30 November 2009

Loving... NOT Loving... Myself


As always you know that I am not loving clothes shopping. Am I the only woman in the world who doesn't enjoy it??? On my birthday (you know the one where I turned 40) my hubby took me to my favourite clothes shop and said, "go for it...!" So I did. And while I was trying on clothes I took a long hard look at myself in the mirror. Oh Dear. Middle Age Spread is winning. My laziness has caught up with me. I went home and did something I haven't done for...months? Years? I weighed myself! *gasp*
Oh boy. I am NOT loving the fact that 8 kilos have sneaked up and stuck onto me while I wasn't looking. Shocking.

Time to face facts: I am now forty. This extra padding is not going to miraculously disappear by itself, that seems pretty clear. Do I want to have energy for my kids? For my husband? Do really I want to dread every summer? Spend my life avoiding clothes shopping? (which apparently some other people may actually enjoy)

I must take action. You know me - since when am I ever LOVING taking action?? But there's no time to waste. Now that middle age spread has a numerical right to be there, I must resist it. I must fight it on the beaches, fight it in the fridge; fight it at breakfast, at lunch and at dinner. And never, never surrender to the cheesecake leftover from my party! (anyone want some week-old cheesecake??)

So last week was a good week. No, a great week. I am proud of my efforts last week. In fact, I am LOVING it!

I am LOVING that I walked to (and from) school three times on the Walking Bus. I am NOT really loving this spunky fluoro green jacket though.


I am LOVING jumping on the trampoline. Oh man, it's so fun. And great exercise. However I am NOT loving discovering that my pelvic floor is not up to scratch when bouncing. Note to self: Pee first, then jump.


I am LOVING my delicious lunch of chopped fresh fruit, yoghurt and LSA (ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds). Oh so healthy and oh so yummy.


I am also loving that I finally got the time to colour my hair and get rid of the shiny platinum strands that were peaking through. However I am NOT loving this colour! It was meant to be "chocolate brown". Huh!! I have never seen purple chocolate before!

I am also NOT loving that I got asked at church on Sunday: "So when are you due??!!!" Talk about a downer. I ran and hid in Starbucks... with a small trim flat white. Really really bummed - I thought I looked nice! (Seriously people, unless a girl is getting contractions 5 minutes apart, don't assume anything!!! Some of us have had three giant heifer babies that have stretched our tummy muscles to kingdom come. You try it and then see how flat your tummy is!!)

OK, but on the bright side, at least I am doing something about it. I am LOVING the fact that I am making an effort. Oh, and that I lost 2kg last week. Yes, that's right! I am LOVING that.
29 November 2009

Dinosaur Adventure Party with Volcano Cake


My eldest son, Dash, has just turned seven. This is the kid who would start planning his next year's party as we start cleaning up the mess of his this-year's party. He's party mad.

But last year I warned him: Next year, no big party. Just four friends. Maybe a sleepover? With a whole year to get his head around a "more intimate" sized party, there was no fuss. A sleepover sounded good, with a limit of four; closer to the time he requested a Dinosaur theme.

We planned the party for a Friday night, with the boys being dropped off at our house after school and to be picked up by 9.30am the next morning.
Invites went out to the chosen four - all boys we know pretty well, and could see them all getting on together fine.

We arranged for little sister to have her own sleepover at a friend's place, and kept the plans very simple:
Photobucket
  • kids arrive from school, set up their sleeping space,
  • have afternoon tea (milk with flavoured sippah straws, popcorn, fruit)
  • construct a hut in the bedroom out of camo tarpaulins
  • play soccer in the garden with dad, jump on the tramp etc
  • stick on fake dino tattoos, and play with dino goo
  • hide toy dinosaurs in the garden for a hunt after dark
  • have pizza & lemonade for tea
  • make their own icecream sundaes for dessert
  • Birthday cake, Sing happy birthday/blow out candles
  • Play PS2 "Jungle Buzz" while we wait for it to get dark
  • Take torches & go dino hunting (keep what you find)
  • Play "Spotlight" with dad being the hunter
  • Watch "Night at the Museum 2" on DVD in sleeping bags
  • Fall asleep with no mucking around because they are soooo tired from having soooo much fun!
And that's pretty much how it went.


