Monday, 25 November 2013

Turning Seven


This week, in our family's birthday-filled lead up to Christmas, my six-year-old turned seven.
Seems like a milestone birthday to me. Six is so young, full of starts and beginnings and 'being too little' to do stuff the older kids can do...

But SEVEN seems to denote arrival. You're one of the big kids now. Expected to pull your weight, to know more things, to set an example for the younger ones.

Sigh. Oh to be six again...


If there are in fact any drawbacks to turning seven, Mim seemed oblivious to them. Excitement levels at her impending birthday and party had been rising by the day/week/hour. A jumping bean with an unhealthy dose of the "it's all about me" behaviour was starting to get a bit much. Parental threats to call off everything to do with birthdays/parties and presents had initially been taken to heart and caused some dampening of the high spirits. But by late last week, nothing could detract from the rapidly approaching celebrations.
The day was going to happen, rain or shine.

Which incidentally it did. Rain and shine that is.

I realise meteorologists can't be right ALL of the time... but surely in the interests of job satisfaction occasionally giving a forecast that proves to be accurate, could be achievable? Wouldn't you say?

In the end I suppose all the differing forecasts came true. Blue sky, black clouds, thunder, humidity, torrential downpours, cold snaps and sparkly shafts of light. We had it all, often all at once!


So in the lead up, between stressing about what the weather would and wouldn't do, I had a few other things to worry about. Like integrating the joint themes of Princess / Fairy / Mermaid (PFM). A challenge, I admit. But I felt like all bases were being covered with the planned activities:
  • Dressing as Princesses (P)
  • Painting a fairy house (F)
  • Swimming (M)
But trifles such as multiple themes and what to do if the weather was bad, faded as more pressing issues arose.

Like what time the party was supposed to start?!

At 9.30am I was feeling good, all my preparations were going smoothly.
"We're on track with an hour to go", I proudly announced to Eleanore, as I finished off decorating the last of the cupcakes.
"An hour?" Ellie looked sceptical. "The party starts at ten."
"Ten?" I scoffed, trying to believe my nine-year-old who pretty much is always right, might this time be stupidly wrong.
"Quick!" I said, "There's a spare invitation in the TV room. Go and see what it says." Ellie dashed off and was soon back, waving the invitation in the air. "The party starts at ten Mum. That's what you've written here!"

Oh. My. Goodness.

Suddenly any feelings of well-organised smugness evaporated into a cloud of dust I felt like choking on. I looked around the bomb-site kitchen and wondered what to do next.
And then...
"Someone's here already!" came screaming kids from outside (Kid. Excited Mim who'd been waiting at the letterbox for the past hour).
"WHAT!!?" I stared at Ellie in horror. She stared back looking equally appalled.
Mim appeared breathless at the door. "One of my guests is here already. And Dad's in the swimming pool in his undies!"

Oh Lord. Take me now.

Can I just say that the next few hours were a blur?!
A (mostly) happy mix of panic, excitement, shrieking, rain, sun, glitter, sprinkles, laughing and (some) crying (not me, mostly, thankfully), food and fun.

Here are some pictures to prove it:


At this stage, pre-party, the sun was shining. The craft was all set out and ready to go..

 
I found the perfect bird/fairy houses at Riot Craft. $5 each and they were just what I'd been looking for.
 

 

Serious decorating taking place. That's me at the back. Seriously wondering how long this party was going to be going for..


Here's the birthday girl with a friend and their fairy house crafty efforts.

Then came swimming. Then came food - weather was deteriorating at this point - but a little rain never hurt anyone.

After outing my failed macaroons and wand biscuits on Facebook, my lovely friend Meryl offered to make these gorgeous tea cup bikkies.
Aren't they fabulous?!


I decorated plain vanilla cupcakes with a meringue (bought!) top.
Easy and cute.
Yes that's Mim, wearing her birthday dressing gown. One of many outfits worn on the day.



 
Coloured popcorn, mini hotdogs, jelly in teacups and lemonade in cute bottles ($1.50 each at Hot Dollar).
 
 
Then as the rain came down, we dashed inside for the cake.
The only outside thing we missed was the piñata (attacked later by the family when the sun came out again).



