Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cupcakes

The first Monday of the month is Canteen and Non-Uniform Day at Miss M's school.  The children put in their order the week before then 3 Mum's (or Dad's if so inclined) are asked to bake 24 cupcakes for the children to buy as part of their lunch.  This month is my turn. 

 

Miss M said she wanted to help, so she washed her hands and aproned up.  I have slight control-freak tendencies where the kitchen is concerned so was feeling a little nervous!



We used our usual Women's Weekly recipe, Miss M measured out all the ingredients and did a great job of controlling the Kenwood.  There was a small mishap with one of the eggs, but generally all good. 




There was a lot of concentration to make sure the flour didn't fly everywhere.




Naturally The Brothers  all wanted this very important job.





She even insisted on putting them in the oven but then decided that she didn't like that bit and wouldn't be doing it next time we bake.





It was bedtime by the time we got around to decorating so she got to do a couple then I followed her theme - sunshines, butterflies, caterpillars, snails and flowers, then whatever was left to make circles!

Hope the kids like them tomorrow, they're not quite up to the usual school standard!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cricket and Crochet


Today was the last cricket match of the season for No3 Boy.  We have mostly enjoyed our Saturday mornings together, although neither of us were particularly keen on the 8.30am starts. 
We started off trying to take everyone plus Dog but quickly realised that it was not fun for any of us.  Instead I get up with No3 Boy and take him, with my bag of yarn and hooks or a good book, while Dad (who's not much of a cricketer) has a bit of a lie-in and the others watch some cartoons.  Then they tackle the house and garden to earn some pocket money and we come back 3hours later to a lovely tidy house!  It has worked beautifully!  Unfortunately the Football (soccer) season will be starting soon and that WILL involve us all being up and about and goodness knows where in the Hunter Region at the crack of dawn all winter!  Having only one car (see this post) it really gets interesting!



Anyway, this morning was very hot and humid!  The boys did very well and won again - they have only lost one match all season which is great for a little team that were flung together at the last minute.  I am still clueless about 'Overs' and "Wickets' , "No balls' and "Dot balls" despite having tried to listen to the scorers.  So I chat to the other parents and read or make stuff.  This was where most of my Christmas decorations were made and a fair number of scarves and neck-warmers.  2 hours is just the right amount of time to do a neck-warmer!

Taken by No3 Boy over my shoulder!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tennis



It doesn't begin with a C/K sound, but I LOVE tennis.  Love playing and love watching.  I seem to have passed this on to No2 Boy.  He loves his football, but when he plays tennis it is on him to win or lose, he's not relying on, or letting down, other people.  I can remember when he was 2 years and 2 months old, I had a new baby and would curl up on the sofa, while he sat beside me and watched full matches of Wimbledon.  He also reminded me that he would get up and cycle to his tennis lessons where we previously lived, wind, rain or snow at the age of 6 on a Saturday morning!  It wasn't far and he has always been a very sensible child.  He now plays at least twice a week and is always asking for private lessons, he has won a doubles competition with his best friend and loves to compete.

This evening we dropped No3 Boy and his friend at Cubs and headed to the courts to play each other for the first time.  We had great fun!  He tried out his best top spins on me while I practised my best volleys on him.  We decided to play a one set match as we were limited for time and light.  It was very close, but I just managed to beat him 6-4.  We had a couple of very tense deuce points, including one match point that I lost!  He was a little annoyed but appreciated the fact that it won't be long before he thrashes me!

I'm thinking I may not be able to walk tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Smallest Boy's Day



No 1 Boy went off on his 4th camp in just over 2 years this morning. The less said about his organisational skills the better, suffice to say, Mummy was in need of a cuppa when she got back from dropping him off...

Smallest Boy has now got a Wednesday place at Pre-School but I figured that after the trauma of Monday, maybe Smallest, and the ladies, could do with this Wednesday to recover.

Instead we had a busy day at home. Unfortunately one of the disadvantages of being No5 is that it is very rare for any games or toys to have all their pieces, so he quickly got frustrated that none of the games he wanted to play were complete or that you had to be able to count/spell/write.

