Sunday, 29 July 2012

I really really love my...


Once upon a time, my kids and I went shoe shopping with "Nana" (my mum).

My kids were quite chuffed to have a new pair of sneakers each. As we were heading to the register, I saw a shelf of sunglasses! I did need a new pair, so I wandered across to see if there was a pair that I liked, while the shoes were being scanned and paid for.

And there they were... My next pair of sunglasses!

At first glance, I thought they had been put in the shelf/rack upside down... But when I picked them up and tried them on, they fitted perfectly and I loved them instantly! My very own pair of upside down glasses! :)

I wore them everywhere, and even asked people to tell me what they thought of my upside down glasses... I was perhaps a little bit passionate about pointing out the fact that they looked like someone had a bad day in the sunglasses factory and made them the wrong way ;)

In my sunglasses, drinking a Boost that I got for FREE because of the Name Game!
Of course, my affection for the one entirely unnecessary possession (how often do we actually get to indulge as parents?) would come into conflict with my youngest son's affinity for testing the tensile strength of materials by bending them until they almost wrapped around themselves in reverse. Words were exchanged. Well, not exchanged. More hurled.

Thirty minutes with a pair of pliers and a husband, they were functional again. But then, the tiny little screws that hold the lens into the frame fell out of the sides! I was sad, but I still wore them everywhere... But, it did become annoying when, as i wore them, they would go (unfashionably) wonky and almost upside down! (or right way up?)

With a little bit of creativity, I ended up solving this 'issue' with 2 staples (I don't know why it took me so long to work it out)! And, now I can wear my most loved pair of upside down glasses once again, that my mum had bought for me from a shoe shop :)

Does anyone else have an item or accessory they can't live without? Or have you gone to extreme (or not-so-extreme) creative measures to fix something you really really love? :)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

I thought I'd take a moment...

I thought I'd take a moment... To recommend (I know this sounds biased) my husband's band, Redwoods, but in particular, their blog... They've recently written a song called 'All of the Strands', which was inspired by a project called 'Turning Heads' - a combination of Helen and Lina's amazing talents, where girls and women suffering from a condition called Alopecia Totalis, had their heads painted and photographed, to capture the beauty, warmth and love they believed they'd lost...

I often joke to my husband that he doesn't have feelings (because he makes fun of me crying in movies), but he was truly moved by these women and this project for them, and he sat down with his friend, who also happens to be part of the band, and wrote music and lyrics to a song, to hopefully inspire others to become aware of this condition, what it means, and to appreciate what God has given them (even if it is just hair on their heads, which he knows exactly how many there are!)

I personally am inspired by my husband's talent and amazingly influential song-writing skills he seems to believe he doesn't have, and wanted to share with you both his whole band's talent, and the amazing work of the people working towards loving women suffering from this condition.

Clockwise from the left: Reuben (my husband), Marty, Patrick, Michael, and Tristan
I appreciate your time reading this, and I hope I can encourage you to look beyond appearance, and really treasure what God has placed in your heart... And if you're reading this, then he's clearly placed compassion and interest in your heart to take the time to read some of what others think and feel :)

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Pokémon Party!

So Ben, my eldest son, is somewhat, hmm... Passionate, about Pokémon.

I, probably because I'm his mother, have no idea most of the time what on earth he's talking about, who the characters are, what their powers are, who they turn into, or what they look like... But he certainly does! And he likes telling me all about it anyway... :)

Well, it was his 9th birthday party this weekend (far out, where has the time gone!), and Ben had been planning this party for at LEAST 3 months... My goodness, details of location, food, even what he wanted us to get for him (it didn't help that the toy catalogues all came out a few weeks before his party), would change at least weekly... Many mornings he would rush into our room with a piece of paper scribbled with such elaborate and outrageous plans... I think at one stage he had the whole suburb invited to his party, which was running from 9-3, starting at a park 15 minutes away, playing some games, swinging on the swings, eating cake, then going to the local pools for some swimming and lunch, then going to the movies, followed by a trip to Lazer Zone, finishing with everyone back here for a play on the trampoline! I had very quickly decided that it was going to be ME who organises his party... After explaining to Ben we would be having it at home, I told him that he could choose a theme... Which was quite obviously going to be Pokémon. So the actual planning begun...

