Tuesday, September 2, 2014

When Good Ideas Fall Flat... (Kiwiana theme night)

Sometimes you get a great idea, a flash of inspiration, an urge to turn the ordinary into the memorable. Sometimes you drag yourself off the couch and attempt to turn a boring rainy day into something a bit special... and  sometimes in spite of your best efforts it just plain doesn't work.

There was nothing wrong with the idea: you tried, you did your best. (You could have stayed sitting on the couch but you didn't).
The reality is that sometimes, in spite of all our best intentions (and hard work), good ideas fall flat.

This happened to me on Saturday night, when I attempted to rally the troops and have a bit of at-home Kiwiana theme night fun.

Mr G was heading out on Saturday night with some guy friends (a stag do) and me and the kids were staring down the barrel of a rainy Saturday night, at home on our own. I'd grabbed the "Footrot Flats" movie from Fatso, remembering it as a good laugh (and a Kiwi classic), and as I pondered our fate, the cogs in my brain started whirring.
"How easy would it be to do a Kiwiana theme night?!"
"How fun would it be to introduce the kids to Wal Footrot and The Dog?!"
"We could invite friends to join us - that would be even more fun!"
"Kiwiana food is simple - fish n chips, hokey pokey icecream, L&P, pineapple lumps!"

A plan was formed and the call went out on Facebook. Who is dadless like us and wants to join us?
By the end of the afternoon it was clear that everyone was busy with plans (or a dad) for the night, so we were on our own. Oh well. Never mind, right?
We'll just forge ahead and do it anyway.

Before we dashed out into the wet to drop dad off and pick up the fish'n'chips, I set the table, all ready for our kiwiana dinner. The L&P was chillin in the fridge, the icecream was stashed in the freezer and the pineapple lumps were lying in wait on top of the pantry.
We were on our own but we could still have fun.

Problem: Not everybody was as enthusiastic as I was.
The natives were revolting. Protesting their tiredness, they were begging to eat the fish'n'chips in front of the TV (instead of at the thoughtfully-decorated table I'd prepared earlier).
They refused point-blank to dress in our national colour (all Black) or even put on their gumboots or jandals.
Plus there was grumbling about my choice of movie...
"It looks dumb! What is it anyway? A dumb cartoon about a DOG??!"
"It's a kiwi classic!"
"Well it looks LAME!"

The negativity had worn my patience thin, and my own enthusiasm had waned rapidly. (Plus I was on my own so there was no backup; no bad-cop to my good-cop). Finally there was one negative word too many and I snapped. I confess, I shouted a bit...

"You kids are so ungrateful! I'm TRYING to give us a fun night, to make an effort when I could have just done nothing and we could have had another boring old night watching TV, but no I'm trying and what do I get? No appreciation! Nothing but whinging and complaining! Why do I even bother? WHY.DO.I.EVEN.BOTHERRRR?!"

There was a rush to make amends...
"Sorry mum, you've done a great job - hasn't she guys? Mum do you need a hug?" (Dash)
"Mum, I wasn't complaining, I LIKE fish n chips. And the movie looks OK." (Scrag)
"Well I still think the movie looks lame." (Girl-who-remains-nameless whispering under her breath)
"Hey! At least mum is trying! Come on mum, we appreciate it, honest..." (Dash again)

As we sat around the table, slurping our L&P and glumly chewing our fish'n'chips, it was not exactly the happy scene I'd pictured (no-one even wanted to sing the National Anthem in Maori, not even for a pineapple lump). It was a great idea, I had the best of intentions, but it just fell a bit flat.

Sometimes that happens.

Does that mean I won't try doing this again? No.
Does it mean I will give up making an effort to create fun times out of ordinary at-home nights? No way.
Was it a bummer? Yeah.
Does that happen sometimes when you try? Heck yeah.

Sometimes you just have to push through. Sometimes nights that start off lame and grumpy and niggly can end up being awesome despite a rocky start.
After my rev up, the kids did pull their socks up and we snuggled up to watch the movie:
"Footrot Flats - A Dog's Tail Tale".
[PG, 1987, animation based on cartoons by Murray Ball; music by Dave Dobbyn and Herbs]

Truth be told it wasn't as awesome as I remembered it. The kids didn't really get it (they'd never heard of Wal and Cooch and Rangi and Pongo, the Dog, Horse and Jess). There were a few low-grade swear words scattered throughout (which I hadn't remember from all the way back in 80's) and which gave my grumpy female movie critic more ammo...

