Love and hearts and a bit more love

Pink heart-shaped lamington

My handsome husband never buys me Valentine’s gifts. Which is just the way I like it. I just don’t believe in all the hyped-up commercialism of V-Day. What I do believe in, however, is love. And while I like to shower my peeps in it on any given day, I like positively saturating them on Feb 14th with little tokens to remind them that my love for them runs deeper than Dolly Parton’s cleavage.

Jar of candy hearts

Yep. Deep.

This year I was inspired by a picture I bought ages ago from beautiful Etsy artist Golly Bard.

Jar of Love

Jar of Love hangs in my study and I love it every bit as much as I did when I bought it 4 years ago.

So I made the baby Bettys their own little jars chockfull of love.

Jar of hearts birdseye views

I also like to go totally overboard with their lunches and pack those full of love too. 

Love lunch

Frankly, I defy anyone to tell me that anything says “I love you” more than a pink, heart-shaped lamington.

My grandmother, Betty, used to make these lamos as a treat for us when  we would visit her in the school holidays. We looked forward to them like mad things.

I made this card (from this Photojojo tutorial) for my most handsome of husbands. It’s a shot from our wedding in Bali.

Valentine's card with cut-out heart

I love that pic however, in a startling coincidence, I do appear to be sporting horrifyingly over-sculpted eyebrows very similar to those of a certain infamous Australian who has just been released from a Balinese prison this week.  Well, at least I have the excuse that it was 2001.

I hope your Valentine’s Day and life in general is brimming with that many splendoured thing.

jar of hearts with hearts spilling out

Christmas Traditions

One of the things I was most excited about when I was pregnant with Sophia, was the thought of future family traditions. And they come easy at Christmas.

You’ve met our elf on the shelf and these are some of the others.

1. Letters to Father Christmas.

In these shots (taken last December) Olive is dictating to her sisterly scribe.

Girls composing letters to Santa  Girls writing letters to Father Christmas

2. Advent Calendar

After last year’s debacle when my daily bespoke creations petered out around the 15th and the mere thought of coming up with new ideas made me cranky, this year I invested in a ready-made calendar. The girls are loving this Playmobil Santa’s Letter Depot set. We’re still waiting on the big-ticket items: the tree, reindeer and sleigh.

Playmobil Advent Calendar

3. Setting out the Christmas books.

Stack of Christmas books

Every year on December 1st we get and decorate our tree and put out the Christmas books. I try to add a couple to the pile each year. These are scenes from some of our favourites. I love coming back to these same books every year and re-reading them in the evenings with the kids.Christmas Book collage

4. Gingerbread House

We don’t do this every year as it is time-consuming. This year, in the interests of staying calm and festive, I bought a kit for this Christmas shack. And I’m loving it – for every reason. Especially as we have an Australian Bush Christmas kind of  theme in mind for the table this year.

Christmas gingerbread shack

5. Christmas pyjamas

Each Christmas Eve the girls get a special pair of matching Christmas pyjamas. They are not always overtly Christmassy (although this year’s with the cute red and white stripey bow have a hint) but just something to build the excitement. As if it needs building on Christmas Eve. We are usually at fever pitch by about Dec 21st.

Christmas pyjamas Sophia package

And I just had to show you this. This is the letter written by Sophia to Father Christmas last year. It’s all very expected until the P.S.  Last year a girl in Sophia’s class began bullying her and we spent much of last year trying to help her deal with that. Anyway, her request made me laugh and seems, in this mamma’s biased mind in any case, perfectly appropriate!

Letter to Father Christmas

Not exactly in keeping with the Christmas spirit, but it did make me laugh. When you’re 7, getting someone banished to FC’s naughty list is the equivalent of bringing in the regiments.

Even better though, she’s asked the big guy to make sure he doesn’t forget the ones who were her stalwart supporters. Now that’s the Christmas spirit.