The date was chosen, and it was time to write the final list (out of about 20 that had been 'lost'... I think I accidentally washed one of them, too, oops!) of who to invite, and to design the invitations :)

Invitations: I found an awesome Pokémon font site and was able to write what I wanted on the invites in a Pokémon font! How cool. Ben chose the image to go on top, and the invites eventually ended up looking like this ->

Food: The food we served was pretty much just your normal party food. Though, as per Ben's request, we added mini croissants (with my new Tupperware croissant maker) and mini burgers. I chose to give the kids poppas to drink with lunch, so that there was no confusion as to "is this my cup? where's my cup? Who is drinking from my cup?"

Craft & Games: As a creative person, I was really excited about the crafts and games I could organise! First, the kids started with a 'Make-Your-Own-Poké-Ball' craft! It was simply the middle of a white round paper plate (cut prior to party), with a black line and black/white spot in the middle (also added prior to the party). I provided crayons, pencils and stickers. All the kids needed to do was decorate one side of the line, and they had their very own (2 dimensional) Poké Ball! All the kids (even the girls!) enjoyed this... Plus, they all looked great, and the kids got to take them home :)

The Make-Your-Own-Poké-Balls prior to the party:

And after the kids had decorated them:

Next up was Pokémon Bingo! With the help of Google images and Ben's Pokémon Official Guide, I found pictures of 25 different Pokémons (out of at least 1000 I'm sure), put them all into a grid, and also made slightly bigger ones that I could hold up when I called them out. The first child with a row of Pokémon's in any way won a prize (chocolate, of course)! Here's what 1 of the 12 different grids looked like:

And, because I couldn't find any little counters at shops (I didn't start looking until the last minute, though), and I REALLY didn't want to cut anything else up, I used M n Ms (I called them Pokémon treats) as the counters. The kids were all given a plastic shot glass each of these Pokémon treats to use to make a line. Then after the game was finished, they could eat them!

Another 'Pokémon treat' game we played was a guessing game... Inside (washed and cleaned) baby food jars were M n Ms and jelly beans. The children had a chance to guess the closest amount of 'treats' that were inside the jar, and the winners won the jars :)

During the party, I gave each child a Pokémon 'tail', which was simply a feather boa cut up and tied to a piece of elastic to go around each child's waist. There was light pink (for Mew - Ben's favourite Pokémon), light purple (for I thought 'Mewtwo'), yellow (for Pikachu - probably the most popular Pokémon ever), and blue because I liked blue, but Ben couldn't think of a Pokémon that had a completely blue tail... HOWEVER... At the party, the kids had worked out that Rattata was purple, and Feraligatr was blue! They were paying more attention to Pokémon Bingo than I thought! We then played some games with these tails and Pokémon names, including 'Once-I-call-your-character's-name-you-need-to-stand-up-and-imitate-it', which turned into a very loud but very fun game!

Another game (this one was actually Ben's idea) was Pin-The-Tail-On-Mew. I printed out an outline of Mew (that I had cleverly erased its tail from), and stuck it up on the wall. We used 15cm sized pieces of pink ribbon as Mew's tails, and I glued small pieces of paper to the ends, so the children's names could be written on them, and so we knew who was the closest.

Birthday Cake: I knew that 'Poké Ball's would work well on cupcakes for dessert. So with as-white-as-I-could-get and as-red-as-I-could-get icing, I iced each half of the cupcakes with the different colours, placed half a mini Oreo in the middle, then used chocolate fudge frosting to draw a line to separate the colours and thus complete the 'Poké Ball Cupcakes:

Decorations: While I was shopping for party decorations, I was a bit sad to see NO Pokémon items at any party shops. I saw a really cool Pokémon table cover on eBay, but I didn't want to buy it for it not to arrive on time... So I thought I'd see if I could find something closer... Maybe I should have just got it?

Well after visiting the party shops, I wandered around for a while so that I could make up my mind about what to do with the table then... Ben likes soccer, should I get a soccer table cover? ... Or just red perhaps? ... And THEN! I realised that if I got red AND white, folded them in half lengthways, get some black cardboard to cut into a circle... I could make a POKÉ TABLE!! ... So that's exactly what I did. It was cheaper than buying it from eBay, too... Total cost was about $6 :)

And here's the Poké Table set up for the arrival of Ben's guests
and the Poké Ball craft:

With some red, white and black cardboard, I had made big (well, the size of Ben's soccer cones) Poké Balls to stick up around our house, inside and out. Outside so that people would know where to find us, along with some red and white balloons tied together, and inside to add to the theme. I also had red and white crepe paper so made some small streamers to hang down from around the skirting along the hallway :) I also printed out many little paw prints that Ben and Tamara helped to stick around on the walls... It truly was a Pokémon themed house!