I had "survival kits" ($2 Shop belt bags) full of dino sweets, tattoos & goo; dinosaurs from the hunt could be collected in these; sweets could be eaten while hiding from dad during Spotlight.


I also found some great torches/mini lanterns for $3.90 each; since there where only 5 boys they each got one to use for the sleepover and take home.


Mr G and I agreed afterwards that this was actually our favourite birthday party ever. It was so relaxed and great to get to hang out with our boy and his mates! Friends looked at us a bit funny when we said we were having a sleepover (like, are you crazy??) but it was great. Honest.

There were only a few "moments" of tension when one lad completely dominated at Jungle Buzz and ruffled the other boys' feathers by gloating. We had a word in his ear and he toned it down and things went along more happily after that. But there were no shenanigans. They all slept well and went to sleep easily.


Mr G enjoyed taking on all five of them at soccer; the boys were ecstatic when they won 10-7. Scrag roamed around  and joined in the fun, even getting a dino tattoo!

There was no food prep apart from popping some popcorn and ordering some pizza. Oh and making the Volcano Cake. Oh yes. My best birthday cake ever.


Here's how I did it...

Erupting Volcano Cake


To make the Volcanic Cone...
Mix a double batch of One Egg Chocolate Cake batter. Line a medium ceramic bowl ( like the one pictured) with baking paper and fill with batter. Cook at 180oC until a skewer comes out clean (40-60 minutes). Don't cook on a fan-forced setting so that the cake will have an even surface. Meanwhile...


To make the Lava Eruption...
Line another oven dish with baking paper and arrange a packet of orange glucose sweets (e.g. barley sugars) randomly. Pop into the oven for approx 5 minutes.

They will melt quickly into a blob like this:

Before the melted candy hardens, use a knife to separate the blobs into individual pieces, with sharpish ends, like this:




Making the Base for the Cake: Sea and Grass

I used two peices of bought-in plain sponge cake from the supermarket, which I laid together to form a rectangle, and iced with Butter-cream icing to look like sea and grass.


TIP: Colour the batch of icing blue, and spread the sea on first. Then add yellow to get green for the grass. Once the cake is all covered, you can add coloured sugar crystals to form a line of sand and use a brush with blue food colouring to form "waves" in the sea.

The Volcano...
Once the cone shaped cake is completely cooled set it in postition on the base cake.
Mix up another batch of butter cream icing, add cocoa powder for a chocolate flavour and then add black food colouring until you are happing with the colour (a nice dark browny-charcoal).


Use an icing applicator (a piping bag or better yet a rigid plastic one, available from most $2 shops) use a wide plain nozzle, or a narrow wave-shaped one.

Apply the icing to the volcano starting at the based and working up in stripes. Try to keep it random rather than uniform, so it looks like volcanic rock. Continue until the volcano is covered in wrinkley icing. Use a knife to touch up/spread any bits that need it.

The Red Lava...


Mix up a batch of runny-ish red icing (no butter required); for a true red, use the gel icing colours, or just add plenty of yellow to a pinkish red. Fill up your icing applicator with red icing and apply some drips until it looks like lava flowing down. The icing will keep running down, so don't put toooo much on.

Finishing touches...
Add some toy dinosaurs, plastic trees and finally poke in the melted sweets for an erupting volcano.


My little guy's eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw his cake. His jaw dropped and he went, "Ohhhhh wooooowww! Aaaaawwwwesome!" And so did his friends.