"Mum, I don't know how you can let us watch a movie with bad words!"
"Mum, this movie is a FAIL."

Sigh. You can't win em all.

Sometimes you try, and it just doesn't come off.
Would it have been better if friends had been able to join us? Almost definitely.
Would the movie probably still have been a fail in some people's eyes? No doubt.

Do I still think a Kiwiana theme night is an awesome idea? Heck yeah. But next time I'd pick a different movie. (The previous week we had a home-made pizza night WITH FRIENDS - no dads - and watched Whale Rider. Now THAT was an awesome night).

Why am I telling you about our failed theme night? Why didn't I just edit out the reality and inspire you with the fun? Because the reality is that sometimes you can try to create something awesome and it just doesn't work. Some theme nights work better than others.
We've had plenty that fell flat. I remember our first two attempts (Spanish and Indian) where we put in loads of effort but both nights ended in tears! There was a Star Wars night that fell apart as well if I remember rightly and more fire-nights than I can count which started off with niggling over wet wood and unhelpful kids stuck on gadgets, but ended with snuggles round a roaring fire, stories and awesomeness.

Sometimes it depends on the kids' frame of mind, energy levels, tiredness, and what's happened during the day/week.
Sometimes you can put in a load of effort and things just fall flat or - worse - blow up.
But that doesn't mean the idea isn't worth trying, or that next time you do it it won't be awesome.

So if your first attempt at a family theme night doesn't turn out as expected, take a leaf from our book - keep trying, do another one, push through... and let the good times roll (eventually).


If you have fond memories of the Footrot Flats movie  (as many of my Instagram followers seem to) you can get it on Fatso.  Use the code "FAMILY 45" on the signup sheet and get a month of free DVDs (a special deal for my readers from my blog partner Fatso.)
Friday, August 29, 2014

Unbelievable Sugar-Free BlueBerry Muffins (for brunch)

So today I took my own advice, inviting a friend for brunch (and madly doing a cleaning spree in honour of her arrival).

Some of you are blessed to know my friend Sammy; we go back a long way - pre-blogs, pre-kids - so even though we live a fair distance apart and our paths no longer cross naturally, we are making a conscious effort to stay connected and book in regular hang-out time.

[Sammy and "Grace" - my Friday morning brunch date]
It's important to do that, when you have a friendship that spans the years, heartbreaks, triumphs and shared history. It would be easy to let a valuable friendship drift into obscurity, but Sammy and I have determined to MAKE TIME and space for each other, which is so so awesome.

At our last coffee date I promised to make her brunch (she'd seen how I made brunch for Deb, and was keen to have her turn; it might become "my thing").

[The juice is a new flavour from Just juice: Kiwifruit and strawberry = YUMMO]

Day before yesterday I get a text, "Oh and I better let you know that I'm gluten free and sugar free! Haha!"
Oops, so no waffles then. Omelettes are go, but what about something desserty? To nibble on while sipping coffee?

Google Search to the rescue. After a few false starts, I landed on a blog, "Gluten Free with LB", and found a nice simple recipe that seemed to fit the bill.

With just a few substitutions I was able to whip up a batch of THE MOST DELICIOUS honey-and-blueberry muffins. Sooooooo good, healthy AND delicious, I just had to share the recipe with you all, so you can make them for your guests (the ones you invite over to motivate yourself to get tidying, remember?)

The muffins were a hit, as was the (oops slightly burnt) omelette and we thoroughly enjoyed our catchup (even venturing into politics, as you do). Next time I'm going to Sammy's house.