The Bee Game was fun for longer than I expected as it was a bit fiddly to put the leaves through.

We then moved onto a bowl of washing up water outside, which lasted long enough to check my emails and take a few more pics, then back in to raid No3 Boy's Star Wars mini-figures and Millenium Falcon.

After lunch (and a change of clothes - warmer than we'd expected) we headed out to play in the garden with Dog until Dog jumped the gate and took himself for a walk, with me in hot pursuit in the car! By the time he had been rounded up it was time for all the activities to start. We picked up Miss M, raced down to No2 and 3 Boys' school, dropped Daddy off with them to walk to No2's Football (soccer) gradings, while Smallest and I took Miss M to her piano lesson. We manged a super quick dash to the park for some Swing and See Saw action, then back to collect Miss M and off to see how No2 was getting on! Daddy was having a kick about with No3 while No2 was trying out with the A team (Yay!) so Smallest ran off to join them and did some great dribbling until he fell and banged his wee head.

Quick turn around of 20 mins to cook and eat dinner while No2 got ready to go back out again, when I got back from dropping him off, Smallest was fast asleep. Wee Lamb xx


Oh, and did you notice I've found some great photo editing software??  I found Picasa and Picnik which are both free and look like they will be HUGE amounts of fun!  You can click on the photo to see a bigger version.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

First Day of Pre-School



After much preparation, the day finally came around.  Smallest Boy was up, dressed, bag packed with morning tea, lunch and spare clothes, and his hat on by 7.30 this morning.  He has been very excited about going to pre-school since we first visited and met The Chickens a few months ago.  Pre-school here is similar to Playgroup/Nursery in Scotland - not entirely sure of the equivalent in England.  Main differences are that it's not free (obviously a fairly significant difference)  and there is little or no option for anything other than full days.  My older kids all went to the most gorgeous Playgroup in Scotland 5 mornings a week (for free) for a year and then did the same at the pre-school Nursery attached to the primary school that they later went to.  This worked out particularly well as they came home, had lunch and promptly fell asleep for the rest of the afternoon, or until we had to pick someone else up.  So far Smallest Boy has one day, which may well become a bit of an issue with regards to settling. 



The Big Boys all left to catch their buses to their schools then we jumped into the car to drop Miss M at her school (next door!) and race down to Pre-School.   Excitement was running very high at this point.  We arrived a wee bit late to avoid the rush and try to achieve the smoothest drop-off possible.  His peg has a snake on it which he was pleased about, we put his morning tea and lunch boxes (Toy Story naturally) into their respective containers and went to see what was going down.  He did a beautiful painting, checked out the blocks, and said 'Hello' to another wee boy hiding in the house area.  We had had a number of conversations about 'Mummy not staying' but as I rightly expected, he hadn't really believed me.  It started with the wobbly lip, moved onto the "Mummy stay!", to full-on screaming pretty quickly.   With the older sibs I only had one who showed the same kind of separation anxiety shown by Smallest Boy (I remind you of the "Mummy-daring-to-go-to-a-gym-class" incident of a couple of months ago...).   I figured it was best to say goodbye, leave and not look back.  I could still hear the screaming 3 doors up. 



I had arranged to meet a friend for coffee and I'm so glad I did!  We chatted for nearly 3 hours by which time all I had time for was to get home, tidy up a bit then go and collect.  Being first day, I went a bit early and all was quiet and calm.  After lunch, the blinds go down, some children have a nap on mattresses while others chill out to soothing music.  Smallest Boy was curled up on the sofa fast asleep and noticeably shaking with occasional sobs.  One of the lovely ladies explained that he had cried on and off all day, screamed during the visit of The Music Man and had to be bribed with collecting the hens eggs in the garden to calm down.  She also said "He's so cute though"!!  When I went to lift him, he was still sobbing in his sleep - how evil did I feel?  I nearly burst into tears myself!



