Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Getting ready for an orange birthday

Luca's almost 4 and about to have his first proper birthday party. I don't know who's more excited: me or him. 

The brief that I set myself for Luca's party...Actually it's pretty much the brief I set for most things: handmade, thrifty, green and personal. Well, OK, as much as possible.

Orange is Luca's favourite colour. Has been forever. Even as a teeny toddler, he'd pull all the orange blocks out of the box and make them into a tall tower. 

So the theme is, of course, orange.

Martha et al make pompoms look easy.

They are. But by the fifth, you've had enough of all those papery layers and you start tearing them. How does anyone have the patience to do enough to fill a whole room??? This is all I've managed to make.

Move on to hanging paper garland. All I've done so far is cut the strips. You need a sewing machine to stitch them together. I still haven't taken mine out of its box. I have four days to learn how to use one. Hmmmm.

Next on my list is a number wreath. Made out of cardboard. Easy enough. The plan was to make lots of orange snails to stick onto it. But then I realised that I forgot to add simple to my brief. I'm no Martha. So I used all the bits leftover from the pompoms...

And made this.

And now for the bit I was most looking forward to. Orange yarn lanterns. To hang in his bedroom afterwards.

It's enough to make you give up making anything ever again. I've gone through two bottles of glue and a whole packet of cornflour. The garage floor is covered in sticky knotted yarn and big white blobs. The balloons that I spent ages tying to the ceiling and lovingly rubbing with vaseline popped or deflated within hours, and the two lanterns that I did manage to do. Look. Like. This. 

No, I'm not doing this again. Handmade, yes. Enjoyable? Not so much.

It's not quite going to plan (damn you, Martha Stewart), but hey, Luca's not going to care. He's already excited with the few orange pompoms and the orange 4 that we're going to tie around a tree. Cake, friends and games will make it for him. Not the image I had in my head of trees decorated with dozens of lanterns and stitched garlands. 

Do you know, I think I will hang those pitiful two lanterns. I'll enjoy the laugh, and so will everyone else.

I'll do another post soon with all the food!

Luca's party invite that we emailed to his friends

Playing along with snap it {colour}

Monday, 20 February 2012

Stormy nights and bright days

Luca and I were reading Duck in the Truck last night. At the end of it, he asked 'can I go and play in the mud?'. I promised that next time we had some rain, we'd go out looking for some mud.

Later in the night, the heavens opened. A big thunderstorm.

But you wouldn't know it this morning. We woke up to stillness, lots of pale blue and chirpy birds.

So I knew what we were doing. No point Luca getting out of his breakfast-stained t-shirt. He was going to get very dirty.

Luca wanted Kian to join him, but I couldn't face two muddy children. 'But why not? He's walking now, Mummy!'. Yes, he's walking. But he's not up to jumping just yet. He would have ended up with his face planted in the squelchy mud. 

A stormy night and a bright day. A great combination. And I'm very grateful for their timing.

On the subject of walking, I anticipated it being less exciting the second time around. But Graeme and I reacted just the same. Plus this time, there was an extra pair of hands clapping and cheering on. 

Here's one of my favourite shots of Kian a few days after he started walking. I was trying to get a picture of him walking towards me. But this was so much better. One of my best Point + Shoot.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Falling in love with Less

Image from here

At the beginning of the year, I remember reading about new year's resolutions and people who avoid making them. I was drawn to the idea of defining the year ahead with one word. A word to help you shape the year in your head. A word to live by and help you achieve what it is that makes you happy.

I didn't have to think about it. It popped into my head. Like someone had asked me my name.


I've been thinking it about it ever since. Notions of Less have been floating around in my head for the past two months, so I think it's time I put them down to make sense of it all.

It's no secret that we've been made to fall in love with More. More is better. More is, well, more... if you listen to all the messages out there.

Think about it. More money, more gadgets, more toys, more clothes, more presents, more food, more friends, more dinner parties, more days out, more organised activities, more friends at those parties, more Facebook likes, more Facebook friends, more blog followers...