Blueberry Honey Muffins (SUGAR & GLUTEN FREE)
Original Recipe found here

3/4 Cup of gluten free all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup of Rolled Oats*
1 Egg
1/4 Cup Yoghurt
1/3 Cup melted Honey
30grams(2 Tablespoons) melted Butter
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup frozen berries

1 tablespoon melted honey
1/4 cup oats*
Pinch of salt

  • Preheat your oven to 180oC.
  • Combine all the ingredients until just combined; add the blueberries last.
  • Spoon mixture into lined muffin tins and sprinkle over crumble topping.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and set.
  • Makes six largish muffins (perfect to serve for morning tea with a friend or two)
*OATS: Most Oats are not truly gluten-free as traces remain from the processing/harvesting methods, therefore if you are coeliac and cannot tolerate traces of gluten, you should substitute dessicated coconut for the rolled oats and use chopped walnuts (or similar) in the crumble topping.

So.... who's next for brunch???!
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Lazy Mother's Guide to Defeating Drudgery

Why Hello there. It's me again, The Lazy Mother.
You might remember me from such inspiring articles as "Confessions of a Lazy Mother" and "The Science of Mess".
I am the reluctant housewife's reply to Martha Stewart; the clutterbound mama's sign that she is not alone with her laundry mountain.

I'm the one whose dust bunny armies regularly threaten anarchy and who will do anything - anything! - to avoid emptying the dishwasher. Unlike some other Domestic Goddesses, I do not delight in filling the tins with homebaked goodies and coming up with something for dinner every night is not the best part of my day. And the mornings, well. Don't get me started.

I feel I may be able to offer you fellow domestic strugglers a bit of hope and some Helpful Homely Hints, because if you come to my house (after giving me at least 30 minutes notice) I can promise that you'll find me dwelling in a pleasant, welcoming home, in spite of myself.

I'm here to let you in on my best houseworky secrets: the Lazy Mother's tricks for surviving domesticity and avoiding having your family star in an episode of New Zealand's Worst Hoarders.

Let's be honest, who here gets excited about cleaning pee puddles off the toilet floor for the 16th time in a week? Who amongst us signed up to spend our lives making lunchboxes and picking up Lego? When we aspired to motherhood, did we get excited about being "housewives" at the same time? Ugh. No way.
Not this Mama, anyhoo.

I love being a mother and I wouldn't swap it for the world, but when it comes to the repetitive samey drudge of household chores and food-prep, what I wouldn't give to hand it all over to a Housekeeper.
But since I'm not a millionaire executive/filmstar/model and I don't have the funds to hire some Help (and the chores won't do themselves) here are my three best tips for Defeating Drudgery and maintaining your sanity...

This is my first and best tip: GET THE KIDS TO DO IT.
Training my offspring to pitch in and share the load is a complete win-win.
It benefits me in the short term by reducing the headless-chicken routine somewhat; it helps my kids in the long term by helping them gain life skills and a sense of confidence that they can do things for themselves.

There are loads of things you can get your kids to do to help out:
  • Make their own lunchboxes*
  • Make their own (and their siblings') breakfast
  • Vacuum the house
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Make their bed
  • Make you a cup of tea
  • Mow the lawns
  • Take a trip to the corner store to get milk
  • Bake stuff
Of course all these handy helpful skills must be taught, which initially requires an investment of EXTRA time and energy. It is of course quicker to do it all yourself than stand by and watch them slowly struggle and produce results that may not be quite up to par. But don't give up! Once your kids get the hang of these new skills you're imparting, all of a sudden you find yourself with more time, less to do and less stress - as well as nice helpful kids (who will make decent flatmates) to boot.

We don’t just throw our kids in the deep end and leave them to fend for themselves with all this - growing independence starts out small, with baby steps. You don’t simply shove them out the door/into the kitchen and hope for the best. Even though helping my kids gain the skills necessary for independence requires more work, initially, than simply doing everything for them, it is well worth the effort.

Now that my kids can whip up a batch of pancakes/muffins/cookies, plug in the vacuum cleaner, get their own cereal, I get to enjoy more time being lazy, less time being defeated by drudgery. You've wondered where I find all the time to read? Ha, now you know! A little trick I like to call, "Getting the kids to do stuff for themselves".

*Once the kids began making their own lunchboxes, the morning school rush became so much smoother. There was less shouting, less chaos. They know what has to go in it; we have a basket of school-only snacks and they must have at least one piece of fruit or veggie plus a bread roll. Even our six-year-old does it.

