Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mosaics and Gardening success!

Well it's been a while since I've been on here isn't it! To be honest I just haven't had the energy to get things together to post, but here I am, with a couple of things to report...

I've had my first foray into concrete!! For ages I've thought it would be fun to make mosaic stepping stones with concrete and tiles for the garden. I was recently given an old craft book that had a huge section on just this kind of project, as well as a box of old tiles and marbles, so I thought I'd give it a go with the kids. I found some 'white concrete' at Bunnings, and couldn't resist supplementing my supply of tiles with some pretty glass ones. One thing I have learned when working with concrete and children - one on one is best!

Anyway, we had a go and so far Emma, Madeline and myself have made stepping stones. Jasmine is keen to get going with hers, and Lucy, well, she couldn't care less but I will do one with her too!

I can't say I'm an expert on concrete by any stretch - our first go was a little soggy, second probably a little dry, but I think I'm getting the hang of it! It's actually very easy - you just make up the concrete according to the packet directions (make sure it's not quick set concrete), pour into a mould (anything with slopey sides - the potplant saucer was great) that you've painted with dishwashing detergent. Then simply push your tiles/mosaic items into the concrete, and when you're happy leave it to dry for about a week, spraying with water every day. The stepping stones came very easily out of their moulds, and after a scrub with an old washing up brush came up a treat! We are all very happy with our masterpieces.

Our stepping stones are now in place in the driveway (so not really stepping stones that take you anywhere - although the kids like to use them as stepping stones of course!) but they make me glad when I walk past - which is every day!

Another thing that has been making me glad of late is the garden! I've never been very good with plants, and almost all of my previous half hearted attempts to grow things have ended in sadness. But, this year, as I've reconciled myself to being around at home more and trying to take things a little more slowly, I'm gradually being converted to the wonder of gardening. I seem to gain a completely disproportionate amount of joy from the sweat peas that I have managed to grow FROM SEEDS!! They are positioned so I can see them out of the kitchen window, and I like to have a little visit with them every day. They are just beautiful!

We've also been enjoying lavender, pansies, roses and lots of cactus type things which are almost impossible to kill!! I have successfully struck daisy cuttings from my mum's garden which is nothing short of miraculous, and we have herbs growing like crazy. We've eaten all the peas, broccolini and lots of lettuce from the vegie patch, and I'm feeling hopeful about having lots of tomatoes and maybe even some cucumbers, strawberries and corn! Check me out! I'm also trying to strike some lavender and rosemary, but haven't had much luck so far. We'll see how this lot goes.

Beautiful sweat peas - slow to start but taken off now!


So there we go - I may have caught the gardening bug. I'm cautious because the frying heat of summer may defeat me yet, but I'll give it a go!

And we got to have our first extended family outdoor dinner last week - Lucy got to have her own Coke....

I've also been busy reorganing our crazy garage to create an art space so we can easily do messy stuff and not have it in the house. I recently inherited a large amount of craft supplies from my mum's work, and it is now all at home in the new 'art room' ready to be used by some keen little crafters. Already we have had lots of drawing and some painting happening - I am looking forward to doing some big murals and some Christmas stuff soon too. I started Christmas shopping today, and find myself strangely keen about it all this year!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

10 things

Well the end of the school holidays has come all to quickly for me - a lovely week in the mountains and lovely one at home with swimming lessons everyday at the local pool after our birthday long weekend. I deliberately didn't organise much else in the week and that proved a good move - not only because my biggest girl came down with a fever and was quite lethargic and just wanted to mooch around, but also because of the time it afforded the other girls to just play. To rediscover toys they haven't touched for a while. To rediscover playing - really playing - together. To get bored and find new things to make and do. To still be in our pyjama's at midday!

I was looking at a few other blogs this evening and one suggested making a list of 10  good things - and so I thought I'd give it a go - so here are my 10 good things that I'm thankful for today:

1. The sound of little girls singing while they paint
2. A tired one saying 'I think I just want to go to bed now'
3. Little arms clasped around tight my neck
4. Reading books to girls on a rug in the afternoon spring sun
5. Finally seeing some flowers on my sweet peas
6. Eating snow peas and coriander from the vegie garden
7. Successfully striking some daisies from my mum's garden - first time ever!!
8. Dinner eaten without complaint
9. Everyone sleeping until after 7am and playing (reasonably) quietly when they did wake up
10. Watching 3 girls enjoying swimming lessons with no. 4 waving to them.