Don't you sometimes feel like shutting the world out, covering your ears, squeezing your eyes shut and shouting enough!!

I did. It feels overwhelming. I sometimes forget and get sucked in. But then I realised that life doesn't get easier when you have more. It gets more complicated. It gets busy and it gets exhausting.

So Less is my little friend for the year. I've adopted Less, and if we all get on, then I'm hoping Less will stick around permanently after that.

It's not like Graeme and I have ever chased more of anything. We've always been drawn to keeping things simple, but like I say, sometimes you get carried away with the tide.

So far, Less and I, we're getting on famously. It's calming me. 

Less rushing around trying to fill our days. Fewer social outings. Less travelling. (We had to cancel a trip into Sydney in January to see Hairy Maclary at the Opera House, and as it turned out I was glad we didn't go in the end. You can really end up doing too much. Scheduling this and that in your diary and planning playdates, appointments and activities somehow makes it feel more worthwhile. More satisfying. Why is it empty diaries make you feel less important, less worthy? Think about it. Why is it so cool to be 'busy'?)

Some people don't mind dashing here, there and everywhere. Visiting places, taking in the sights, car journeys, dragging the kids to more 'experiences'. I've done it, and it doesn't suit me, or my family. So we're doing Less. I take the boys to a great music class in the week, because they love it, and they go swimming at the weekend. That's it. I'm not getting talked into anything else.

Toys. One of the worst traps. Like any mum out there, you want your child to have the best start in life. And you get sucked into 'the more toys the better'. But I've discovered, through Luca mainly, that simplicity and fewer toys are much more fun. The last two Christmases have taught me that too many presents is overwhelming, for my children at least, and it teaches them nothing. We were just as guilty. From now on, we'll be focusing on one special Christmas present and some books. And similarly for birthdays. How much nicer is it to get one very special present from each person? Special doesn't mean expensive. Just thoughtful and good quality. For Luca's birthday at the end of the month, we've specified no presents on the invitations. That way, all the focus is on having fun with his friends, playing games, creating memories. Not receiving stuff. Stuff that he probably won't play with.

As for toys at home, I now put away over half the boys' toys in a cupboard, and rotate every so often. I was amazed at the results the first time I did this. It created more space and more calm in their rooms. Less stuff to clutter their heads. They found more things to play with, and when I swapped things around, it was like Christmas again! Renewed interest in an old toy. 

There's still far too much in their rooms, though. And it's one job I must tackle. 

It's only February but I do feel like I've made quite a bit of progress with Less already. 

We go out less and we spend more time indoors (when Kian allows us!). Pottering. At home. Must be my favourite three words.

And when we meet friends at the beach, or go to their house to play, it's special, because we haven't worn ourselves out doing stuff beforehand. 

That's what Less does. Less makes everything more special.

I know it's all sounding a bit deep for a Friday evening, but let me tell you, I feel so much better now that's off my chest. 

I'm off to pour myself a glass of wine. Still not sure about Less when it comes to good food and wine, though...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A wee bit of craft on Valentine's

Graeme and I don't really do anything for Valentine's, but when I saw this tutorial from Mini Eco, I couldn't resist. Especially as I now have my very own cutting mat and craft knife!

It took me exactly 15 minutes, and that's including printing the templates and making the envelope. I just used coloured paper, but card would probably feel nicer.

Isn't it cool?! I hid the envelope amongst some napkins in Graeme's lunch this morning. Though he did think it was a tad strange seeing as I've never included a napkin in his lunch before!

If you haven't already been over to Mini Eco, go have a look. It's one of my favourite sites. (I think most of my Pinterest craft pins are from here!). We've already made Kate's bongo/shaker, and here are my next projects.  

Bird feeder with cute little perch

Very excited about this one for Luca's 4th birthday

Do you make a big deal about Valentine's? Are you tempted to whip up a pixelated pop-up card before someone comes home??