Anyway, he got home then spent the rest of the afternoon telling each sibling, as they got home, what fun he had had and how much he loves the chickens!  Apparently he wants to go back tomorrow - we shall see how he copes next week...!



With his 'Bestie' at bedtime


Edited to add painting that I couldn't find last night, not realizing that Smallest Boy had alreadyput it on the fridge!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What I've been reading

I confess that despite a bookcase full of books, my reading has taken a bit of a back seat to my crochet for the last wee while. 

I've been struggling to get into "Committed" by Elizabeth Gilbert and eventually gave up to try something else.  I'm the kind of person that feels bad about starting a new thing if I haven't finished the last so hadn't picked up anything else for a while.  I'm also fairly careful about my reading as I get the teensiest bit obsessed... I forget to go to bed, forget to feed the children etc.  Having 5x Baby-brain hasn't helped my situation and I find it hard to find books that I read and don't feel like I've just wasted a day of my life on, or that are so complicated and award-worthy that I feel like a complete failure for not seeing all the clever twists and turns!

I am, however, very fortunate to have 2 wonderful friends who understand my love of books and saw me complaining on Facebook about the price of books here in Australia.  Both of them now send me regular book parcels with whatever they have been reading, and we have very similar taste in books - hurrah!

So in the last 2 weeks I have managed to read 5 books, 2 I loved, 2 I enjoyed and 1 - hmmm.


This morning I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  Absolutely loved it,  what a great story about truth, the lines that we draw between ourselves, mother/daughter, employer/maid, black/white set in 1960's Mississippi.  Made me want to make a peach cobbler!


Before that was Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier (author of The Girl with a Pearl Earring) set at the beginning of the 20th century, beginning with the death of Queen Victoria.  It follows 2 girls as they grow up in this new era of change in London, new roles for women, looking back and looking forwards.


I admit that I have avoided reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for at least 18 months since my Mum brought the book out with her.  I figured it would be too much for my poor porridge-brain and that it might be too sad.  Well, it took a bit more than I'd hoped to get into initially and then I was hooked.  I think I sat up until 1.30am to finish it off!  Grumpy Mummy in the morning!  I know very little about Afghanistan but now I want to know more.  I think it's very brave to tell a story where it's hard to be too sympathetic with the narrator yet at the same time to appreciate that honesty. 





















Husband and I recently watched Agora, a film about the life of the Greek scholar Hypatia, and the Library of Alexandria.  Not my usual choice for a Saturday evening movie but I really enjoyed it.  When I saw The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry reduced in Big W, I slipped it into my basket.  It's a Dan Brown style thriller all about finding "the most important cache of ancient knowledge ever assembled: the legendary Library of Alexandria".  It was good fun, and like Brown had all sorts of fun suggestions including the fact that the land promised to Abraham is in fact in Arabia, not Palestine after all!


The first one I managed to complete took ages to get into and I felt I had to trudge through it a bit  One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner was described by Red magazine as a "Quirky thriller" but I'm afraid I didn't find it the least bit thrilling.  It is about friendship between women which I could appreciate, but I found it hard to empathise with any of the characters and was just glad to be finished!


I was wondering what to read next when I caught sight of Pride and Prejudice on the top shelf.  I thought I should go back and revisit the classics only to get it down, start reading and realise I have never actually read it!  I did English for A-level and read like a crazy lady from then until I had the children, and I'm still not sure how that one slipped through!  I'm on chapter 6 so far and I'm loving Mr Bennett!

Well I would love to hear your recommendations for what to read next - I'm thinking The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, but I really must get cracking on Miss M's blanket!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ethical Living

Please don't be put off by the title, this post is the result of some musings I've been having recently after watching a couple of very interesting documentaries and life in general!