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


24 November 2009

I Love You More


I have just tucked my little girl in bed and I am feeling all warm and fuzzy. We've been playing our favourite game, "I Love you More Than..."
I can't remember how or when we started playing this little game; we kind of fell into it and now it's a special favourite thing for just me and her. It goes kind of like this:

Her: I love you more than trees...
Me: I love you more than birds...
Her: I love you more than... rainbows!
Me: I love you more than ... clouds!

And so it goes on and on and on. Basically I love her more than just about anything in the whole wide world. Even though at times she is the one person who can wind me up better than anyone. Even though when she "goes off" it's like an air-raid siren right next to my ear.



She is also the sweetest, most affectionate, generous and caring little girl.

Last Friday night she had her first sleepover at a friend's house while Dash had his sleepover birthday party. I was getting ready for the party and kept coming across little things that reminded me of her... Scrag had trashed his bedroom (one more thing for me to do); she heard me lamenting the mess and had tidied the worst of it away before school. I found it after she'd left and got a lump in my throat. That evening I walked into Miss Fab's bedroom (her bed perfectly made by her) and spotted Birthday Doll.



Her bed-time snuggle-buddy. To get to sleep our little Miss Fab sucks her thumb, and sniffs and twirls Birthday Doll's hair. As you can see the poor dolly doesn't have much left. But in the eyes of that little girl, Birthday Doll is precious and gorgeous. And left behind.

I rang my friend whose house she was staying at and she told me that Miss Fab had actually fallen off to sleep without Birthday Doll (!!) But we agreed that she may wake in the night and look for her, so I left the boys in Daddy's capable hands and drove over to take Birthday Doll back to her mummy.

I sneaked into the bedroom and there was my little girl, fast asleep and looking so sweet. I kissed her soft little cheek and tucked her dolly in beside her.

I love you more than chocolate...
I love you more than monkey bars...
I love you more than computers...
I love you more than Birthday Doll...


The next morning she was the one who helped me sweep up and pull weeds to get the patio ready for my birthday party. We chatted and worked together and my heart felt full. She's only five, but she called out to her big brother (who was jumping oblivious on the trampoline): "You should come and help because mummy makes nice parties for us so we should help her when it's her turn!"

I love you more than flowers...
I love you more than bees...
I love you more than crocodiles...
I love you more than kittens...


My daughter is the one who gives me the biggest, toughest run for my money. She's the one who has turned me and Mr G slightly "platinum" (seriously, I have photographic evidence: before her birth=no grey hair!)
But her strength, her determination, her spunk, her enthusiasm and energy - something tells me she's the one who will put her hand up to look after her elderly parents in their dotage.

As Ian Grant says, "Those kids who had you tearing your hair out when they were little, they're the ones who'll argue on your behalf for the sunny room in the Retirement Home!" Yep, my girl is one of those.

I love you more than the sun...
I love you more than the moon...
I love you more than the stars...
I love you more than the sky...

I do. I really really do.
22 November 2009

Forty is Not So Bad


Well people, I made it. I turned the corner to forty and so far I don't seem to have become middle-aged overnight or anything. Um, except maybe for the spread. Yes, well. I'll have to be addressing that soon. Ahem. *awkward silence*

Anyway... so yes indeed I did have a lovely birthday, with some lovely surprises.

My hubby is a legendary birthday celebrater which actually has him in the running for the "Husband of the Year Award" for the ninth year running. (Remember this is the guy who remembered our engagement anniversary.) I've had a couple of other hubbies I know say to him, "Hey man, tone it down. You're making us look bad!" (they shall remain nameless.  For their wives' sakes.)

OK back to the topic at hand... um, pressies in bed (including a necklace he got designed and made specially for me with help from the kids. Awww!) followed by tea & toast in bed; followed by general mayhem errupting, whereby poor hubby tried to stem the air-raid siren wailing from all quarters and galantly tried to fight off the attacking troops and their cries of "I want mummy!" in a valiant attempt to let me sleep in. That battle was lost but not for the lack of trying by My Hero.