Oh and I bought the cake at the local supermarket. I'd made one myself earlier in the week, just for the family to eat on the actual birth day. Mim said it was nice, but that she'd really wanted an Avengers Cake.
(I took this suggestion with a lack of good humour. What? How does that fit in with our multiple themes? What have the Avengers got to do with anything?)

I found a cake with a tiara wearing Barbie sitting on a lily pad:
Princess / Fairy / Mermaid / nothing to do with the Avengers (PFMntdwA)
 
TICK!!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Life is full of excuses..

Usually I write about mess post-Christmas.
This week I'm feeling led to write about the pre-Christmas mess. But first let's hear the excuses.

Excuse #1: It rained this week.
Not such a common thing in Sydney 2013. And it didn't just rain, it really poured, day and night. And it was cold. Did I mention it was cold?
I defy anyone to keep a house fully clean when you have to have all the lights on in the daytime just to see what's going on.
Mess. That's what was going on. In a dimly lit house on a wet and dreary week, mess took over.

Excuse #2: The rain came just after we'd started the Christmas decorating. Hence, not all the decorations boxes were pulled out from under the house. And the ones that were pulled out could not be put away. Hence (am I overusing that word?) there was a big traffic jam at the back door, of the kind that hinders movement (is there any other kind?) as the boxes could not be cleared.

Excuse #3: As my husband likes to point out, I am the master of the half-clean.
Yep if you need something half-cleaned, I'll be there.
Why tidy a whole room when you can do just half?
Because life's too short and full of distractions and you move on to other things, that's why.
Hmm.
Jonathan also pointed out this week that our kitchen bench looked like something off the hoarders program. And that if he happened to secretly text them photos they'd probably be very interested in coming right over and filming a show.

Hahahahahaha. Not.

Excuse #4: I've been trying to organise Mim's 7th Birthday party for this weekend.  I foolishly chose a craft activity that has involved the accumulation of around 50million different pieces that are currently spread throughout the house. It also cannot possibly be completed outside. Hence, I am praying the rain, which is sorely needed, stops for at least the weekend.
Craft is definitely not conducive to having a clean house. Unless you are Martha Stewart. Who sadly, I am not.

So anyway, I couldn't help but be distracted by the pleasurable task of reindeer spotting.
Excuse #5: Reindeer spotting is time consuming and slightly addictive.

Our little friend Clementine (of the op shop sandals buy recently) just so happened to be wearing a reindeer cardi to preschool when we ran in to her this week.
Her mum assures me the fashion choice was not a conscious decision based on my previous post, which challenged people to integrate the reindeer into their every day life.

AH HA!

Sub-consciously, my posts are definitely making an impact!


I got three out of four slightly sheepish kids to pose in front of this gold arty reindeer at a local shopping centre. Arch didn't pose as he was in disgrace after throwing an apple from the fruit shop display about 20 metres down an aisle way. Luckily no one (bar the apple) was hurt.
(Life lesson yet to be learned: apples are not balls; not to mention all the associated disciplinary issues that I'm far too tired to go in to.)


Great Find Alert: Fabulous fleecy chenille like fabric in Lincraft, in a ready made Christmas Quilt design. It is as soft as fluffy winter snow and so so cute!!

I had visions of using it to sew a family collection of Christmas dressing gowns (ala a Hanna Andersson catalogue). The vision continued until I remembered my sewing skills have not progressed this year, at all. Also my family would predictably be extremely unwilling to wear matching anything, let alone something made by me.
Happily, I bought enough for a throw rug instead. Doesn't even need hemming. Winner!


And the reason we were at preschool for a brief period of time this week, was because Arch had Preschool Orientation. As expected, he enjoyed it very much.
I have him booked in to attend 2 days per week, starting next February.

That gives me exactly 2 months and a bit to toilet train him.

Excuse # 6: Everybody knows that you cannot keep a clean house when a toddler is being toilet trained!

And if that doesn't make the least bit of sense to you..count your blessings.





Happy Reindeer Spotting!

Keep cleaning/decorating/finding excuses not to do either!!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, in a vain attempt to gain popularity/more readers/general love and acclaim, I've attempted a GIVEAWAY on my lovedecorateletters FaceBook page.

So far, NO ONE except one of my my most faithful readers/commenters/friends has responded.

