Monday, 26 November 2012

Fiddling with picasa

I love this photo from the beach today at our playcentre excursion.

Magic garden photo from yesterday

Thanks Penny for suggesting I have a play on Picasa.  I adore how simply you can change an image with a few clicks of a button.  Loving it! Xo

Sunday, 25 November 2012

My dilemma with food

I'm sure that every parent at some time or another struggles with the dilemma of putting a nutritious, tasty and attractive meal on the table and for the children to actually eat it, but when you add a couple of intolerances to the mix things go from being somewhat challenging to feeling near on impossible.  There is organic, free-range, preservative free, additive free, sulphite free, dairy free, gluten free and that's just how we start the day! Feeding our children can be a real headache!

But a while ago my lovely Laura introduced me to Jude Blereau's book Coming Home to Eat, which is her bible in the kitchen.  To be honest I borrowed the book twice I just didn't get around to reading it despite having the best intentions of doing so, but upon discovering she has new book specifically for children Wholefood for Children, I borrowed both from the library and am in the process of reading them.  I've started with Wholefood for Children as this food journey is really in aid of meeting their needs.  It has prompted me to consider what is truly important to me about food, so I have started a list:
  • Organic wherever possible and reasonable;
  • Food in its most natural state, so keeping it as unrefined as possible;
  • Preservative and additive free;
  • Homemade and homegrown;
  • Locally and seasonally grown produce;
  • Locally or New Zealand made products;
  • And the list goes on - as I think, read, talk to others and learn.....

Last nights dinner - all from our garden!
We have our own little vegetable patch from which we eat something from most nights, which we have kept pesticide free; using a 50:50 blend of water and milk to help my courgettes and Emily's white butterfly recipe to save my lettuces from annihilation. But despite the gardens' contribution to our meals and shopping at our local farmers market, our grocery bill is still HUGE and I can't fathom how or where it goes.  Its not nappies because Felix is in cloth majority of the time. The sulphite free dried fruit and the sugar alternative that Gus needs does add up but otherwise there is no obvious drain on the weekly bill.  I want to provide healthy and nutritious meals but I need to get the cost down.

A blackbirds' egg on our walk home
The magic garden - love the door
Wholefood for Children has given me hope though.  I'm hoping that with a stricter food plan, as Jude recommends, I should be able to identify where I'm going wrong, reduce our grocery bill and improve our diet.  I would love to know what you do?  How and where do you shop? Do you have a strict weekly meal plan?  What works for you and your family? Xo

Friday, 23 November 2012

Precious moments in time

Teamwork - I couldn't hear what they were saying, and I didn't want to intrude so I quickly snapped the photo and left them to it.  So wonderful to see them playing so nicely together.
Cuddles with Daddy
Felix is so cheeky - "Got you, got me" 
There are a few months this year when there are gaping holes in the photos we have of the boys.  There is no particular reason for it - I've just been slack at getting the camera out.  Grant comes from a family where everyone physically cringes and runs at the sight of the camera so its up to me.  I am by no means a good photographer nor do I have a fabulous camera, but I am with my tamariki pretty much 24-7 so who has more of an opportunity to catch those precious moments than moi?  

Having been inspired by the way both The Beetle Shack and Che and Fidel have been taking a portrait a week of their children, I have made a concerted effort to carry the camera with me wherever I go and be as snap-happy as I can. This has resulted in a couple of gorgeous photos and of course a heap of rubbish ones, which thanks to the wonders of digital technology can simply be deleted forever.  
Splitting an ice block on a lovely spring day.
The portrait a week idea is one that I've made a commitment to take on next year.  It is such a beautiful way to document the children's lives, not only for the boys to see as they grow but also for Grant and I, family and friends.  Time passes so quickly to let it slip by unnoticed. Thanks to the wonderful Kristen for the fabulous tips on taking great photos of your children and for motivating me to start saving for a new camera too! Xo

Monday, 19 November 2012

Getting creative in the backyard

This is the photograph of our backyard on the sales brochure when we first purchased it.  How beautiful is it?  Well... it didn't take us long to destroy it - literally.  With neither Grant nor I being gardeners it quickly grew out of control and so we took drastic measures and pretty much took it all out. 

It seems like a great many moons ago when we ripped up the lovely, but totally impractical for our children, cottage style garden and commenced work on creating a space for our family.  Had there been more than one person in our family to appreciate the beauty of the flowers growing in the space then perhaps the garden may have stood a fighting chance, but with two boisterous boys in need of space to race their bikes, make mud pies, dig for worms and sail the seven seas, something had to give. 