So then we dropped Culprits #1 & 2 at school and (yay!) left Culprit #3 at home with Mr G's wonderful P.A. :) and off we went for a quiet relaxing morning tea.... oh coolness! at Cornwall Park tearooms. I love their Devonshire Cream teas, oh yes.

We choose an outdoor table with lovely views overlooking the park... and that's when we met Bird Lady. Bird Lady struck up a one-sided conversation with us. Apparently a bird had stolen a sugar sachet right off her table. She was concerned that more birds may soon attack. Oh, and Bird Lady was waiting for her friends due to arrive on a Bus. But did we think there was space for a bus to park? And did we think the bird would come back soon with his friends and take more sugar???

Oh dear. I pretended to shiver and said tactfully to Mr G, "Um, I'm a little chilly out here. Maybe we should move inside??"

We gratefully escaped inside to a nice window table in the nearly-empty dining room. Ahhhh peace and quiet.


But that's when Psychology Mum sat down right behind us. With her baby. Oh yes. Oh no.  We rolled our eyes; we've just managed to escape our baby... Ha! The baby was fine. Quiet-as. Never heard a peep out of the baby. The mum however?? Different story. She loudly began to interrogate her teenage son (oh yes, I missed him coming in - he's the one pictured over my left shoulder. Poor kid.)

"And how do you feel now after that outburst? Did it help you? Are you feeling ashamed of yourself? Do you think it will get you anywhere? Do you think it did any good? And how do you feel about that? Are you proud of yourself??" On and on she went, at the top of her loud annoying voice. Oh boy.

Outside the window we could see Bird Lady engaging the waiter in conversation. No sign of the bus yet.


Then Ms. Wannabe Snr. positioned herself on the other side of us, talking loudly on her cellphone. It wasn't long before she had competition; Ms. Wannabe Jnr. took up her spot right opposite, and yakked loudly on her cellphone... until their friends arrived and then they just all talked loudly to each other.

By this stage I was giggling helplessly. Peace and quiet??? Tee Hee. Too funny. The rest of the restaurant remained empty. What are we? Loudness Magnets???

We escaped just in time as the coachload of bird lovers pulled up. Oh man. I really needed a good laugh. It wasn't the romantic interlude Mr G had planned but, gee it was funny.

I returned home to my pigsty messy bombsite of a house while Mr G went off to do a spot of work. As I stood in the middle of the ruins of breakfast, yesterday's dinner, lunch etc, I faced a dilemma. Clean up on my birthday?? Not appealing. Leave the mess and try to ignore it?? Even less appealing. Just then: a knock at the door. It's my lovely friend Meg with a cake. Legendary Super Meg, awesome kind helpful Meg, offers to tackle my bombsite!! Oh Meg, you are a true friend. We tackle the mess together, much more fun. She does most of it though. She has super-powers. I am eternally grateful.


Then later on another knock at the door: Oh my! A bunch of beautiful gerberras, from my friend Maya in England! Ohhh wow! What a lovely surprise. Cute card too. "To the bustus friend a person could ask for". Is that a reference to our Bra-shopping expedition in Milton Keynes... or was the florist just a bad speller? I'm thinking bad speller.It should be "Bestest" I'm sure.

So I had a lovely day with some sweet surprises, including a Black Forest Gateau from Eve's Pantry. Oh my Middle-Age-Spread!.

The next day came the madness of a seven-year-old boys' dinosaur adventure sleepover on Friday night... and a crazy day trying to pull together a cool outdoor party under the stars, with one eye on the changeable weather and frustration at finding half our fairy lights no longer work. There were moments, people. Moments where I sat on the floor surrounded by tangled useless lights, crying and nearly reaching for my cellphone to txt everyone and call the whole thing off. It came close.