I've learnt a lot about Pokémon since I started organising my son's birthday party. I started paying attention to try and understand the things he tells me about Pokémon, and I even watched an episode of Pokémon!! (not that it helped with my comprehension OR understanding of Japanese cartoons)... Even writing this post, I learnt how to put a dash above the 'e' in Pokémon!! But, shame, now that it's over I'll just have to focus on other things... :)

And I've been informed that it's less than 3 months until my daughter's birthday, so that's a good place to start :)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The day I transformed jeans... into jeans.

For AGES, I've had these jeans in my 'To Tailor' drawer... Every now and then, I'd get them out to look at them and think about plans for them and what to do.

These jeans originally had some kind of crochet netting down the sides, which had started to fray, so I cut it all off!

Down the right side of the jeans, from top to bottom, is an opening. On the left side, this opening is broken by a pocket in the middle.

How funky are these jeans! I've not had the heart to throw them away, especially with all the ideas I've had with them! So since I still have my mother's sewing machine, it's time to transform them... Into jeans! :)

 Photos of the jeans before their transformation:

How exciting. Time to get started!

Luckily, I have plenty of left-over material from my butterfly canvases, so there were lots of colours and patterns to choose from! At the moment I'm going through a green faze, so I have chosen plain green, and patterned green (and floral pink) to use for this project... :)

Before I started sewing the material onto the jeans, I made sure I tied all the loose buckles back onto the jeans... I did NOT want them to get stuck in the needle of the machine and break it! Safety first. No matter how time consuming fiddling with little buckles and even littler pieces of threads, tying knots smaller than fleas around them, can be... :)

Now that that was done, I could start sewing! ... It was tricky at times to move the jeans in a way that was straight, but also (my biggest fear) keeping it all flat so as not to sew the jeans onto themselves! I started (no real reason why) with the left side which had the pocket in the middle. Considering this was the second time I'd used a sewing machine, I was happy with how fairly undramatic this was to do.

Next to do the bottom half. I wanted these jeans to flare out a little, so in my mind I needed a triangular piece of doubled up material. What I did, was measured what the rectangle area would be, and sewed a floral piece to a plain piece. Then, placing that on the opening where it would go, I measured out what the 'flare' would be (12cm), and then tied the bottom edges, top edges, and a bit along the sides of the opening together so that when I started sewing, they would stay fairly straight.

This was actually a lot simpler than I had expected it to be! It was certainly a good idea to tie the ends down where they needed to be. It kept the material in line and made it easier to sew :)

I did end up sewing the material back onto itself, though... Oops! But... With a small trim of the material at the bottom (after 'hemming' it) and along the sides, the first half of the transformed jeans were finished!! Yay!!

Now to start on the second half... :)

I felt confident with what I needed to do, so I thought this side would be a lot easier... Because there was no pocket in the middle, it was just a long opening. That sounds easier, right? I sewed together the two rectangles of fabric first, then hand sewed them onto the jeans, making sure that where the floral material starts, it starts opening wider to make another 12cm flare... Lots of measuring, lots of hand stitching, and lots of double and triple checking absolutely everything...

Well... Despite my apparent confidence, this side was both easier and harder. There was more 'pull' on the jeans trying to feed them through the sewing machine, and because I had to stop half way and start from the other side, I accidentally pinched together a bit of the jeans in the middle. It all turned out okay, though... I'm not sure what I'd do differently if I needed to do it again... But, it's done and I'm so pleased I finally did something with these 'dust collectors'! And. I now have a new pair of jeans that actually fit me... Yay!!

And now that I know (to a given degree) how to use a sewing machine,
I'm inspired to try a whole list of new sewing projects ;)

Last day of the school holidays...

The final day of the Winter school holidays had arrived... I'd been feeling a bit sick the whole weekend, but it was the last day of the holidays, and I'd been telling the kids for over a week that we'd go to the movies at some stage in the holidays...

Well, it was the last day, and chose to see Ice Age 4.

Cinema food is expensive, so I usually prefer to bring my own. 
I found some snap lock bags, labelled them with my children’s names, and started filling them with various pantry items: biscuits, lollies, and a couple of chocolates. Easy, already opened stuff that I knew I wouldn’t have to fiddle with in a dark cinema. I wondered if I should quickly zap some popcorn in the microwave, but seeing as we were going to get some Ben & Jerry's ice cream for the movie, and then go to Mc Donalds for lunch, I wanted the kids to actually be able to EAT lunch. Also, they'd probably get a lemonade with their Happy Meals, so I got a big drink bottle filled with water to take, too.