The above photo was taken in February not long after we began the project, changed our minds, started again, changed our plans again; all the while the tamariki made the most of our indecision and lack of time to make mud pies, bury various tools and dig a hole to China.   

Since creating a more open space for the boys, Gus and Felix have really enjoyed finding little spaces in the sun to lounge around, read books and make up little games together - and of course race around wildly on their bikes. Every now and then I hear little chuckles from over the fence from our grandparents age neighbours who seem to enjoy their antics.

Gus has been doing lots of 'tricks' in the garden, here he is making skidmarks in the dirt with his feet, just like a "mud bike" does.  Felix, who of course suffers from the worst case of big-brother-worship, has to have a go at everything Gus does, and so pays close attention for when its his turn.  

Grant has been flat out building a little deck around one of the remaining trees in the garden, plus a boardwalk surrounding it.  Much to Gus' delight, this project has required a bit of excavation, which lead to a great mound of dirt being dumped in one spot.  Naturally Gus has used this as a ramp and has had hours of fun here.  

And naturally, the big-brother-love-thing means that Felix has to give it a go too, resulting in mixed results!  Poor Felix. Xo

Sunday, 18 November 2012

It's in the water

I had a brainwave on Tuesday - its the water!  As you may recollect, I've been puzzling with getting my ginger beer and plant to bubble; something that is really bugging me as I'd love to have ginger beer over the summer holidays as we did as youngsters, but after the initial excitement it all went downhill terribly fast as the bubbles quickly ceased to show their lovely bubbly selves and completely disappeared upon bottlement.  I have pondered and scratched my head,  and tried twice more to get a plant going but without success.  Then, in a light bulb moment I realised what I'd done differently with the second and third plants, and of course what had caused my bottled ginger beer to cease bubbling - the water.  

In preparation for my first ginger beer plant, I had taken my trusty thermos into Petone to Te Puna Wai Ora to acquire some of the best, naturally purified water, in the country.  I had used this water to make the initial plant but had used tap water to bottle it and in making the second and third plants.  I am presuming that the tap water is the problem because Rhonda Hetzel's blog that has instructions on how to make ginger beer, she recommends that you let tap water sit for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate which allows the natural yeasts in the air to do their work.  You probably can't really see it right now, but thar she blows!  

Thinking some more about this water, Grant and I had been talking about how the first loaf of No Knead Bread I had made was the best and we couldn't figure it out.  Its the water!  I'd made the first ginger beer plant at the same time as the first loaf of bread and had used the left over water to make the bread.  

So, using the left over water from the ginger beer plant I made bread and wow! What a difference it makes to the rise and size of the bread.  Mystery solved! Now I'll be joining the throngs of people in Petone filling up gallons of water for my ginger beer and bread making pleasure.  Xo

Saturday, 17 November 2012

On the road again

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been, having traveled 1291 km over the course of five days, with two children in tow (although I must confess that the boys were with us for only half of that distance as Mum and Dad (bless their cotton socks) brought the boys home for us).  We were very privileged to see so much of the countryside as I'd inadvertently set up the GPS to quickest route - meaning we took a few back roads instead of the main roads.  Oops!  The purpose of our little journey was to attend the wedding of my brother-in-law and his breathtakingly beautiful bride - and what a wedding it was.  The service was short and sweet and gorgeously romantic and the the reception was so much fun (in the most part simply because my wonderful Mum and Dad had taken the boys back to the motel so I was able to relax and enjoy our wonderful family and friends without the worry of what mischief the boys were up to).  A HUGE thank you to Nanny and Pop!

There was a lovely no-fuss approach to everything at the wedding, so when Gus refused to have his photo taken (which is what he's doing in the above photo) and then changed his mind 10 minutes later there was no bother about gathering people back for the photos.  

Gus and Felix looked so handsome in their little wedding outfits and they both received many compliments for their little bow ties and their Refined Trousers - outfits that I'd made in the hope that I'd be able to snap a lovely photo of Grant and the boys wearing sort-of matching outfits.  Unfortunately none of the boys in my little family are particularly interested in having photos taken!  Argh!

To be honest I had thought that the trip was going to be a nightmare with the children not sleeping, food disasters, rashes and sore tummy's, but not so.  So typical of me to over-think it and what a relief for it to have been so wonderful! Xo

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Kiddie Christmas creations

I've been thinking a lot lately about this whole Christmas shenanigan (yes I know that it is still two months away, but I like to be organised) and about what I would like the boys growing up believing it to be all about.  Although I was christened as a Methodist as a young girl, I don't follow a faith - a friend pointed out in a recent conversation that I'm an agnostic although I haven't actually ever applied a particular label to what I am.  I realise that much of the traditions that we grew up and practice today are linked to Christianity, however we don't seek to reinforce or discredit any beliefs in our family - we're just doing our own thing.

