31 January 2012

Rite of Passage

This boy just started at Big Kindy.
That's what we call the kindergarten all the kids went to, the last stop before School.
Only Big Boys (and girls) go to Big Kindy.
Big boys who wear undies and go to the toilet by themselves.
At Big Kindy kids stay all day.
We've been on the waiting list for a while, and finally it's our turn.

Here is Scrag on his first day. The first day of the last stop before I have no more littlies at home.
{Time to start working on my Resume...?}

We have an association with our local kindergarten stretching back over nearly seven years.
The first one to go to Big Kindy was Dash...

Dash on his First day at Big Kindy, November 2005
This is a real community kindergarten.We made friends there for life, people we still hang out with.
It was on a day when I was early for kindy that I spotted the home that would become ours, as I cruised the block looking at For Sale signs and dreaming...

Miss Fab started going when she turned three. Her best friend from kindy is now her best friend at school... the little sister of one of Dash's Big Kindy friends.

Miss Fab on her First day at Big Kindy, July 2007

My Big Kindy pals were the first to hear that Scrag was on the way. In fact it was them who suggested I better go home and take a pregnancy test when I told them I was feeling squeemish and had a metallic taste in my mouth...

I could not have imagined how fast the years would fly by; how the tiny speck in my belly would become a big boy off to Big Kindy himself, in the blink of an eye...

Scrag on his First day at Big Kindy, January 2012

Its the beginning of the end of an era.
29 January 2012

goodbye Forever, Duraseal

When Dash started school four years ago, one of my first tasks as the mother of a soon-to-be school child was to cover a mountain of exercise books with Duraseal {that sticky plastic film teachers like you to cover your kids' books with so they can withstand rough handling, spilt water and sticky fingers}.

I was all "Lets make sure there's no bubbles" and "When his teacher sees how well his books are covered she'll know I'm a mother who really cares..."

By year two I was over it already.
And by the time I had two kids with mountains of books needing sticky stuff put on, I wanted to personally strangle the person who invented Duraseal. Or preferably the bright spark who recommended books be covered.
One year I even took out my book-covering frustration in a Poem, here on my blog.

But not this year. No more Duraseal for me.
No more wasted hours spent bent over my kitchen table trying not swear at my wrinkled and bubbly Durasealing efforts.

This year I discovered EZcover {pronounced Easy-Cover, cos its EASY}.

Actually, I didn't really discover it. The nice inventor of the stuff emailed me and asked me would I like a sample of his bookcovers, which remove the need for Duraseal.
I replied, Oh Yes Please! How did you know I hate covering schoolbooks? You must have read my Poem from Last Year...

Bryce went ahead and sent me some samples.
I thought, Yep, that looks pretty easy alright. Plastic covers that just slip onto the books. No measuring. No cutting. No air bubbles. No wrinkles.

Bryce said, Get your kids to pick which designs they like and what sizes you need and I'll send them to you.
Gee I love being a blogger sometimes.

So I got the kids to pick their designs {There are twelve pretty funky designs to choose from, all designed in New Zealand.} and I sent Bryce my list. It was pretty easy figuring out which sizes I needed because the codes are all there on the website when you go to order.

When the package arrived the kids couldn't wait to cover their books.
"Can we do our own, mum?" they pleaded.
Oh wow. This just gets better and better.

I handed them their book piles and covers.
Got out my camera. And took photos while the kids covered their own schoolbooks.

I love you EZcover. You just saved me about six hours of frustrating toil.
I will sing your praises to the blogosphere!

And best of all... the covers are re-usable. Next year I just have to slip them off this year's books and recycle them onto next year's. Brilliant. Easy. Gorgeous. And Eco-friendly!

With school beginning in a few days, forget the Durasealing. Get on over to Bryce's EZcover website and order some of his cool book covers. Your back will thank you, I promise.


DISCLAIMER: This is not a product review blog and I usually turn down requests to review products, but this one was perfect for me, as I have moaned and groaned every year about covering schoolbooks. So it fits for me, and will hopefully be useful to you too - all you mummies of school-agers who agree with me that covering schoolbooks with Duraseal is PAINFUL. If I didn't love this product I wouldn't be raving about it ♥
27 January 2012

Summer by the Lakes

We are now at the stage of family life where holidays can actually be... enjoyable. Relaxing. Fun.
Gone are the holidays which revolve around getting the kids to sleep in a strange bed or changing pooey nappies by the roadside.

These days when we hit the road in our people-mover we are crammed to the hilt with kayaks and scooters and bikes, not portacots and highchairs.

We are out on the other side, baby! The promised land of kids who are old enough to take themselves to the loo. Old enough to stay out til the sun goes down, sit up and watch a movie.
Holidays are a whole new adventure in fun now that we have no babies. Or toddlers. And everyone is potty trained.