Meet Jingle: our elf on the shelf

Elf on the Shelf collage

Jingle arrives in December (sometimes not quite on the 1st because he occasionally gets lost flying in) and watches the kids behaviour through December. He flies home to the North Pole every night to report to Father Christmas and back to us each dawn. So, yes, he is essentially a whistle-blowing behavioural motivation coach.

He likes to change positions every morning. Sometimes it can be tricky to find him. Turns out he’s partial to using the kids underpants as a flying fox. Should I be worried?

He’s a cheeky elf, our Jingle, and he would be even cheekier if the voice of reason (i.e.handsome husband) didn’t step in from time to time and point out the children may be traumatised rather than delighted if Jingle tapes himself to the the wall with gaffer tape hostage-style.

A quick search on “naughty elf on the shelf” on Pinterest is an edifying activity. I think he’ll only get naughtier as the girls get older.

Elf on the shelf snow flour angel

Whaddya think: cute Christmas tradition or creepy peeping tom tale-teller?

Mini Christmas Puddings: the cheats’ version

Choc royal puddings 2

These little babies are quick, kitsch and festive – a magical trifecta in my books.

You just use Chocolate Royal biscuits  – at least that’s what they’re called here in Australia. I feel sure everyone must have something similar, and if you don’t, perhaps contact your local political members to address that abuse of your basic human rights.

They are biscuit discs topped with jam then marshmallow and dipped in chocolate.

Choc Royal pudding close up

They remind me so strongly of my paternal Grandmother, Isabella, who ALWAYS had a plastic Tupperware container of Chocolate Royals in her neat-as-a-pin kitchen cupboard. They were such a treat and after we had chosen one she would carefully replace the lid, slowly squeezing the air out fastidiously, and tuck them away again. A soothing ritual, of which she had many.

Choc Roayl puddings

She would love these I think. Just drizzle some white chocolate over the top, pop on a Jaffa and some chopped up green jubes for leaves and Bob, as they say, will be your uncle.

The girls loved helping me with these (as you can well imagine) and it’s something kids can do almost entirely on their own  – perhaps just with help to melt the white choc if yours, as mine, are still just a mite short to reach the microwave.

And I have to tell ya, they’ve been the first thing to go at every function they’ve made an appearance at – both for kids and adults! And I may or may not have eaten 50 bajillion of them myself. Nostalgia is a powerful force.

A Christmas break of the unwelcome variety

So you know how I was flat-out being all zen about December and living in the moment etc., etc.? Well, this is one moment I would have been happy to live without.

Olive's cast

It was a bad break. Bloody monkey bars.

I said to the orthopaedic surgeon at the Emergency Department that I bet he wished he had a dollar for every kid that presented with a monkey-bar break.  He agreed it would be a tidy supplement to his income but that he would rather have a dollar for every kid that didn’t. Because they are in the majority.

And it’s easy to forget that when you are cradling your tiniest babe in your arms, trying to be brave when really you want to cry, and swearing neither of your kids will ever go within 10 metres of, let alone swing from, a set of monkey-bars ever again.

Mermaid on Olive's cast

They had to cut the sleeve off her little dress.  Of course it was the least of our worries but I felt just the tiniest pang of regret as both my girls have worn that dress and I bought it in Rome for Sophia before she was born. Well, at least it went out with a bang. Or a crack, in this case.

Olive in sling at hospital

The surgeon had to realign her radius and in order to do that he had to break her ulna.

And all this while conscious. Both the surgeon and Olive.

Okay, so she was high as a kite on ketamine and fentanyl (Olive, not the surgeon) but she still felt it. She just doesn’t remember it.

But her father and I will. Forever.

She has adapted remarkably to the heavy armpit-to-thumb cast and her sister, family and little friends, as you can see, have been decorating it in the cutest way ever.

Hugging friends on Olive's cast

And here she is managing a feeble thumbs 2 days later. Note other hand submerged in glass of God knows what.

Olive giving thumbs up in cast

So we have 6 long weeks of a cast which cannot meet a speck of water. In the hot Aussie summer. At the beach. Quite the challenge.

We are investigating any and all cast protector and waterproof cast options. All depends on her healing though.

