Friday, May 01, 2015

Mmmmmmmuffins! Feijoa & Cream Cheese (gluten free)


Yesterday I had a hankering for feijoa muffins, which is weird because I'm not usually a fan of feijoas - at least not in their natural state. But something about the sharp tangy-ness of them in a muffin had me dreaming of baking a batch all afternoon, until at 3 o'clock school pickup time I could stand it no more, and googled myself a recipe.

When this one for feijoa and cream cheese muffins popped up, it sounded perfect - nice and simple, plus I had all the ingredients. Most importantly I had a tree full of feijoas wasting away.

After sending out Scrag to gather the necessary fruit from the backyard (in gumboots to avoid feijoas getting squished between his toes) I road tested the recipe. I've made a few simplifications and adjustments and I've used gluten-free baking mix instead of standard flour (if you don't need gluten free, just go ahead and use regular plain flour).

Here's the recipe, perfect for using all those feijoas that are lying around getting squished underfoot, a delicious Kiwi taste of autumn...


FEIJOA AND CREAM CHEESE MUFFINS (GLUTEN FREE)

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of feijoa pulp
1/2 cup of caster sugar (fine grained)
75g of melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of sour cream OR plain yoghurt
the zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups of all-purpose gluten free baking mix (or plain flour)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

125g of cream cheese (small pottle)

METHOD:
  1. Send a small child out to pick up a bowl full of feijoas. Slice each feijoa in half, scoop out the flesh, repeat until you have a cupful in a mixing bowl. Smoosh the flesh with a wooden spoon (pound on it til it's nice and slushy).
  2. Heat the oven to 200°C.
  3. Add the sugar and melted butter to the smooshed feijoas. Mix well.
  4. Whisk together eggs, sour cream (or yoghurt) and lemon zest+juice. Combine with the feijoa mixture.
  5. Sift in GF flour, baking powder and cinnamon until just combined. (Don't overmix or muffins will be rock-like!)
  6. Spoon the mixture into greased or lined muffin tins (I use silicone). 
  7. Plop a teaspoonful of cream cheese into the top of each muffin. Push it in a little. ***If you have no cream cheese sprinkle the tops of your muffins with brown sugar instead***
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, then enjoy them warm from the oven with a cuppa on a cool autumn day. 




Mmmmmmm. Very satisfying and delicious!

This recipe made 18 muffins - enough for all of us to enjoy as a treat for afternoon tea, dessert AND lunchboxes the next day, with more left over. (As I type this I've been munching on one for my morning tea).


(original recipe found here)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Bit of a Blog Change


I've gone and done it, finally. Rebranded my Blog - just a bit.
I've been thinking about it for months and months, racking my brains to come up with a new name/title that would take this blog into the future and make more sense of where I am now?

(Remember waaaay back in January when I talked about needing a new name for my blog?)

I was worried that "Greatfun4kids" might just be a little misleading/confusing/no longer appropriate now that my kids are getting older, and my parties/inspiring ideas are (sort of) winding back.

I had a few goes at "Peek User Testing" - a free analysis by a real person who lands on your blog/website and tries to navigate it/figure out what it's about.

Too often the person doing the test would say, "Hmmmm, Great fun for kids... I guess this is a website that recommends fun activities for children and families."
No! It's not! It's a blog written by a mum who just happens to be a bit of a DIY party nut. Arrrggh!

When this same conclusion was reached by different people on a number of occasions I thought, I really have to do something about this. I need to come up with a new blog name.

[My blog "business card" - saves spelling it all out] 

I put it out to my readers/facebook followers, asking for suggestions. There were a number of good ones, the most popular of which was "Greatfun4life" but when I really thought about it, I don't think this blog is just about fun. I mean, is it? No. It has changed so much over the years, and I write about so many random-yet-connected things. Connected only because they are all things that mean something to me, they are things I enjoy, things I've done, things I think might interest/help/encourage other people. There is no other rhyme or reason to it: DIY, Travel, Book Reviews, Parenting, Parties, Movie Nights, Recipes and Mental Health... not a very specific niche!

I wanted any new name to somehow link to the old one because:
  1. People know me as that name. People usually hate change. I don't want to lose people.
  2. I just really can't be faffed figuring out how to change my URL and I was scared I'd mess it up 
  3. I also couldn't be faffed changing all my email and social media pages/identities to match. I'd have to start again with followers and all my logins - Nope not doing that.
  4. Last year I finally got business cards printed for my blog ($20 from Vistaprint); I'd hate to waste them
  5. I know there was a number (5) but I can't think of it right now...
So there I was, needing a new name but not really wanting one.
Whenever I'd think of something that might fit I'd google search to see if some other blogger had already thought of it.