I thought everyone loved something for free!?!
You just had to tell me why you needed some Artificial Snow in your life. Come on, you can do it!! (and like me on FB too!)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Designs on Decorating

Thank you to all of the people so worried that I wasn't getting my decorating gloves (?) on and attacking the task with my usual gusto.
Actually no one seemed that worried about whether I put the tree up on the 1st of November or the 15th... so I went with the 10th which felt like a good half way point between getting in early at the start of the month and missing my mental deadline of middle of the month.

If you want to get in to the whole thing slowly, that's absolutely fine.

Here's my quick list of things you can do, slowly, to you know, start setting the scene (previous lists included other options, take your pick!)
  • Mercury Glass
  • Reindeers
  • Candles
  • F O O D


mercury glass:
We're not talking expensive pieces. Obviously if money was no object I would have one of these on every table:


Mercury Glass Hobnail Task Table Lamp from Pottery Barn

Mercury Glass has a real sparkly vintage antiquey feel. It adds a whole new gleaming dimension to vases, lamps, candle holders, jars and bottles. It really shines on beautiful Christmas ornaments. Best described as mottled silver. It emulates the way old mirrors get a warped and wavy look and it is a bit addictive really.

Doesn't this convince you?

http://stunningpicz.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/mercury-glass.html
I recently found these tea light jars for only $4 each at The Reject Shop They come in silver, pink or blue or there is another hobnail style one, slightly smaller, for only $3 each.
What's stopping you?


CRAFTER ALERT: After a bit of googling I found that it is possible, and in fact perhaps even easy to do a bit of mercury glassing yourself. The product is available in Australia and is called Krylon Looking Glass spray paint. It's $20 per can (+ postage). I haven't tried it - if I did I would definitely blog about it as the results could be quite entertaining... In the meantime, check out these great efforts on the blog: what maddy did next.

REINDEERS:

Reindeers come in to their own at Christmas time. It's worth trying to think how you can integrate them in to your every day life. Perhaps people above the equator keep them as pets and ride them to work? Not so easy for us down south. Still, the possibilities are fairly endless when looking at the fake, furry and foam varieties...

Here's one I picked up for a friend last year in a local department store. By the time I realised how great it was and had run back to buy one for myself, they were all gone. (And no, I haven't found one similar. Anywhere. Sob.)Here it is in her gorgeous home. Fiona says it has been hanging up there all year, and seems happy whatever the season. I can only agree.


I found these cute fuzzy ones on Pinterest via Tumblr. I like the idea of them grazing amongst other sparkly objects.
Parental Warning: Keep your nerf-toting kids away - target practise can be too tempting.

www.pinterest.com 
And I was very happy to find Archie this great tee-shirt for the Christmas season. A silver foil reindeer with red antlers. Why don't they make this sort of thing in adult sizes??


CaNdLeS:

There are so many types of candles, ways to display them and scents to discover. Some of the snazzy brands bring out Christmas scents each year.  Some are better than others and the more expensive ones are not always the best. It really comes down to personal choice.

I quite like the Christmas range by Circa Home. Nice classic packaging and not overpriced either. Red Spiced Pear is a warm and sweet (without being sickly) scent that will have you feeling Christmassy in a flash.


Some of the real cheaper options I like include the Ikea scented tea lights. At $5 for a pack of 36, you can pop them in every glass and jar you can lay your hands on. I've also picked up quite a few of the Betty Crocker Gingerbread candles and Cinnamon Bun Candles. They're made in the USA and are around $3 each in chemists.

I'm loving Woodwick at the moment - yes a wooden wick that crackles like a campfire as it burns. I'm enjoying Pumpkin Butter, but am soon to move on to Campfire Marshmallow and Vanilla Bourbon. Woo hoo!


If the whole decorating thing leaves you feeling a little tired, faint and woozy, you're obviously not getting enough pre-Christmas sustenance!
 
F O O D!
 
Last year I got terribly excited by the amazing Heston Blumenthal mince pies with the pine sugar dusting (honestly, the man appears to have melted down a pine tree and left us with the sweet  powdery remains - heaven). In Australia, Coles Supermarkets stock the UK's Waitrose produced Heston brand of Christmas fare. This year we have the pies and a number of fabulous pudding options. They are reasonably priced and make great gifts too, if you don't eat them first.