I met up with a lovely friend who I don't see all that often, to go for a walk this morning.  Most people here wear serious walking gear so I was delighted when she turned up in flip flops!  Our aim is chatting and walking only until we reach coffee rather than serious calorie burning.  Actually I'm sure we probably consume more than we burn!  I was accompanied by Smallest Boy and Dog.  Smallest Boy threw the biggest tantrum he's thrown for a while and screamed the entire way.  He did walk right enough, but it was loud and we had lots of sympathetic/irritated looks as we went along!  Dog is huge, very strong, very nosy and wanted to pull across the path to sniff every blade of grass and introduce himself to every dog we passed.  We definitely deserved our coffee this morning! 

As usual we covered as many topics as we could and did our best to put the world to rights.  Today we covered Working Motherhood, Education, Sneaky Baking (ie adding veggies into everything including cookies - yes, really!) then onto Frugal and Ethical Living. 



My husband has always been an advocate of living sensibly.  When we were first married he would always pick up litter when we were out walking, we have always chosen where we lived according to proximity to bus stops/railway stations/bike routes or a combination of the three, he goes around switching lights off and so on.  I was brought up similarly and so we have endeavoured to do the same with our kids.  We try to recycle/compost our waste, we buy as ethically as we can by buying at local farmers markets, buying Fair Trade tea, coffee, chocolate and clothes (where they are available) and supporting local crafts people when it comes to gifts.  As Christians we feel this is part of our duty of care to the world around us and to it's other inhabitants. 



There are areas for improvement! 

While Husband is great on the transport issue, I am a Driver.  I get the most appalling travel sickness even walking past buses!  Unfortunately where we live involves a fair bit of driving to get people to all their activities but we are doing our best to find car shares, combine days (ie 2 people doing piano on the same day rather than 2 different ones), or combining the activity with a chore such as a supermarket shop, No1 Boy even gets the bus to the library after school and to see his friends.  Those of you who know me well will remember me walking, sometimes 6, children to and from school in wind, rain and snow rather than using my car, so hopefully you'll forgive me!

Clothes are another area for improvement.  I am hopeless at mending and would rather chuck out socks than darn them, I never get around to putting buttons back on things, and Miss M's hem on her uniform is still hanging down!  Thankfully she has 2 other ones to wear.  I am also a hopeless "Op Shopper".  I have one lovely friend, that I grew up with, who always had fantastic bargains from second hand and charity shops and always looked gorgeous, but not me.  Hopeless.  I'm not even a good sale shopper, to be honest I'm not much of a shopper at all.  Having four boys we've managed to pass a lot of things down, amazingly some things have done the Big 3, my neighbour across the road's wee boy, then come down to Smallest Boy!  I never mind spending a lot for No1 Boy as I know the chances are that they will do at least 2 of them.  With Miss M, I have been fortunate to have good friends with daughters and very good/expensive taste!  For all that children wear clothes, I'm perfectly happy to accept second-hand or maybe we should say "Pre-Loved", but must be better on the mending front. 

After watching a UK documentary last night, I've decided that we are going to have a more vegetarian diet.  The way our food is produced concerns me as a parent and as a human being so I will continue to seek out fairly traded products, ask more questions about how our food is produced and eat less meat.


Anyway, enough of my ramblings, suffice to say that we do try to "Reduce, Reuse, Re-cycle", I'd love to know what other people do to live more ethically.  There are some interesting blogs to look at on the subject such as Frugal QueenThe Further Adventures of a Thrifty Mrs to name just 2.  I'm off now to bake something for Afternoon Tea (still LOVE that the Aussies have Morning and Afternoon Tea!) or my children will complain!


Edited to add - these cookies were just right - phew!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

This is the first year in 20 that neither of us bought cards.



I have to say that I feel that more and more of our holidays feel over the top, commercial, directed by clever marketing and far from what they originally were and feel less inclined to celebrate them.  Bah Humbug.

Then I thought of my parents who are travelling just now.  I know that wherever they have got to in the world, my Dad will have bought a card for my Mother with some lovely sentiment, but he will also have written his own poem for her, sometimes, funny, sometimes romantic but always original and heartfelt.  I hope she has kept all these cards.  