Which if her maddening itching this week is anything to go by, is progressing at a rate of knots.

The surgeon also said that the way little bones reknit means the break might not even be evident in X-rays when she’s older. Incredible baby bones.

Love hearts on Olive's cast

I’m currently grateful (stay tuned) for the fact she hasn’t broken her other arm yet. This challenge seems to making her behave in an even more cavalier manner than usual. Not relaxing. But good on her.

As I go to publish this post, I have just re-read it and its light tone kind of belies the level of fear I actually felt as we went through this.  And even when my fear for my own child began to abate somewhat, the realities of the ward suddenly crowded in: the truly tiny babies who were rushed in and surrounded by 7 or 8 doctors and nurses and the haggard parents of those tiny babies.  The two little brothers with previous histories of anaphylaxis who were itching all over in building allergic reactions to something they had eaten and their worried mum. The little girl who was wheeled past on a trolley towards surgery with a head that had either been shaven for surgery or…well, I will never know and my thoughts can only ever be pure speculation. But my heart broke for her mum who walked beside her into whatever trial they faced.

I feel indescribably grateful to live in a country in which we have access to public health care of such an extraordinarily high standard and then above and beyond that a department manned with staff who are genuinely concerned and dispense compassion to EACH AND EVERY single sick kid (and their worried parents) that comes through their doors.

They were my Christmas miracle.

Sewing for the tropics

Back of Soph's Liberty Jumpsuit

I love saying “the tropics”.  Puts me in mind of Joseph Conrad novels and Frederic Church paintings.

As usual, I went into a frenzy of sewing clothes for the kids just prior to our recent trip to Bali. I don’t know what possesses me but it happens in the lead up to nearly every single one of our annual holidays.

Soph in jumpsuit seated

This time the urge bit me even harder than usual and I wonder whether the meditative qualities of sewing were a way for me to calm my mind in anticipation of our return after so long. Well whatever the motivation, it worked and everyone won: I felt calm (ish) and the kids got some new duds. Which, because they’re still tiny poppets, they wore not only without complaint but with some excitement. Making the most of that window.

I made countless pairs of simple shorts but the slightly more involved items this year were this jumpsuit (or romper):

Close-up Soph's Liberty jumpsuit

and these linen pants.

Soph in flat fronted white linen pants

I bought this beautiful Liberty fabric from the Liberty department store when I was in London in July. From the moment I saw it on the bolt in that venerable establishment, I envisaged a jumpsuit.

Liberty tana lawn fabric

So its fate was sealed and, luckily for me, there was an excellent tutorial for just such a suit.

This was a slightly more complicated project than I usually commit to (pleats at the front etc) but the tutorial is so good that there was only minimal swearing involved. I wish I could tell you it was under my breath.

Profanities aside, Sophia and I were delighted with the outcome.

Soph in Liberty jumpsuit

Of course, as you all probably already know, it is actually illegal to travel to the tropics without a pair of white linen pants and far be it from me to flout the immutable laws of the land.

I used a pattern for shorts that I bought from here (and highly recommend – it’s simple to make your own but this saves time and has some really gorgeous variations) to make the pants, just extending the legs myself, hoping for the best. Turned out okay, thank Gaga, as the linen was $30 per metre.

I also used this very useful tutorial to insert simple pockets into the pants, the addition of which  I found ridiculously exciting. As did my model.

Flat front white linen pants

Check out the modelling face on this one will you?

Soph in white linen pants

And here she is strutting the moss-covered catwalk.

Sophia gif 2

I do truly love a linen pant. Almost as much I love saying “pant” in the singular.

Slumber party

name pillowcases

We are at the end of a weekend-long festival of 8-year-old-ness. As always, I am in total denial that we are even at this point. I mean how can it be the case when I’m pretty sure I was in labour with her not much more than a year ago?

We had 7 little people here for a slumber party last night (including the birthday girl and her little sister who felt very grown up indeed to be hangin’ with the big girls) and they were all, without exception, edible.

