnessing new life, no matter what its form.  Now we'll keep watch as this baby grows and takes its first little flight... 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Spring Cleaning - Baby Steps

It must be the start of Spring that’s gets us all eager to clean and de-clutter and update our spaces.  I am itching to continue the remainder of the year with a house that is tidier and better organized as at the moment, I feel unsettled and always one step behind where I’d like to be and what I want to achieve.  I'm eager to freshen up not only our home, but also my wardrobe, my systems for house-keeping and my corner of blogland.  However, with limited time and so many other priorities demanding my attention, I’ve decided to be realistic and take ‘baby steps’ towards achieving my spring cleaning goals this year.

First up has been my blog makeover.  While I'm not entirely finished yet, I'm pretty happy with how things are looking here so far.  I have a feeling my new header might still be a tad blurry so I have to work on making that crisper.  However, I'm by no means a graphic designer and after putting together what I've done, I can't quite remember how I did what I did.  Eventually, I'd like to be able to update the three ‘polaroid shots’ every month or so to keep things looking fresh in this little space.  As for other additions, my social media buttons are finally up but not all active yet… (this RSS business is seriously doing my head in!) and I need a new profile photo (one that's not quite so large and in-your-face).  But, I’m getting there… baby steps. 

As well as my blog, I'm eager to have a good spring clean of our home. I’m tired of not being able to locate paperwork.  I’m tired of being surrounded by clutter that is yet to be sorted and ‘dealt with’ (eg. things we no longer want or need).  I’m tired of missing deadlines and forgetting dates.  I’m tired of feeling as though I’m not ‘on top of things’. 

And so yesterday, I decided I was tired of making excuses and took my first baby step towards achieving my mammoth spring cleaning goals.

I started with our laundry cupboards.  I pulled everything out, wiped down surfaces, sorted, compartmentalised, labelled and simplified.  I rationalised the use and placement of every single item that I put back onto those shelves and have not only created more storage space, but also come up with a few tiny ways to make laundry and cleaning a bit more ‘user friendly’ for myself.  Once I buy a few more storage baskets and finish with this room, my next ‘baby step’ is to catch up on sorting out paperwork yet to be put into our filing cabinet.   

Rather than my usual weekly project, I’ve decided that for the coming weeks and months, my focus will be on-going and will simply be to spring clean.  With Grace and I now having our ‘crafternoons’, I will still be allocating time to my hobbies and creative pursuits and any other areas of home life that are bothering me are all able to be covered by my new focus word anyway.

Are you a fan of spring cleaning?  Which area of your life are you desperate to freshen up at the moment?

Photography above by Christina Richards Photography.  Floral arrangement by Studio Choo.
Image found via Style Me Pretty