Life as it Happens - taken.
Simone Says - taken.
Getting There - taken.

You get the idea.

Then this morning, I decided to just play with fonts in Photoshop, using the picture of my lemonade stand (which I think is still very appropriate and which I love).


Great fun.
It links back to the old. But that's not all I write here. I write other stories.


From the Rollercoaster of Life? On the Rollercoaster of Life?
Hmmm. Does that make sense? Or should it be...


I think we have a winner, folks.
It makes sense to me - I hope it does to you too.

The new title doesn't require me to change my URL, email address, Facebook Page or anything else major. It connects with the old well enough while being a little less specific and giving me more room to move. Hopefully The peek User Testing people will approve.

What do you think?

EVOLUTION OF A BLOG IDENTITY:

 The name "Greatfun4kids" was right off the top of my head...
Next I tried collage headers, which I changed every season (I get bored easily)
 When I grew tired of that, I asked my six-year-old daughter to create some artwork for me...



Our family in all the seasons...


That one stuck around for quite a few years, but eventually I started playing again, and tried a bunch of different versions (none of which stuck) and eventually arrived at:

Which soon became...



I'd love to hear what you think of my attempt at a new name/identity for this blog... let me know!
Thursday, April 23, 2015

PARENTING: Detours, Road Blocks & Getting There Eventually

kids with ADHD self esteem

One of the hardest things about being a parent is watching your child struggle. It's tough having to stand by helplessly as the outside world distorts the way your precious kid sees themselves. It's gut-wrenching hearing them say things like, "I'm so stupid! I'm dumb! Why couldn't I be born smarter!"
Worst of all is when they really truly believe it - that just breaks your heart.

School is a pretty tough place to be sometimes. There's the fitting-in-socially struggle (and coming up against the kind of nasty kids who whisper things like "faggot" and"dumb-ass" when they think nobody's watching).
Even if your self-esteem is pretty robust, that can be pretty hard to take on a daily basis. Especially when the Kids Code of Silence has drummed into you: "Don't be a snitch".
So you suffer in silence and your parents are left wondering why you are moody and anxious and reluctant to get out of bed each morning.

kids struggle at achool

That would be enough to deal with on its own.
But then there's the actual schoolwork. Academic effort. Maths. English. Science.
All the subjects that require you to write and calculate and remember and reason and recall endless facts and methods and weird names for things. And then they test you and grade you and compare you to everyone else in the class/grade/country.
At that point, when you know you've tried so hard to learn the stuff they've been trying to teach you, well those test-results can be pretty soul-destroying.

Some kids just struggle at school, full stop.
I have kids like that. And the further into school they get, the more difficult they find it, the more anxious they become and the more trouble I have getting them up every morning.

My kids have my brain. The dyslexic bit that makes remembering stuff difficult, that makes maths numbers slide out of your head like slippery fish. The kind of brain that makes you feel like you're forever missing the point, not quite fitting in. The kind of brain that needs to experience and see and do before you can understand something new. The kind of brain that gets confused by long technical explanations. It's called a low working memory, and slow processing speed (dyslexic traits).

On top that my kids have ADHD. Yep, that's brand new information, and it makes SO MUCH SENSE. (They are highly physical, easily distracted, easily bored, passionate, impulsive, emotional and high energy). But this post is not about that.

dyslexic kids self esteem

This post is about a conversation I had with my son the other day as I attempted to drive him to school (late) in the middle of rush hour. His school is a half hour bus ride away, so when he missed it I had to take him, at the busiest time of the morning.
Every road we turned down had traffic backed up, jammed, not moving.
Rather than sitting stuck in traffic, going nowhere, I turned the car around, tried another road.
More traffic backed up! This was worse than usual. Was it caused by an accident? Road works? Who knew!
So we took another detour, tried another route.

As we drove, we talked.
He told me how he felt about school, why he didn't want to go. He told me how he got some grades back the day before, and had compared his grades to those of his classmates. He told me how he watched others in his class quickly clicking onto a new maths concept, while he sat there in confusion with his brain fizzing. He told me how disappointed he was when he worked really hard on an English project and thought he'd done well... until he got his results.
He felt like it just wasn't worth trying. Like he couldn't ever get it.
"Why can't I be smart? Why am I so dumb?" he said.
And my heart broke for him as I pulled another u-turn and tried another road.

Then, light-bulb.
All these detours, all this blocked traffic is exactly what happens in my brain - and his.
We hit a mental road block and have a choice: Stay stuck in traffic or try another way.
Again and again it happens.
But if we keep refusing to stay stuck, if we keep turning around and trying another route, WE WILL GET THERE EVENTUALLY!

dyslexic and adhd kids self esteem

So that's what I told my son. My frustrated, discouraged, brilliant son who is a genius with a ball at his feet and who can read a game and create goal opportunities like no-one else.
My son is a genius in his own way. He has things he is amazing at. Like the way he engages with little kids and the way he has insights and asks questions about deep stuff that just doesn't usually occur to kids his age.