There was a special at-request birthday dinner of rigatoni carbonara and apple pie then a snuggle under piles of doonas while they avidly watched Roald Dahl’s ‘The BFG’.

Personalised pillow cases

We served Snozzcumbers  – hollowed out cucumbers stuffed with smoked salmon and cream cheese and decorated with poppy seeds and popcorn – and Frobscuttle – lemonade dyed green and purple  – at the corresponding points through the movie which went down a treat.

I am totally serving Snozzcumbers at my next grown-up party. They were genuinely delicious.

The best bit was when Sophia’s friends voted (unanimously apart from the birthday girl  I might add) to see a dance routine from her father and I.  We did, if I do say so myself, outdo ourselves. Thanks must also go to Christina Aguilera and Pittbull.  I have literally been building up to that moment my entire parenting life and it was well worth the wait.

It was Sophia’s idea to make a pillowcase for each person and these whipped up in under an hour with some t-shirt transfer paper and a hot iron.  Another magic trifecta craft: quick, easy and effective.

Pillowcases with names

I have two little babes sleeping very soundly at this moment.  And possibly having nightmares about their parents’ dance moves. Potentially scarring stuff that.

An unexpected world within tupperware.

It seems an ordinary plastic container, yes?

Tupperware container with a secret

So imagine my surprise when I pulled it from the cupboard to store some leftovers and found this happy family zooming through snowy, alpine peaks.

Sophia's tupperware snowy scene

They really are happy, see?

Close up Sophia's snowy world

Surprise art by your kid. It’s really the best kind.

Olive’s butterfly party


Having done one butterfly party already, I gently tried to persuade Olive to go with an ice-cream theme. But to no avail. The child loves “blutterflies”.  So blutterflies it was.

Butterflies on Urbio

As a special treat for Olive and her friends, we arranged a butterfly adventure.

Butterflies on a branch

A butterfly-lovin’ lady came to the house and gave the girls a little talk about the life cycle of butterflies. The kids were fascinated.

She showed them a caterpillar, a chrysalis and even dressed Olive up as what looked like a butterfly on crack but was actually (I took her word for it)  an accurate representation of a butterfly with its 6 legs, lots of eyes and 2 noses!

Olive dressed as butterfly

She also brought a box of dead butterflies.

Box of butterflies

Because what’s a party without a stark reminder of the fragility of life and finality of death?

Box of dead butterflies

It was a good idea though because it gave the kids an opportunity to feel butterfly wings. At the same time it was explained to them why they couldn’t touch or pat the live butterflies they were about to meet.

There were varied reactions to the live butterflies. The birthday girl started out strongly but when one flew near her head she went into screaming hysterics. Other kids were completely mesmerised.

Butterfly drinking Powerade

The butterflies were exquisite. These are monarch butterflies and their tipple of choice? Cotton wool balls soaked in Powerade. Of course.

Butterflies on my hand

There was, unsurprisingly, a butterfly cake. I popped a rabble  (which Google tells me is, with “swarm”, the collective noun for a group of butterflies) of these lovely rice-paper butterflies atop the cake.

Butterfly cake

For those of you that are religious, the taste of these butterflies will be very familiar. My girls expected them to be sweet so there was a bit of the old “pegheugh” and rapid expulsion of the offending butterflies, but if they’re going to try to eat them without being dipped in red wine, then what do they expect?

All in all there was a surfeit of blutterflies and a happy little 4 year old. A good outcome I think.

Flock of butterflies on wall

As always, happy to provide details of where I bought stuff, the butterfly company etc if anyone wants. Just leave a question in the comments.

Easter Excitement

Lots of Easter excitement at our place tonight. Much anticipation for the arrival of the bunny.

We took these fluffy bunnies to Olive’s kinder concert. They were  a big hit.

One big marshmallow, 2 snips of the scissors and a few dots with an edible pen and you get squealing kids. And some adults who wanted to but held it in.

Pink marshmallow bunny

Plate of marshmallow bunnies 2 Plate of marshmallow bunnies white marshmallow bunny