But we got there in the end, everyone came dressed to the nines in 70's gear, all of us looking pretty crazy. There was dancing, candles, homemade lanterns, sangria, a new fire-pit (which got lit eventually), lots of dessert, a few early-leavers and a few long stayers.... oh, and bubbles. And giggling. Say no more. What can I say? I really needed a good laugh. There was not, however any photos taken by me. I was having too much fun. Sorry. If any turn up on Facebook I promise to share them with you.

Awards for the night:
Dancing Queen: Gail (she did not stop, and she was in heels)

Best Outfit: Margs. Seriously Abba. Frida's double in white spandex & Wig. Val a close second!
Craziest Mode of Transport: Pete & Sarah. They cycled over... in costume!
Worst Footwear: Pastor Mark Stephenson. Sandals and socks. Some people thought they were for real. Hilarious!
Most Committed PartyGoers: Nic & Phil - they drove up from Taupo to attend! And they were the last to leave :)
Worst-kept secret: Mr G. He told Meg & Linda's hubbies an embarrassing story about me and champagne. So they kept topping up my glass. I blame them for the giggling.

In the meantime, thanks everybody for making my transition to forty relatively painless. I said relatively. I blame the bubbles.
P.S. Oh, I just have to mention my pressie from Gail... The Kiwiana Lingo Teatowel! ( I tried to win this in her giveaway but Cat got it. And now I have my own! I think I will frame it :)

P.P.S: Thanks Kathy for uploading these photos off her camera phone :)
18 November 2009

My Mum Rocks


I started writing a post earlier which will now never see the light of day. This is probably just as well, as I was feeling pretty low and self-pitying and I was just going to vent all my angst on you, my loyal blog-friends.

Why was I in such a low? Maybe a combination of things: I'm turning 40 tomorrow (big whoop whoop) and to be honest I kind of wish I had ignored the whole event. Instead, we're having a "bit of a do" on Saturday night. Originally Mr G was going to plan a surprise party, which I got wind of - and took over. Silly me. But you see I was in horror at the thought that he might invite a big Crowd. And that I would end up freaking out in front of stacks of people, or that he might forget to invite some of my nearest and dearest... OK, basically I am just a control freak.

So I guess it serves me right that I've ended up planning my own 40th (for the night after my son's seventh birthday sleepover). Am I crazy or what???

And in the middle of this comes preparation for Christmas. With a large chunk of our family overseas (UK & Spain) this involves planning ahead, organisation and postage.

So by yesterday I was feeling oh-so-blah. So much to do! The gifts sat unwrapped despite my resolution to wrap-as-I-go. Christmas cards sat unwritten; in fact I had completely lost the bag they were in along with Grandma's gifts; oh woe is me.

So what did I do? I stupidly let Dash stay home from school (he was tired; I lacked the energy to pack him off to school under protest) I sent Miss Fab off to school with my neighbour and then I came and hid in here, my computer sanctuary, and started to poor out my blah to the world.

I had typed two pathetic lines when the phone rang. It was my mum.

"I just had to ring and remind you of where I was in the process of birthing you, 40 years ago," she laughed.

All my life I have heard the horror stories of my 30-hour birth, which left us both nearly dead. The yearly birth-story phone call is something of a ritual.

Mum had been in labour at a midwife training hospital and had every trainee midwife in the place stick their hands where the sun don't shine. When things turned hairy and I got stuck they finally called in a doctor, who ordered my dad out of the room and mid-contraction, with no warning stuck a pair of forceps up my poor mother. She screamed and passed out.

Mum has no recollection of how long she was unconscious but she dreamed that a rooster was pecking out her insides. Meanwhile dad was beside himself in the corridor hearing his young wife screaming. She was unconscious but still screaming.

When mum awoke she was being stitched up (40 stitches) and there I was lying in a plastic incubator looking right at her.

And then they whisked me away. Mum didn't see me again for 24 hours. She didn't get to cuddle me or even touch me.

As she told me this well-known story, she was crying. Forty years on there is still strong emotion attached to those memories and the fact that we didn't have the chance to bond right away; that the powers-that-be took me away and left her bereft. (Thank goodness times have changed.)