Monday, 13 February 2012

Childhood music

Might seem like a bit of a departure for me to be writing about a pop singer, but Whitney's music was a big part of my childhood.

Mum would always have the radio on, and if it wasn't the radio, it would be one of the cassettes playing sent over from my uncle in England. Elton John, Phil Collins, UB40 and Whitney Houston were always singing in our home.

I only have to hear I Wanna Dance with Somebody or Where Do Broken Hearts Go and I'm ten again. Mum's in the kitchen dressed in a yellow galabeya (kaftan) and the three of us are playing 'house' or 'shops'. A hot breeze is blowing through the thick velvet blue curtains in the lounge.

Happy times playing with my sister and brother. Sitting on the balcony eating yoghurt and fruit with my mum after sunset.

It's amazing how a song can immerse us completely in a moment.

I write this and I'm still not sure why I'm feeling a little sad. Is it because the music is a reminder that life passes by so quickly? That we all grow up so fast?

I felt the same with Michael Jackson in 2009. Billie Jean always takes me back to sitting in the back of the car in Kuwait. I see Hardee's (fast-food chain in the Middle East) and I see the Kuwait Towers.

Or is it because the music's a reminder we were all together then, and we're not now? Maybe that's it.

Anyway, mum flies over in just over two weeks' time, and staying for a whole month. So, no reason to feel sad. Just very excited. And then we can bop together to How Will I Know.

I know Luca will join in.

Was Whitney singing when you were a child? What other music takes you back?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Weekend eating

I've been forgetting to post about the fish Graeme's been catching recently. I wonder if it's because I'm trying to block out his encounter with a shark?... Hmmmmm

Anyway, the red morwong and black drummer fillets were cooked with capers, lemon, butter and fresh tarragon. Simple but very very good. Especially with creamy parmesan polenta. 

Those pools are lemon juice, not butter...
OK, maybe a bit of butter...

The garden needs a bit of TLC at the moment. The layers have all sunk down, so a lot of the plants have suffered from not being exposed to full sun. Add to that all the rain we've been having and the tomato plants were a mess. Most of the fruit had split skins, and had started rotting.

I'm experimenting as I go along, taking herbs out of the garden and putting them into pots to make room for more salads. But I start one thing and often don't get to see it through, and before I know it another week has gone past, and it's a mess again.

While Kian will sit on the grass for a few minutes, he now thinks it's fun to walk around the beds ripping all the leaves out. He started with the marigolds, which I let him de-head, but then when I wasn't looking he'd pulled out beetroot, an entire coriander plant and one strawberry plant. So having Kian out there just makes more work.

But Graeme and I did need 20 minutes or so to clear the other bed, and build the layers back up, so we thought a bucket of water would keep him amused for that long.

Except he tried to climb into it head first and almost got stuck (with his head in the water).

We can't take our eyes off him for a second. So it just meant he stayed on my hip, while Graeme shovelled.

Most of the tomatoes this week were no good, but I still managed to pick a couple of baskets' worth.

Tomatoes and purple carrots ready to go into the oven...

And earlier that day some pitta breads for lunch...

I've picked up all the green tomatoes off the ground that must have fallen off in the rain. What would you do with a great big bowl of green tomatoes? Chutney?

Actually, Graeme's just picked four green chillies from his chilli plant, so a green tomato chutney might be just the thing. 

(In my head, yes. It makes perfect sense. A green tomato chutney with a nice kick from Graeme's chillies. Hey, I could even make enough to give away a few jars as gifts. Trouble is, I keep looking at these tomatoes in the fridge and saying 'I must do something with them'. I'm feeling lazy this week, and, well chutney doesn't offer quite the same reward as chocolate cake, does it? I mean, I'll leave Pinterest to make custard, even bread. But chutney?)

P.S. I've been beavering away over the last few weeks trying to finish my story. My blog is a big work in progress, but at least I've finished one page!