I told him, Don't give up. School can be rough when your brain works in a different way. Just take it one day at a time.
There's no pressure from me or dad. We've got your back, you're not alone.
When you hit a learning road block, we'll try another route. When you feel stuck, we'll try something else. And you will get there eventually.
Because you are smart. You are clever. You are amazing at lots of things.
And nobody is expecting you to be an accountant or a brain surgeon.
You just need to figure out what YOU are a genius at, and do what you can about the rest.

Because as Albert Einstein said so brilliantly:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

I think it helped.
And we were only ten minutes late for school, because I found the best back street route, no traffic jams. (We might take the long way round but we get there in the end).


................


**P.S. The bullying was finally disclosed, and the school notified. In the meantime, as I've put into practise being the squeaky wheel, they are supporting my son amazingly with new inclusion in two great programmes, B-Cool and Boyzone. Very grateful for a supportive school guidance counselor and a great form teacher. It pays to be a squeaky wheel

P.P.S.: The ADHD diagnosis for my son is in place of an earlier one which suggested mild Aspergers traits; this has now been discounted. It has also been suggested that Dyslexia in some form has gone undiagnosed, which is what we thought all along.

P.P.P.S.: My son gave me permission to share this story as long as I didn't mention his name. But he wanted this photo added in!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TMNT Party for Young Ninja Turtles


This was one of those parties where I wasn't in love with the theme (birthday boy Scrag's choice) until waaaay down the track. But as the plans began to come together and the ideas started flowing, the more excited I got about it.
Of course my excitement was NOTHING compared to Scrag. He's been counting sleeps for months, and as Miss Fab and I got stuck into papier-mâché-ing piñatas and hot glueing googly eyes on ninja lollipops, the more excited he got - which meant the more hugs I got. (It's the reason I do these parties, really, for the hugs and the exclamations of "Mum you're the best! Mum you're so clever!" Makes it all worth it).

Finally the birthday party day dawned, just as rainy as predicted. But was I fazed? Nuh-uh. I spotted the weather forecast earlier in the week and adjusted my decorating plans accordingly. Woop! I'm learning! There was NO STRESS about the rain. For once. Cos I was prepared.


THE PARTY PLAN (2-6pm):

2.00pm - Guests arrive, get their ninja masks, hang out in Scrag's new room til everyone's there
2.30pm - Leave for Uptown Bounce (10-15 minutes drive, in Grey Lynn)
3.00pm-4.00pm - Have the BEST TIME EVER bouncing off the walls, literally.
4.20pm - Pick up pizzas on the way home
4.30pm - After opening prezzies, daddy ninja herds kittens kids out under the carport for pizza game
5.00pm - Eat party food, sing happy birthday, blow out candles on cake.
5.30pm - When the wall bouncing starts again it's Daddy Ninja to the rescue: start silly dancing in the bedroom. Play "Bullrush" when the rain has stopped.
5.45pm - Play "smash the ninja turtle piñata" and send them home ASAP (before the sugar rush kicks in).


NINJA TURTLE PARTY DECOR:
After I saw the weather forecast (rain) I dropped all pans for outside party decor and figured out a plan to ninja-fy my dining room. I had a cunning plan to stencil myself a slimy brick wall tablecover, which turned out rather brilliantly (if I do say so myself), but the pièce de résistance was the city skyline I drew freehand with chalk, on a sheet of black building paper, to form a backdrop.


On the ceiling were "floating" some green faux-helium balloons, to add a festive touch. You'd be surprised how many people are fooled by these beauties.

(FAUX HELIUM BALLOONS: Simply blow up your el-cheapo balloons, tie a curling-ribbon "tail" onto each one and then pop a square of double-sided tape to the top and let them cling to the ceiling, looking for all the world like they floated up there.)


LITTLE TOUCHES: I used a Sewer Lid graphic I found online and played with it in Photoshop to create a number of fab printables for the TMNT party theme. I printed them and used them on the metal lids of my glass drink dispenser and mason jar cups, as well as a larger size stuck on the plates (covered first in clear Duraseal to avoid any toxic copy-toner getting on the food).
Googly eyes were my best revelation though. Two packets in various sizes transformed  plain green bags, lollipops and popcorn boxes into super cute ninja turtle wannabes.