So thanks to my mum this is not quite the whingey self-pitying post it could have been. Yes, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed and completely lacking energy. Yes, part of me just wishes I could hide til it's all over. But I have a lot to be thankful for (that's right, Simone, you do. There are lots of people way worse off than you... I hear Mr G saying in my head!)

Mum's phone-call was the pick-me-up I needed. Re-energised I clicked into third gear (out of neutral) and wrote out cards, wrapped gifts, found addresses (minus postcodes; gee I hope they get there!) and went to the post office. Ahhhh yes: $159 later. But hey, it's all done now. Thanks to that lovely boost from talking to my ma.



Today I am especially grateful, thankful and appreciative of my mum. Firstly because she went though all that to bring me into the world. Secondly because she is my friend, and she thinks to ring me and reminisce with me about our difficult beginnings; Thirdly because she Basically Rocks.

It's my birthday tomorrow. But it's my Mum who deserves the medal.
16 November 2009

Comfort Food for the Broken-Hearted



My poor ole kid. We get home from Dash's football gig today and I am greeted at the door by a very somber Mr G with some sad sad news... Dash's goldfish has passed on/kicked the bucket/bought the farm.

We had been worried about "Nemo" (the fishy - I know - such an original name!) for a day or so.

Mr G was worried that the new fish food pellets weren't going down so well. The tank had turned murky green and Nemo had been hugging the bottom and sides. Things didn't look good... and then, well, he died. My hubby found him while we were out at football; he said he felt a little choked up when he saw the little guy floating. After all, the fish tank is Mr G's project. The fishies belong to Dash but Daddy does most of the work.

Now comes the tricky part: breaking the news to Dash.

What makes this tricky is this is actually the third fish we have lost in the year since we've had them.

The first one was an algae eater called "James". We buried him with much ceremony and many tears after we returned home from holiday and found him dead last January. Dash painted his "coffin" (a box) and made a plaque for James's gravesite. He cried and cried, great heart-breaking sobs, because this fishy loss had come hard on the heels of losing his grandad to cancer just before Christmas.

When the second one died soon after, we let Dash think "John" (the other algae-eater) had been released into the wild. We just couldn't watch him going through more grief so soon after his other losses.

Grief is tough; Losing someone you love is tough, even if it's just a fish. Especially when you're a little kid.

So bearing all this in mind we broke the news to Dash as gently as we could. His little-boy face crumpled when confronted with the fishy remains, carefully interred in a box by Daddy. He ran to his room and lay weeping on his bunkbed, my poor little guy.

He didn't want a cuddle, didn't want company - at least not from me. Daddy went in and shared his sorrow, laying on his bunk with him and talking in low tones. Dash clung to Daddy, his partner in loss.

Me? I made Macaroni Cheese (with bacon)... Dash's favourite dinner. It seemed to cheer him up. There's a good reason they call it comfort food.


Macaroni Cheese with Bacon

  • 1 pkt penne pasta (or large pasta elbows) Boil in salted water until tender but not mushy
  • 200g pkt of middle bacon; microwave or grill bacon; remove rind and chop into roughly 1cm squares
Cheese Sauce:

2 Tablespoons of butter (or low fat spread)
3 Tablespoons (approx) of white flour enough to mix to a paste with butter
Milk (approx 4 cups)
Salt to taste
Grated cheese (a couple of handfuls, plus some more for on top)

 Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and mix to a paste (a "roux"); add milk slowly, mixing as you go to avoid lumps (for guaranteed no-lumps use a whisk).

Heat and stir continuously until the sauce thickens then add grated cheese.

Drain cooked pasta and stir cheese sauce and bacon through.

Tip the pasta mixture into a large baking dish, sprinkle with more grated cheese and bake at 180oC  for 10 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbling.


Enjoy a meal where no-one complains and everyone eats everything on their plate!
(Serve with veges or salad if you must)