This one is how I trick myself into doing housework: KEEP YOURSELF INTERESTED by changing things up. It works for me, I tell you.
Rearrange the furniture, swap around some pictures, pick a bunch of flowers, paint a wall, some cupboards, a shelf, a wooden chest: CHANGE SOMETHING.

I trick myself into keeping things clean and tidy by making my house pretty. After all, if I've spent all that time and energy painting the cupboards, do you think I want my freshly-painted, pretty kitchen ruined by that pile of dirty dishes? Now that I've painted my laundry cupboard do I want the overflowing laundry basket to spoil the look?
No, I do not.

DIY is how I stay interested in keeping my house clean.
I've always been this way, even as a kid.
It used to drive my mum bonkers, me constantly rearranging my bedroom (now my daughter does the same thing, and it drives me crazy too - ha!).

The Lazy Mother in me is easily defeated by the repetitive boredom of drudgery, doing the same tasks over and over, which is why if I can make a new cushion cover, frame a piece of my kids' art or change SOMETHING - I stay interested. Because it's not the same.

Are you hearing me?

This one is a good one for forcing me to look at my house through another person's eyes: PLAY HOSTESS - and rush madly to clean up before the guests arrive!

It's amazing how we can go for months, even years, without noticing stuff about our homes that would be apparent to the first visitor that walked in the door. There's a term for it: Shop Blindness.

The way to defeat Shop Blindness is to invite people over. All of a sudden you'll notice that the windowsills need wiping and the loo needs scrubbing. Hopefully you can do something about that before your guests arrive!

After years of practise, I'm now a complete pro at the last-minute whip-round tidy-up. I can invite you home for lunch/brunch/coffee because I know that it will only take me twenty minutes to clear away the worst of the clutter, sweep up the crumbs, wipe the benches and open the windows to let out the smell of burnt toast.
Inviting you over gives me the incentive I need to get off the couch and clean.
I don't want you stepping in a puddle of pee when you go to the loo, or gagging at the toothpaste spattered sink when you wash your hands. That would be really embarrassing.

Imminent House Guests  take the cleaning motivation to a whole new level. Your mother-in-law is coming to stay for Christmas. Your hubby's aunty and uncle from England are coming to visit your country for the first time ever. Now you notice the worn-out fabric on your 13 year-old-sofa and the mildew that needs cleaned off the bedroom windowsills and curtains, the dings in your walls and the way your towel stack threatens to fall on you when you open the linen closet. So you start getting the house in order, decluttering and re-organising (and saving all your part-time wages for a new lounge suite) as you see your home through your House Guest's eyes.

It's amazing what the threat of imminent company will achieve in record time!
The best approach is NOT to wait until your home is spit-spot before inviting a friend over - if you wait before making the invitation, chances are you will NEVER do it. You have to take a leap, pick up the phone and invite someone over. Then with the time and day looming like a deadline, you will be motivated (by fear!) to whip yourself into a frenzy of domestic activity*. It works I tell you!

You might think this is duplicitous of me - putting on a good impression - but actually, it's how I motivate myself to do housework. When the house needs a spring clean, put on the kettle, lay out the welcome mat and go into a tidy-frenzy.

*You don't have to do the WHOLE house. Focus on the main areas - kitchen, loo, lounge. Shut the doors on the other rooms, and invite a nice easy-going friend not a Martha Stewart wannabe. Baby Steps.

So there you have it. Probably not what you were expecting, no tips for doing this or cleaning that - just some broad stroke tips on how I defeat drudgery. I hope it was useful.
Got any tips for me?


Friday, August 22, 2014

Making my Day (one of those "loving" posts)

I spotted these words on my son's bedroom chalkboard wall this morning: Think of Others.
At first I wondered if his dad had written it there to inspire him... but no. It was in his own 11-year-old handwriting.
He must written it there to remind himself - I can think of no other reason for it.

My heart did a little flip-flop, I have to tell you, at this little sign of a wonderful person emerging from the chrysallis of childhood.

Sometimes your kids surprise you in wonderful ways. This made my day.