So when we got the last-minute chance for five nights away together, we said "Kids! pack your bags!" and away we went. How awesome is it when your kids can pack their own bags {and actually pick the right stuff?}

A mere three hours away from Auckland is Rotovegas. Oops, I mean Rotorua.
Think geysers and mud pools and tourists. The luge. The agrodome.
We ignored all that and hit the Lakes {with our super-duper kayak of course}.

We stayed at this place: Marama Resort, on Lake Rotorua. Not this actual picturesque cottage, but one close by on the same property. Just over from where we stayed five years ago, when we spent half our time stressing about keeping our kids away from the lake/canal/stream/estuary. Fun times.

Now they spend half their time in the water, our little fishes. Making friends and swimming to their hearts content. Er yeah, we did make them wear buoyancy vests. Just so we could relax and actually read the book by the pool/river/lake.

So many lakes to choose from down that way. Each one more beautiful than the last.

{Lake Okareka, Rotorua}

We thought this one was pretty good. It's off the beaten track, not many tourists. Good for kayaking...

{Miss Fab got the hang of paddling}

{Dash enjoyed jumping off the diving platform; every lake needs one}

The kids befriended the locals. Sort of.

{Lake Rotorua}

It was beautiful, to be sure, but windy and cold. Where are you, Summer?

{Lake Tarawera, Rotorua}

Oh there you are! Here on Lake Tarawera. See that mountain in the distance?
A volcano. The infamous Mt Tarawera, which erupted in 1886, destroying the world-famous Pink and White Terraces, a natural wonder of the World. 

She's all quiet now, of course. Kind of spooky though.

Beautiful, serene, quiet lake. Until the tourists arrived.

An extended family of Brazillians/Pakistanis/Iranians took up residence on the boat ramp, blocking all access, roaring up and down on their jetski, smoking cigarettes and laughing loudly at private jokes in Brazillian/Pakistani/Iranian.  

Kind of spoiled the serenity.

Lucky we got there early aye? And the weather was good.

{Mt Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngaruhoe, from Taupo at sunset}

The next day we went to Taupo.
The big Lake in the centre of the North Island; a lake the size of Singapore.
World famous for trout fishing and parasailing.

{Kinloch Beach, Lake Taupo}

There's a little-known beach 20km away from the main town. A place few tourists know about. Kinloch.

A beach I remember from my teenage days. Memorable for the worst sunburn of my life... and the best swimming ever. When the day dawned cloudless and perfect, I suggested we head to Kinloch.

It's still popular with teenagers. It has that all-important diving platform.
And water so clear that you can see the sand on the bottom when you're swimming.
Even when its deep.

We parked ourselves there for the day, under a shade tree.
We swam and relaxed, kayaked, read. The kids got icecream from the shop and played at the playground.
Swam some more. We watched the teenagers haul a couch out to the diving ramp. 
Mr G took Dash out fishing on the kayak. They had a great time; caught some driftwood, some water weed and lost their line. Came back with stories about the One That Got Away.
We got fish and chips for dinner and didn't leave until the sun went down.
A perfect day.

The day we left, the clouds had returned. Overnight a spot of rain.
This summer has been short on beautiful days. We've only had a few.
But a few perfect days was all we needed to create memories of  Summer by the lakes.

Beautiful Lake Spots, Rotorua & Taupo

Lake Okareka. Turn off Tarawera Rd onto Okareka Loop Rd, then left onto Millar Road. Keep going until you see a cool playground and reserve on your right, a beach and diving platform. Caution: Not a tourist spot. Tourists are recommended to attempt a Kiwi accent as best they can.

Lake Tarawera, Kotukutuku Bay. Drive past the Blue and Green lakes to the end of Tarawera Road. Stop at the Buried Village, for some poignant history or the Lookout for a great before heading down the hill to Kotukutuku Bay. {Note to Tourists: Please don't take over the boat ramp or smoke cigarettes and spoil our beautiful clean fresh air}

Kinloch, Lake Taupo. Turn off State Highway 1 onto Poihipi Road, follow it until you turn left into Whangamata Road, and after a while, left again into Kinloch Rd. Kinloch is not signposted, so watch carefully for road signs. Enjoy the perfect swimming spot, complete with diving platform, playground, toilet block, convenience store and cafe... and the clearest water ever. Caution: Take plenty of sunscreen and go early to get the shade trees.

23 January 2012

Cupcakes for Everyone

A cupcake is a handful of joy.
Perfect for pretty parties.
Divine as decadent daytime delights.
Lovely for ladies who lunch.

You don't have to be a professional to make gorgeous cupcakes. Frosting disguises a multitude of sins and with a bit of cleverness and some sweets, hey presto! Cupcakes to brighten up any party table.

Here's my never-fail recipe, adapted from the good ole Edmonds Cookbook...