NINJA TURTLE PARTY FOOD & DRINK

Thank goodness Ninja Turtles love pizza! With that as a given, we supplemented our party menu with a few other faves: Popcorn (in ninja turtle popcorn boxes), cupcakes (slimy brick pattern, not to be mistaken for turtle shells), turtle-face fruit platter (red & green grapes, blueberries and honey-yogurt for dipping) and green jelly (cos it looks like slime). The pizzas we pre-ordered online and picked up from Pizza Hut on home way from Uptown Bounce for $5 each. (Pizza Hut, because that's what Ninja Turtles eat in the movie).


TO DRINK: I made my famous green tea apple punch (refined sugar free), and branded it "Sewer Sludge". A few drops of green food colouring gave it a nice green tinge, and the name didn't put them off. they guzzled it back, no probs.


(Yes that's an actual mossy brick from the garden that my drink dispenser is propped up on. Nothing like a bit of authenticity).


NINJA TURTLE PARTY FUN
When the guests arrived, my plan was to paint all their faces green and give them each a ninja turtle mask (to wear and to keep). Er, nobody told me that SEVEN YEAR OLDS are too cool for face painting. There were no takers, for green faces, not a one. They all happily donned the masks though...

[Ninja Masks: cut coloured felt into nice long strips; leave the middle bit wider, fold in half to cut eye-holes, Felt $3/metre from Geoffs]
LETTING NINJA TURTLES BOUNCE OFF THE WALLS
This party was partly held "at home" (we love at home parties) but also off site at the awesome new indoor trampoline place, Uptown Bounce. Thank goodness we planned this in! These young ninjas were LOUD. So much energy, even before having any sugar whatsoever. With heavy rain off and on all day there's no way we could have had an outdoor party, and with the amount of energy these kids had, there's no way my house (or my ears) would have survived!


Uptown Bounce was the perfect place to go on this rainy Saturday. It's a place where kids can literally bounce off the walls...





We've been here a number of times and the kids keep asking to go back again.

Scrag particularly requested that we go here for his birthday, and since it's just ten minutes up the road it was the perfect solution for an Autumn party with eight energetic kids AND a Ninja Turtle Party theme.

What I love about Uptown Bounce, apart from being so handy, is that it's clean, bright and well run. The staff are great and keep a close eye on the jumpers at all times, enforcing the safety rules which helps everyone have fun. Plus, it's not too big and not too small. It's just right.



I knew from experience that the kids would be desperately thirsty from all that bouncing, so I came prepared...

[MY FREE WATER BOTTLE PRINTABLE LABELS]
After an hour of non-stop action, we headed home for food and a few gentler pursuits, hoping that at least SOME of the energy fizzing through these kids' veins had been released. What can I say? the kids had a blast. Thank you Uptown Bounce!

"GET THE PIZZA IN THE BOX" GAME
Such a simple idea. Turn a Frisbee into a pizza and try to throw it in to a pizza box. Hilarious to watch, especially with Daddy Ninja in charge of antics.

[My free printables for this game here]


As well as the planned games, there was a bit of spontaneous dancing action in the bedroom (Scrag got the latest "NOW" CD for his birthday), and a Daddy-initiated game of backyard Bullrush, when the sun unexpectedly made an appearance...


(Funny thing. When I asked Scrag later what was his favourite part of the party, guess what he said? BULLRUSH. Yep. The spontaneous game of chase and tag. Go figure.)


NINJA TURTLE PINATA
To top the party off and finish with a bang, Miss fab and I had lovingly created this rather cute Ninja Turtle piñata (I'll show you how to do it in another post, sometime, it's ridiculously easy).


Now this was the best fun to watch. What could be funnier than watching blindfolded kids attacking thin air? Great fun, I tells ya.


When the piñata fell at last to a killing blow from the (plastic) ninja axe, there was a mad scramble to fill the otherwise empty goody bags with lollies, at which point we hoped their parents would arrive quick smart to take them home before the sugar high kicked in.

NINJA TURTLE PARTY FAVORS:
We sent our guests home with a green ninja-turtle goody bag filled with their piñata spoils, a cute ninja turtle lollipop and their felt mask. Simple.





NINJA TURTLE BIRTHDAY CAKE
But we can't forget the Birthday Cake! This is one I'm rather proud of as I came up with the technique for the slimy-brick top all by myself.

(I'll share how to make this cake in my how-to post, soon).


As I've said before, I'm a very amateur cake-decorator, but with the skills I learned and the equipment I got at KiwiCakes last month, I feel a lot more confident! And the main thing is that the birthday boy loved it.

(He doesn't really like buttercream icing! Last year when I presented him with his birthday cake he burst into tears because there was icing all up the sides. This year there was an acceptable level of scraped-on-scraped-off green buttercream. And it all added to the sewer-tunnel effect. So Phew!)

There you have it. Another epic birthday production done and dusted. After that, I made myself a coffee and put my feet up, I can tell you.