Pretty prepared, right! Lolly bags for each child (labelled, of course), a big drink bottle we were going to share, and I packed us all a cupcake each, too. I felt pleased, and convinced myself that I wasn’t feeling sick and that I will manage just fine to experience going to the cinema with an 8, 7, and 2 year old by myself.

As we were buckled in the car ready to go, I was thinking that this was going to be a pretty great last day of the school holidays :)

We get to the cinemas with enough time to go to the toilet, buy tickets, and choose some Ben & Jerry’s ice creams (a tradition my husband started whenever he takes Ben and/or Tamara to the movies).

Well. Turns out that Ben & Jerry’s isn’t open at 9:20 in the morning. Maybe I should have made that popcorn after all... No. It’ll be fine, the kids had their lolly bags, I had packed cupcakes, and I’ve just realised I left the drink bottle at home... Damn.

I bought the tickets while Ben eyed the packaged ice creams, trying to persuade me to buy them since we were going to get ice cream anyway. Tamara danced in the queue, and Jonathan ran straight to the car and gun game machines... I bought a medium lemonade (which is only 50c more than a small, apparently), because I knew that if I didn't have a drink, then less than 10 minutes into the movie Jonathan would asking for one whilst getting more and more hysterical until I provided it...

By this stage, we had about 5 minutes to get into the cinema and find out seats. Which were taken by someone else... Not to worry, there was a whole row spare on the other side of the stairs... Cool. We take our seats with brilliant timing, just as the lights start to dim...

25 minutes later, the actual movie begins! By this stage, all three of my kids had finished their lolly bags, had drunk 3/4 of the drink, and didn’t want any cupcakes... Great.

I spent the next 90 minutes trying to enjoy and pay attention to the colours on the big screen, with familiar characters I had grown to love in the few years they’ve been around. Meanwhile, turning my head constantly to see Jonathan either hanging over the back of the chair in front of him, sitting and rolling on the aisle stairs, hurling himself back into his chair over its arm, and me firmly whispering in his ear to "sit down, please; come back, please; and stop jumping on the chair, please"...

I was constantly shushing my eldest children whenever they (quite often) repeated funny lines in the movie, as if everyone in the cinema missed what he/she said, or just NEEDED to hear them again and so miss the next one... That's right... I was that mother that everyone rolls their eyes at when she takes her loud and uncontrollable kids to the cinemas...

When the credits started rolling, I pinned my 2 year old to his seat so that I didn't lose him on the way out... We ended up being the last ones out of the cinema, as pointed out quite loudly by my eldest son. Hopefully everyone had forgotten what we looked like by the time we were walking down the foyer stairs of the cinema... To see that Ben & Jerry's was now open!

With Ben and Tamara still wanting ice cream, we/they decided that we’d have that for lunch instead of Mc Donalds... Meanwhile, Jonathan (again) was more interested in the car and gun game machines, and didn't want any ice cream, politely saying "no tanks" when I checked with him about 3 times.

It was nice sitting down peacefully with Ben and Tamara eating our ice cream... I mean lunch. Jonathan could just have a sandwich at home. But a
bout 2 minutes before it was time to go, Jonathan had changed his mind and now wanted to join us and eat ice cream. Luckily, he has a lovely big sister who was full but still had some ice cream left, and she gave him the rest of hers.

The day didn't exactly go as planned, but at least (I think) my kids had fun... I'd love to hear ideas of how other mums (or dads) manage with their children in the cinemas! Also, I'd love to hear if there's others I know who've had experiences as bad (or worse?) as I did.

Until then, we will enjoy watching movies at home when they come out on DVD :)

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Cookies and (ice) Cream!

So a friend of mine once sent me this link to a site for Cookie Bowls and it's taken me a while, but I've finally found the time and courage to try and make them! So I did. I made choc chip cookie dough using my 'cookie mix in a jar' recipe, sprayed the bottom of my cupcake tray (a lot), and was ready!

I call this... Cookie Bowl Attempt #1:

But... Within 5 minutes inside the oven, it was already unsuccessful...

Okay... What did I do wrong...? I decided it would probably be a good idea to look at the recipe CLOSELY. Okay... Turns out I was well off with my own cookie mixture! Time to do it right...