I didn't get a card or a present this year from my husband but I did have this note from my daughter on my pillow!  She was busy this morning as it is also the Dog's birthday so he got 2 cards!



I didn't get a card or present from my husband but he did come home nearly 2 hours early from work which,as far as I'm concerned, is the most romantic gesture I could have asked for!  I'm easy pleased.

(Apparently he cycled to the shops on his way home then realized he didn't have a chain to lock his bike so came home empty handed!)

When everyone had gone to bed, we did manage a cuppa and a couple of these each, grabbed at 6pm in Coles on my way between dropping off 2 boys and coming home to feed everyone else then picking back up again!



Hope you have had/are having a lovely Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Creativity...

We've had a very busy week what with 2 Swimming Carnivals thrown into the already hectic mix! 


Smallest Boy and I managed a nice quiet morning yesterday in which we got a wee bit creative.  For us anyway.  It began when I heard that familiar crashing noise of the Lego box being emptied all over the rug. 


I confess my heart sank a little.  It gets under both the sofas, under the fridge, and rarely gets used for it's intended purpose of building stuff.  We were just back from dropping Miss M at school and I hadn't even had my cuppa by this stage so I got my priorities straight and made it quickly!  When I got to him (with my camera to record the chaos)  he was copying Big Sis and making Dogs (what is it with 6 year-old girls and dogs?).  I offered to help but was putting the tails in the wrong places so got sent away. 


I fancied a break from The Blanket so had a rummage in one of my boxes until I found some more of my sale yarn.  So while my Little Buddy built dogs, reindeer and lions, I managed another Neck Warmer.  This one is a bit longer and crosses over at the front.   I'd been skyping with my Mother who had seen something similar in M&S and felt sure "her daughter" could make one, obviously I didn't want to disappoint!


I've made quite a few of these now, but even though it will get chillier here, I know I won't wear them all!  My Mother has bagsed one and I think  might try and sell some of the others.  If you fancy one, give me a shout!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Public Crochet...

I've been quite amused by people's reactions to my new (I think you can still use "new" for up to 6 months?) hobby.  I'm not particularly surprised as my reactions may have been similar a year or two ago.  I always thought of Crochet as a particularly fuddy duddy, pointless thing to do until looking at little hair clips, dresses, hats etc in the shops, and then all the gorgeous blankets and cushions that I've found online, and thought I could do that.  None of them have been 'Fuddy Duddy' and some of them have been really beautiful and inspiring.  Both my Grandmother's tried, and failed, to teach me to knit when I was young, I tried again recently to teach myself and again failed.  Crochet I have found to be far easier to master and, depending on the project, fairly instantly gratifying.  However, the perception by many of my friends is that 'Crochet is for Grannies'! 

We recently had a trip to Sydney and decided to make the most of the Sunday Family Rail Tickets.  I had colouring pencils for Smallest Boy and all the others were armed with audio books on their iPods.  I took my size 7 hook and some chunky yarn to make a neck warmer.  On the way there I was delighted to see, behind us, a girl younger than me, with her knitting.  I was even more delighted to see, on the way back, another lady with her knitting!  This pic was taken by my lovely No 3 Boy.
 (I never did finish the neck warmer as, 5 rows in, Smallest Boy decided that colouring wasn't going to satisfy him and only Mummy was qualified to occupy him to his satisfaction.)

Due to having an excessively large brood, you can imagine that I am kept pretty busy with after school with activities.  I am now in the habit of always having a hook and some yarn in my bag, usually something small that I can finish in the time it takes for the activity.  Before Christmas, I made a LOT of stars from Michelle at The Royal Sisters Grandma Twinkle Pattern !  I found it to be a great conversation starter - "What on earth are you doing?  Crochet??  Why???  Oh, they're lovely, could you do some for me?"!





Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

Last night the temps here didn't drop much below 30c all night.  Combine that with a sweaty toddler who only likes to sleep nose to nose and I didn't sleep much!  I finally did fall asleep then slept through the alarm and missed church - oops!  Thankfully Husband (who never seems to be bothered by any of the Small People) had a reasonable sleep and offered to take everyone to the pool again to give me a chance to try and catch some zzz's.  Marvellous.  It took them a ridiculously long time to get organised but they finally left, hoping to practice their strokes for their Swim Carnivals this week.  They had a great time and only came home because Smallest Boy actually fell asleep in the pool!  After their exhertion we planned a fairly chilled out afternoon and just aswell because the thunder and rain finally came, bringing some fresh air at last.  The temps have dropped 15c and I reckon we'll all sleep tonight.



Planning ahead for the week I realized we were out of lunch stuff, so bearing in mind my resolution to stop buying lots of packaged, processed food for the kids packed lunches, I did some more baking.  Today I had frozen Blueberries to use up so whipped up a batch of beautifully moist muffins, huge enough to satisfy even the hungriest Boy at recess! 




It's another good recipe -

4 cups Self-Raising Flour
1 cup Raw Sugar
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
2/3 cup Melted Butter
2 cups Sour Cream
2 cups Frozen Blueberries

I mixed the sugar, eggs, sour cream, melted butter and vanilla essence then sifted the flour, mixing it in lightly, before adding the blueberries.  I baked them at 180c for 25 mins.  You could add some lemon zest for an extra zing but my lot always complain if I use lemon.   I got 12 large and 6 medium muffins out of this, those of you with sensibly sized families might want to half the recipe!

As always, enjoy with a lovely cuppa, preferably somewhere quiet!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hot, hot, hot!

Well the weekend has come around pretty quickly! What a week it has been - temps of over 40c most days here, Cyclone Yasi following the floods in Queensland, bush fires in various parts of Australia, and crazy winds across Scotland to mention a few. We're very thankful to have a roof over our heads and are remembering all those who have lost theirs these last few weeks. I've been really impressed with the way the Blogging community has galvinised and come up with all sorts of auctions and other ways to help those who are suffering. One thing I am going to get involved in is Crochet a Rainbow.   Sarah London is asking as many as are willing to make as many Granny Squares as possible to make blankets for those who have lost everything. It’s not much but it shows that people care and is something to give a bit of comfort, especially for wee ones.


Our week has been hot. We’ve had a number of trips to the pool after school, and spent nights tossing and turning, last night I even lay on the sofa under the aircon between 1.30am and 4am until I had cooled down a bit!



Amazingly the heat hasn’t stopped the kids (or Husband who has been cycling to and from work), No 2 Boy has joined the Tennis Squad and was playing in 40c for 2 hours! His exciting news of the week is that he was voted Vice House Captain for Blue House and is looking forward to the Swimming Carnival on Monday to lead the cheers!

No 1 Boy has taken to High School like a duck to water. His favourite subject is History and he is really looking forward to his first Cookery class next week. He has made some new friends and comes home happy every day! Long may that last!

I have managed a wee bit of crochet this week, but to be honest, every time I’ve sat down I’ve had a little friend cuddle in and next thing we know it’s time to pick up from school! He generally doesn’t sleep during the day so I’ve been quite glad, although it does have knock on effects at 8pm...

So the crochet! I found a bucket full of “bella baby” 100% 4ply wool which had been marked down to $2, and was half price again, in Spotlight before Christmas when I was looking for yarn to make a blanket for Miss M.



The colours weren’t what I had envisaged but she’s not a very girly girl, so I figured we’d give it a try, at $1 a ball I couldn’t go too far wrong! I got 6 different colours and 2 shades of white. My calculations could, most likely, be wrong, but I reckoned I should get 120 different 3 round circles form the combinations.



I followed Lucy at Attic24's pattern and added another round. Being new to all this, I didn’t think to increase my stitches in the 3rd round so they curl up a bit, but this has been sorted out now that I’m adding the white yarn as I’m joining them. 





I'm baby-sitting tonight so I'll try and get some more of the 72 remaining circles added.  Once they are all joined it will need a fairly deep border as it's not all that wide.  I'm thinking I will use all the colours interspersed with the white.