And if Heston doesn't fill you with longing, you can always head to Woolworths for a piece of Jamie. Or maybe even better still support a charity through buying a pudding - or go to a farmer's market.
Aldi has fantastic glazed German gingerbread cookies and a great assortment of other German and European treats. I can vouch for their sugared almonds. I won't be buying them again however. Too tempting.
 
And tomorrow I plan on trying this year's Christmas themed Maple Latte at Gloria Jean's. My all time favourite from a few years ago was the gingerbread latte from Starbucks. Alas Starbucks are a rarity in Sydney these days.
 
https://www.facebook.com/gloriajeanscoffees

Then there was the flavoured roasted coffee I bought in bulk one year in the post-Christmas sales. We so overdosed on this cognac inspired Christmas pudding flavoured beverage, that we still can make ourselves feel sick just by mentioning it.

Yep. Feeling sick again.
(There's still a few boxes in the top of my pantry if anyone wants one!)
 
So what is your favourite way of getting in to the yule-tide mood?
Or are you still in denial?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Mish Mash

My planned week of military-like precision on all things Christmassy prep didn't quite go off as planned. In fact it hardly got going at all.
Sigh.
Basically I had too much on and wasn't home enough to do all the things I had hoped to do.

Instead I managed to fill the week with a mish mash of necessary and self-inflicted activities (including the odd visit to an op shop, café and catch up  with friends - not that the friends were odd..) interspersed with a toddler who is nearing the age of three but who has decided to make a last-ditch effort at mastering "the terrible twos"!

You know what's coming, don't you?
Yes there were tantrums. Both public (a doozy involving enraged toddler throwing his lunchbox under someone else's table, in the café of a Christian bookshop - why (me)? Why? WHY?); and private (half an hour inside the front door because he didn't want to come straight home after the school run. Yes it appears I do have a toddler addicted to op-shopping. Oops.).

I'd been avoiding the fact that prior to the unearthing of the Christmas finery (buried under the house), there has to be a military-style clean-up of the detritus from July through to October that has been accumulating, unabated by the disruption of being tidied or sorted.

The dust balls were starting to resemble bowling balls.
Scary.

Hence a small highlight, and I was rather desperate for one by Thursday (and yes, we were out again), was finding a basket of great toddler shoes (Campers and Garvalin)  in a junk shop for $2 a pair.


These gorgeous feet belong to the very cute Clementine, a little friend who put them on instantly, and has possibly refused to take them off ever since.

Nice to have one satisfied little person in the world.

And then there was the Christmas prep.
WaRNIng: I'm  just going to ramble now, in the absence of anything big to report on, like putting up a stupendously decorated tree or festooning the roof with 4000 fairy lights...both of which didn't and, who knows, may never happen if I don't get my mo-jo back. And fast.

Found these sweet blue + white wooden decorations on holidays. I'll pass them on to a friend of mine who has one of those beautiful Nordic-style all white rooms I sometimes dream about (along with having a toddler who never tantrums and a life free of public humiliations - yeah right), complete with a white snowy stick Christmas tree on which these decorations will serenely sit. 
ahhhhh


This book was a great find.  I love decorating with vintage Christmas postcards. And because these are reproductions I won't feel evil about cutting them up... Not saying I will cut them up... Just saying.


Oh and we have real holly growing in the garden. I'm not boasting because it has just sprung up from who knows where (is it a weed? I don't know) and I am having wonderful visions of it adorning our Christmas table, food, gifts, clothes, children.... Though it is very very prickly. It would cause a tantrum for sure.
Maybe I could gather it in (gloved) bunches and sell it on ebay? I could be known as the Christmassy woman to come to for holly. Now there's a thought.


Green holly = green holiday accents.

And I loved this Aynsley tea cup and saucer on sight. Its gold floral pattern screamed Christmas at me! And look how well it appears sitting on the red-covered book of Christmas stories I picked up in the same op shop for 50c.
Meant to be.