What are you thankful for today?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
1 Peter 1:3

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Teepees and Rainbows

Well I've survived another birthday! All 4 down for the year!

My little Miss No. 3 Madeline turned 4 the other day, and I think she had a great day.  I just love the unashamed joy little ones show when they are the centre of attention in a large group of people on their birthdays - with cakes in front of them, presents being handed over and free access to party food.

I was pretty excited myself as I looked forward to Maddie's birthday, as some time ago I made her a play tent that I just couldn't wait to give her - following the pattern in this gorgeous book:

Growing Up Sew Liberated

I did alter the pattern a bit and make it a whole lot taller - which I think works better and means that it can easily fit 2 or 3 kids inside - or even 3 plus a little Lucy sized bubba! Important when there are lots of little people around here! I also just made it out of calico (the thickest one I could find) rather than canvas, as it was heaps cheaper. I was worried it might look a bit poxy, but was really happy with the end result.

Anyway, here's my version, and I must say I'm a bit in love with it!

I think Maddie was pretty pleased with it too - and all the girls have been playing in it, both indoors and out.

We had a little party with some friends at the park to celebrate the occasion, and although it sprinkled while we were setting up, it ended up a lovely morning. I did a repeat performance on the best birthday cake I've come across - we did it for Jasmine's birthday last year, but I thought it was so great it deserved another look in and Madeline was keen. It is actually really easy - just a whole lot of packet cakes, food colouring, icing and M&M's! It looks pretty good before it's cut, but the best part is the reaction when you cut that first slice and pull out the rainbow inside! Give it a go - it's fantastic and really very easy.

I found it here - I just did a butter cream icing so mine was a bit more yellow than the one they did. I did find another one (a more grown up version) that suggested adding flavours to each colour - like blueberry, orange, lemon etc. but I thought that was a bit too sophisticated for a 4 year old's cake. Anyway, it was a real crowd pleaser and although Madeline later told her Grandma "I didn't like my birthday cake"  I know she loved the singing and the blowing and the theatre of cutting the cake and showing everyone what was inside. Like her big sister Jasmine she's not a real fan of actually eating the cake, so I wasn't too offended by her comment!

Happy Birthday cheeky Maddie!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The beautiful Blue Mountains

It's been a while since posting - not much creative happening lately, just getting by!! We've just enjoyed a lovely, albeit cold and wet, week at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains with some special special friends. We had quite a few wet days, but thankfully the place we were staying in was huge, and, more importantly, centrally heated! So, even though we were indoors a bit more than I had hoped, the kids still had loads of room to race about, and friends to play with so they were pretty happy.
We did manage to find some great wet weather things to do in the mountains - like visiting the Selwood Science and Puzzle shop at Hazelbrook with rooms of hands on games to play and experiments to have a go on;

a play centre at Katoomba which seems to be advertised nowhere except in the Yellow Pages;

and my crowning glory was finding out about a free Reptile Show at Scenic World. Everyone was very taken with getting to see and touch lizards, snakes and even a crocodile - it was surprisingly squooshy!

Steve the Reptile Man was just great with the kids - even pulled out his guitar for a few songs in the show and was excellent at engaging the kids and making sure everyone had a good look and touch of the animals. Emma was pretty excited to get to hold the crocodile in front of the whole crowd in the show - the rest of us got a quick cuddle after the show.

We did get out for a walk one day at Perry's Lookdown, and were keen to spot beautiful flowers growing in the bush. 

On the one really sunny day we had we made the trip to the Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens which I was strangely obsessed with, having never been there before. We did an adventure quest with the kids which took us around the gardens and made the excursion a real winner for the kids. They started out asking where the play equipment was, but once we got going following the clues and seeing new things they got right into it. I think they thought the best part was rolling down hills and filling their lunch boxes with gravel from a path - go figure!

We had a quick but very windy visit to the 3 Sisters in between rain showers on our last day - and Lucy discovered it's fun to play with Mum's hair while in the backpack! It looks quite sunny and nice in this picture, but it was blowing a gale, and even hailed later that afternoon! Between Nicola and I we were managing 7 children, and I think a few tourists had a little giggle as we tried to take photo's of each other with our kids. I think we did alright in the end!