Thus begins... Cookie Bowl Attempt #2:

The recipe said I needed 1.5 cups of 'granulated sugar'... I assumed that meant just white sugar, right? .. Well, I had 1 cup of white sugar left, and because I didn't wish to make a 3rd appearance at Coles in one morning, I made up the last 1/2 cup of 'granulated sugar' from the remainder of my caster sugar, and some brown sugar... Following the recipe, I needed to mix that with 2 sticks of softened butter... Well, if 1 stick is 250g, then I needed 500g. So I scooped out the contents of a tub of margarine :)

Looked fine when it was all beat up, so I didn't think much of it! Of course, I added in chocolate bits :)

Once everything was mixed together, the recipe said I needed to roll out the cookie mix onto a generously floured surface... Is this too generous??


The mixture felt SO soft, though. I was imagining that it would feel like shortbread, but this was nothing like that. I had no idea how I would even use a cookie cutter on this... So, I just moulded it in my hands and placed it around the upside down cupcake tin... At least it looked neater than the last attempt!

But, AGAIN... 5 minutes in the oven, and the mix was sliding off the baking tray... WHAT DID I DO WRONG THIS TIME?? ... I had followed the recipe, even down to the almond extract, which I now know is NOT a favourite smell of mine!

So going with my husband's idea of Google'ing some measurements, it turns out that 1 stick of butter is NOT 250 grams. It's only 113 grams! ... With that in mind, MY recipe had more than twice the amount of butter in it! Yikes.

I wanted to get this recipe right! I can't give up now! But by this time, I was out of flour, out of sugar, and only had some scrapes of margarine left... So there was really only one thing to do... Yep. I sent my sick husband to the shops to get some more ingredients for me so that I didn't have to go there for the fourth time today! :) He's such a great guy. Lucky, the doctor he needed to see was right next to Coles anyway, so it was maybe, perhaps, only a minor detour...? :)

So now, I present you with... Cookie Bowl Attempt #3:

THIS time. I was sure I would get it right! And so far, the mixture was looking much more like biscuit mixture than sloppy cookie mixture :)

A good way to keep your rolling pin clean is folding baking over the mixture you're rolling, and so using the rolling pin on top of baking paper :)

In my excitement of this actually looking right, I forgot to 'generously flour the rolling surface'... Uh oh. I hoped it wouldn't make too much of a difference...

And I could finally use the cookie cutter! I have a whole set of these flowers, 6 total, in all different sizes... Yay! The one I used was the second largest.

Finally, this was looking good!! I didn't add the choc chips into the recipe before rolling, because, since this was already turning out better than my other attempts, I had a different idea! To place the choc bits around the outside of the cookie bowl. Like this:

Hmm... Generously flouring my rolling surface probably would have made a difference, hardening the mixture that little bit extra, so that they kept their original shape in the oven... The cookie bowls still looked fine! They were just a bit longer than I had planned, and so some of their sides ended up touching whilst baking...

Also, maybe because I didn't add all that extra flour, my cookie bowls were still quite soft after the recipe's 'bake for 11-13 minutes'. It was actually more like 20-25 minutes before I thought they were ready to come out!

At least I generously oiled the cupcake tray! ... Not that it made a difference when you over-cook cookies, as they all stuck solid to the tray! :(

With my husbands help (banging the tray to hopefully loosen the VERY cooked cookie bowls), he managed to rescue 1/2 of a bowl! ...
Should I just give up?

No way! There was some mixture left, and I had a silicone cupcake tray that didn't currently have cookie mixture all over it...

So... Cookie Bowl Attempt #4 !!!

This time, I remembered to flour my rolling surface! Perhaps that was the key to them turning out better?

Since silicone trays are floppy, I placed the cupcake tray onto a flat baking tray... Okay... Lets see how it works this time!

*sigh* ... Most of the sides had fallen off within 5 minutes in the oven! ... Perhaps this time I rolled them too thin? Maybe the silicone cupcake tray was too tall, and I needed the 'flowers' to be bigger?

There were 3 (out of 6) 'bowls' with a part of their sides still in tact, though, which was at least a little bit encouraging... Sort of. I added a scoop of ice cream inside each 'bowl', which was going to be my plan from the beginning.

But... After FOUR pretty unsuccessful attempts at this recipe, I have decided that I will remain defeated on these cookie bowls! ... A challenge to those reading, though, how about you try it out? I'd love to hear how you go!! :)

In the meantime, I think I'll be having my ice cream in a plastic bowl ;)