Am also hoping to follow through on a crafty idea of putting up a wall display of embroidery hoops with Christmas themed fabrics and crafty bits and pieces. Hopefully this idea will be more achievable and visually pleasing than my Christmas craft fail of 2012: Bunting.
(Notice I'm not putting a link to the past post here, as my past enthusiasm was way over the top. So please respect my wishes and refrain from searching for it. I have.)

I only have two hoops so far, so a wall display is a little way off.

Hoop #1 is only about 10cm high. I've framed one of the embroidered Christmas napkins I bought at the Linen and Lace sale a couple of months ago. Love it.


Hoop #2 is about 40cm high. Still deciding what to put in it. This attempt contains a green vintage linen napkin (needs ironing) and some thick cotton doilies that I thought/hoped looked like snowflakes. Hmm. Needs a little finessing before it's ready yet.


Finally, here's some of the holly atop a Christmas gift box. Sized just right for two jars of jam and a box of tea. My ideal gift for a class teacher, or some neighbours. What do you think?



Bonne Maman Blackberry Jam and Bonne Maman Caramel Spread ($5 ea at most supermarkets/delis); Dilmah Exceptional Arabian Mint Tea with Honey ($5 box from supermarket); gift box ($1ea) and holly from the garden.  I suppose you could substitute the jam for a sugar-free variety if you knew the recipient had dietary issues.

Still it feels like the perfect gift to me.
May have to make a box up for myself and the terrible-twos toddler. I'm sure he wouldn't complain about being at home more often if we ate jam on toast every day.
Worth a try.
I'll let you know if it works.
Tee hee.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Hello November 1!

Welcome to November!
Do you feel like the end of year is almost upon us?
We have a few things to distract us before the panic really sets in.

We celebrated Eleanore's 9th Birthday. Hard to believe we've had her in the world that long. (Here she is turning seven, and eight.)


And I'm in the process of planning a 7th birthday party for Mim. We're going with a princess/mermaid/fairy theme. Confusing yes? I've googled Fairy Princess Pool party and I have to say that the results were mixed. Even Pinterest seemed a bit challenged by the idea. This is Mim's first party (Yes ever. What can I say? She's third child.) and somehow the favourite themes from across her ages have become melded together. Will we make it work? Heck I hope so.

As usual, we've peaked with the invitations. Only one way to go from here, but I think it will still be fun. I've had a good idea (thank you Pinterest) for a craft. That together with the swimming should leave just enough time for the piñata and donuts on a string game. Don't send me any more ideas. Not sure my brain can take it. I'm enjoying Mim's excitement in the lead up anyhow.


And in case you're one of those people who think it is way too early to start thinking about Christmas. I get that. I do.
Still, I am not one of those people.
Okay I did groan when the first decorations appeared in, what was it, late August? Yes that was too much. No one wants to think about tinsel and what to buy Aunt Marge four months out.
But November is here people. Time to get active! (Last year I waited until mid-November to get active. That was way too late.)

So here is the first Christmas decoration for 2013! 
I try to buy just a couple of favourites each year. (Trying to buy is easy. Keeping it to a couple of favourites is the tricky bit.) 
Last year I bought an owl. This year a glittery squirrel complete with nut was too cute to pass by. 
There's definitely a woodland foresty theme going on this time of year. 
(Arch and I have been reading the gruffalo of late, so it all kind of fits.)



Note to Self - a fave shop of mine has decked itself out in festive finery and is a sight to behold. When the lovely ladies said they would not be putting on their Christmas music for a while yet, I totally understood.

It took me back to my days as a Christmas Casual in the Grace Bros City Department Store. Relentless hours of carols playing day after day became like a kind of torture, creating nausea amongst the staff before we'd even hit December. One year I wore extremely high platform shoes to work and after about seven hours of standing, had to collapse behind an over sized Christmas tree as temporary paralysis set in. At that moment, as I lay in the dust, and sparkles and fake pine fronds, I hated Bing Crosby. It took me many years afterwards not to associate that "music" with extreme physical foot pain.
However, I digress.


Here are some shots from Note to Self store, for your inspiration.

http://www.notetoselfepping.com.au/

I'm also having some great ideas for Christmas gifts. So far I've confined them to Facebook
I thought here on the blog I'd bring on the whole Christmas thing a little more slowly. 
To give you time to get used to the idea. 

Next week though, it will be FULL ON!

You have been warned..