A big hit amongst the kids was the enormous box of blocks that our friends brought - many towers were built and knocked down and it was great to have a seemingly neverending supply of blocks.

All in all a fun week despite being a bit less active than I hoped. I was all keen for some more bushwalking with the kids, and had even researched appropriate walks on Oh well, next time. 

Tomorrow is my No. 3 girl's birthday, and I'm looking forward to sharing some more fun stuff that I've done for her, so until then.....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oh Starry Starry Night

So who doesn't love a teacher's strike??

With our school closed for the day the girls decided they wanted to have an arty crafty kind of day - which we did and which ended up being just lovely - one of the loveliest days we've had together for a bit.

Early in the morning the girls got busy making their own 'puppet theatre' (of sorts!) which they attached to the television, and then created some little puppets to go along with it. A lot of straws were required! They put on a gorgeous puppet show which was about a dog going for a walk - I think - and some people and other animals he met on the way... I got a bit lost on the way myself.

Emma also made her own puppet theatre and did a 'mime only' performance, which, although a little difficult to follow also, ended with everyone in the play at the park which I got!

With Lucy safely in bed for her lunchtime sleep, we cracked open the paints, and the girls had a go at their own versions of Van Gogh's "Starry Night". They first drew and cut out some buildings and stuck them along the bottom of the page (ours is a bit of a Sydney starry night with the Opera House featuring). Emma was a bit tentative at first, trying to make it all perfect and neat, but something changed at some point and she let go a bit and started to fill the whole page with colour. In the end she was really happy with it and I think it's gorgeous too! For some reason, any time we do painting Jas and Madeline end up doing hand prints pictures, and today was no exception!

Anyway, here's his -

And the girls -

 Emma (7yrs)

 Madeline (nearly 4) - with planets and the sun and moon and stars 

 Jasmine (6 yrs) - lots of "shooting stars"

Emma and I also got to finish off sewing some pyjama pants. They were started some months ago and for some reason we never got to do the hems on the legs. After protesting all her winter pj's are too small/short for her the other day I thought we really had to get onto these. I couldn't believe they'd sat there so long with just the hems to do, but she is now happily wearing them to bed, and those previously exposed ankles are appropriately covered and all snug and warm. Emma did almost all of the sewing herself - I helped with pinning and ironing etc. A great first project if you're after one! She was very happy with the results and wanted to wear them to the park this afternoon - although changed her mind at the last minute.

And now it's only one day until the weekend! I'm hoping to crack out the sewing machine again, but we'll see how we go....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lots of cakes!

It's birthday season in our family, and yesterday my little Jasmine turned 6. Somehow 6 sounds so much older than 5, doesn't it? Definitely means school and the big, fast changes that happen when they are thrust out into the world for the first time. Our Jazzy is such a quirky little character - I think it will take me about another 66 years to work her out, but I'll have fun (mostly!) on the way! Right now she's super into skipping, very glad to have finished her season of soccer, is often surprisingly thoughtful (like insisting we take some jelly snakes to school for her friend with an egg allergy who can't eat cakes), and has a really really great laugh.

Cupcakes for school, family dinner, and a little party with 4 friends and 3 sisters have meant lots of cake baking for me! Jasmine seemed pretty happy with all of them, though she's only into them for the effect - she doesn't actually ever really eat the cake. I went for a small party, making pizza and watching Mary Poppins. There was a brief moment in the middle of the party when I thought "this is all going bad!" but then somehow it all calmed down, the children started asking for water and pieces of apple, and actually sat down and watched a little bit of the film.

Jasmine and Madeline are now 'camping out' in the lounge room, and have totally crashed within about 30 seconds of the light being turned out.

This is my current favourite chocolate cake - yes I did the same one for Lucy's birthday - by Nigella Lawson in her book Feast which I'm enjoying looking through and drooling over at the moment.


Here's Lucy having a good long go at standing ALL BY HERSELF! Hmmm maybe presents are a good motivator for her....

And here is the party - pizza's were made, donuts were bobbed for, Mary Poppins cake duly accompanied by singing and a bit of Mary Poppins viewing....

 Mmm, check out that lopsided cake....

Happy birthday Jaz, love you lots!