Anyhow, I've been thinking about the values and customs that I would like our boys growing up with.  One main point of discontent for me with Christmas is the mass consumerism and the crazy overindulgence of it all.  Over the past few years I have been working towards creating gifts myself for my loved ones rather than hitting the shops and spending way too much money, money that at times I didn't really have to spend but felt obliged to.  So this year, as in previous years, I am going to make as many presents as I can and involve the children in this as well.  For the vast majority of gifts this involves sewing, but there will be the odd bit of baking and such mixed in as well.  

Despite having perfectly good traditional Christmas decorations in the shed somewhere, I will once again be using our own homemade decorations, recycling some from last year and also getting the boys to help me make a few new things.  Last year we had a couple of sticks of curly willow that served as our Christmas tree which was decorated with handmade woolen and sewn objects.  This year I'm thinking of using the same sticks but with stars and angels that the children have helped to create to decorate it.  I've cut up a stack of fabrics for making the angels and am waiting for a quiet moment when Gus is feeling creative to give me a hand at making something along the lines of this (see below picture).  (The wire around the neck looks a bit like a noose but it was the best I could do.)  I am yet to cut out the star shapes but am planning on using an old woolen blanket mixed with different cottons and felt that Gus and Felix can decorate and sew.  I must point out that as an idealistic early childhood teacher, this adult-directed theme based project is exactly the opposite of what I would do in practice - but we're talking about values here so I'll just have to put aside my beliefs for now. 

One of the most important values I would like the children to grow up with concerning Christmas is that of giving.  Yes, it is always nice to receive a gift, but I would really love for them to appreciate and experience the joy of gifting something that you have personally made especially for that person.  That little tickle of excitement in your tummy when they open their gift is just priceless.  With this thought in mind, rope dolls have swung back into my favour as something that Gus in particular may like to help to make for his loved ones.  They can be made with or without arms (which are especially irresistible for teething babies to munch on), and can be made in a range of different colours and family structures.  

The boys have also begun working on another wee Christmas project for their cousins.  One evening when they were both in the mood to explore their artistic side, I enquired if they would like to draw a few special pictures for their cousins.  I then explained how I would transfer their pictures onto little drawstring bags I'm going to make, which hold gingerbread people that they get to decorate themselves.  Man, Gus was churning out the artwork like his life depended on it.  I don't know whether it was the promise of gingerbread somewhere on the horizon or if it was the thought of his artwork being treasured so much that it would be placed upon a bag.  Either way I ended up with a range of beautiful drawings from both of them.  Bless their generous souls!  So with a little patience and a lot of me holding back from interfering with their creative processes, I am hoping that we'll manage to create a gift that they'll be proud of giving, whilst learning some valuable lessons along the way.  Xo

Thursday, 1 November 2012

By broccoli you are magnificent

I am by no stretch of the imagination what you'd call a gardener, not even having a green enough thumb to keep silverbeet alive, well until now that is!   

I'm not sure if its the wondrous garden boxes that Grant built with the right mix of compost and top soil, or if it is just that I'm actually remembering to water the vegetables every day but something is definitely working as everything is growing magnificently.

It has become quite a little routine for Gus and I to remember to give the "Beges a nui drink" (Veges a big drink) each afternoon, and if I'm not quite quick enough off the mark, it is usually followed by a wee drenching of a certain little brother whose legs aren't quick enough to get away from the hose.  Poor Felix - destined to be forever tortured by his big brother.

Despite going through a "I don't like peas Mummy, I'll put them on Felix's plate", resulting in peas going everywhere phase, Gus is terribly excited about the peas growing in the garden.  When we're out doing our watering Gus takes care to thread any lose tendrils around the support frame while whispering words of encouragement to grow "Nui nui" (big big)!  It is so very rewarding to see Gus taking such care in the garden, learning about how and where the food that appears on his plate arrives there.  I suppose it is the real reason why we decided to have a vegetable garden in the first place.  It certainly hasn't saved us any money to grow our own vegetables, perhaps later on down the track if I grow from seeds instead of seedlings, but right now we're just happy knowing that we're keeping it local by tending to our own little patch, encouraging the children to develop knowledge, and enjoying the reward of our produce.  Ka pai!