Also making my day was the sound of silence resounding in my house at 7.40am this morning. This lot were all up and ready, breakfasted and dressed, with lunchboxes made the night before... leaving for school under their own steam. Scootering, walking to the bus, leaving me in my PJ's contemplating a Day Off.
Oh there are some truly wonderful aspects to your kids growing up!
Hearing them say, "Mum it's your day off so we'll scooter to school so you don't have to take us."
And when the big one begs for a ride because he's lugging three boxes of cupcakes for his class's bake off, hearing your daughter say, "No Josh, it's mum's day off. You should just take them in a bag and walk."
So he does, without a fuss.

Making my night last night were these two Baking Buddies. Dash comes running into the lounge after dinner in a fluster: "Mum! I forgot! It's the BakeOff competition tomorrow and I have to bake something for my whole class! Can you help me?"
Me, I'm really not in the mood to start baking at 7.15pm.
So I suggest he asks his sister - a dab hand at cupcakes - to help him bake something.
Bless that girl, she's a wonder, coming to her big brother's rescue and helping him whip up a batch of mini-cupcakes - and then cleaning up the kitchen as well!
I got to chill on the couch and enjoy the sounds of cooperation and teamwork coming from my kitchen.

It wasn't too long ago that those two were at each other's throats, as he found her completely annoying and she (feeling rejected) would constantly annoy him in retaliation. It drove me crazy.
But lately? He's been really beginning to appreciate his sister.

Take for instance the other day. We were watching XFactor and it was "judges homes" where the boys were going gaga over J-Lo. One of them says to the camera, "I mean, she's amazing. So beautiful. the most beautiful woman in the world...!"

Quick as a flash Dash blurts out, "Well you've never seen my sister!"


Something else which Made my WEEK was an email I received from Katherine, the reader who won my Book Giveaway.

She wrote:
I also wanted to share with you what my best ever use of your blog has been to date. Three of my sisters have children, so as a gift for each family last Christmas I gave them each a family fun night, based around some of your family night and birthday party ideas. They were totally stoked with the gift of time together and shared experiences. For example, one sister has 4 kids (2 boys, 2 girls, aged 5-9 years) and I gave them the Cowboy Cookout with Truth or Dare, complete with nerf guns for playing cowboys and indians, ginger beer with your printable labels, marshmallows for their brazier, and an instruction sheet for cowboy food and the Truth or Dare game. My 9 year old nephew's face was all lit up as he recounted their evening to me - the highlight for him was drawing a face on his tummy and making it talk to each family member! And my brother-in-law appreciated the questions that gave him the chance to get to know his children even better. 

The flow on effect from that gift was that my other sister started creating her own fun nights based on her kids current interests. She's done Angry birds, Lego, and a couple of others I can't remember...
You have such great ideas - keep them coming!

Is that the BEST or what?! I was totally blown away that Katherine had been able to use my humble ideas in such an amazing way.

She also wrote:
[My sister] had 3 girls under 5 years and so for their family I gave them the Fairy Pass the Parcel Poem from your fairy party. I wrapped up the parcel with the clues for where to find each treasure in between the layers, gave my sister the gifts and told her where to hide each item. I suggested they dress up, had dainty fairy food for tea, did the pass the parcel and did some fairy dancing. It was a total hit and the next morning my nieces got dressed up in their fairy gear and wanted to do it all over again. Even my brother-in-law, totally outnumbered, got into it and raved to me what a fab time they had all had.

I think this is a BRILLIANT idea for a family gift. This totally made my week.

If you've never seen them before, here's the blog posts Katherine was talking about:

One final thing that made my day this week: I found my Christmas Book on Book Depository!
You know what that means, right? FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING!!!

I had no idea you could get my book on Book Depository; I've been frustrated by the hideous shipping costs to this part of the world on Amazon, and I'm not even sure why I decided to search for my book title while I was on Book Depository the other day.
Blow me down when my book came up! I think I squealed, then raced to post it on Facebook.
And now I'm telling all of you - you can now get my book delivered FREE anywhere in the world!
(So happy).


That'll do for now; there's a whole bunch of things that've made my day this week.
Anything made YOUR day lately?