125g butter, softened {convert measurement}
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup caster sugar (fine grain)
2 eggs
1 cup standard flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup milk

To make gluten free: Substitute Flour with Gluten Free baking mix e.g. Bakels or Healtheries
To make dairy free: Substitute butter with dairy-free spread e.g. Olivani and substitute milk with soy or rice milk


  • Cream butter sugar and vanilla together; I use a good old fashioned electric hand beater (works a treat)
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one is added
  • Fold flour and baking powder into creamed mixture
  • Stir in Milk
  • Spoon into baking tins (patty pans) lined with cupcake papers
  • Bake at 190oC (375oF) for 15 minutes or until golden and cakes spring back when lightly touched

Makes 12 regular or 24 mini cupcakes.

{ready-made icing roses turn simple cupcakes into something beautiful}

Hint: Cupcake papers
Don't bake your cupcakes in the special papers you spent all that money on. Bake them in the El Cheapo supermarket ones... and then slip the pretty ones on over top, when its time to display them. The baking process discolours the paper and ruins them visually. 

{Cupcakes look pretty on a tiered cake plate}

Easy Peasy Butter Cream Frosting

100g butter, softened
Vanilla essence
icing sugar
food colouring

  • Start beating the butter and vanilla with your electric beater
  • slowly add icing sugar until it tastes good
  • whip it some more
  • add colour, whip it even more
  • that's it!

{Cupcakes & peanutbuttercream frosting by Delissimon, Mmmmmm}

Butter cream frosting looks amazing all on its own when piped onto cupcakes, rather than spread with a knife. Disposable piping kits can be bought at the supermarket very cheaply, and work absolutely fine.

{Dairy Free cupcakes & frosting}

To make this dairy free: Substitute butter with a dairy free spread like Olivani. Food colouring added to dairy free butter frosting will curdle and separate, looking awful. I recommend leaving the icing plain white and colouring it by sprinkling coloured dusting sugar on top... or make it chocolate by adding cocoa powder.

Decorating Cupcakes
The sky is the limit when it comes to decorating cupcakes. Plain piped butter icing looks fab on its own, or with a few silver cachous sprinkled on, or dusting sugar.

To make cupcakes even more special, add a rose made out of fondant icing (easier than they look; brilliant easy to follow instructions here)

Paper lace cupcake papers are super-easy to make using the paper lace edges from Dollar Store paper doilies. Just trim the edges off and wrap around the cupcake. Hold in place with a dab of hot glue and then trim the excess. Voila! A beautiful Lacey Cupcake Paper ♥

Or make these super cute Green Martian Cupcakes (from Toy Story)

These guys are too cute... and very simple to make!
  1. Make a bright green butter icing and smooth a round swirl on top of each cupcake (Tip: hold the knife steady and turn the cupcake to get a nice round shape)
  2. Use white mini-marshmallows sliced in half for the eyes. Slice triangular slivers from soft green sweets to create antennae.
  3. Use a squeeze tubes of gel writing icing (silver) for the eyes and mouth (available from the supermarket). Too easy.
Have fun making beautiful, delicious cupcakes.

{What's your favourite kind?}
20 January 2012

Lovingly grateful

There's plenty of things I'm loving right now. And much that I'm grateful for.
To begin with, I haven't shown you my duckegg blue living room yet have I?
Oh I love love love it.

This colour is my favourite in all the world. Soothing, soft, fresh, refreshing, beautiful.
Kind of hard to tell from the photos, but you get the idea.
I had to take down the 90's print drapes. Ugh. Replaced them with curtains constructed from a mosquito net.
No sewing required, you know me.

Don't they make the light so soft?
Isn't this a room you can retreat to for peace and quiet?
Almost makes me like my tired couches all over again.
They look nicer after I took off all the cushion covers and washed them. Scrubbed the grubby arms with carpet cleaner. Added a soft cream throw to disguise the worst of it.

And look at my new lamp! the old one blew up. I scored this one half price with a bit of wheeler-dealer-ing.
And see my picture hung behind it? I requested the frame for Christmas.
In the frame is my promise:
"All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace."
And mine. Hear hear.

I am loving my "grownups room." Its a toy-free zone.
So beautiful and peaceful. So grateful, I am for this room.

I'm also loving Gluten-Free all over again.
After quite a while of slacking off, bloating and weight gain, I've decided to ban "Gloot" (as Dash calls it) for me and Miss Fab. Makes it so easy to say no to donuts and pies when you are gluten free.
But there's nothing stopping me baking beautiful gluten-free cupcakes for a summers day treat. Mmmm.
Which of course makes me grateful for my trusty gluten-free baking mix. Use my standard recipes and substitute this stuff. No-one would ever know they're gluten-free, it's so good.

{Also loving that bit of extra room already in my waistband. Just a little. But enough so my hubby has noticed. ♥}

Loving my girl and her love of music. Love that she knows all the words to Brooke Fraser, Stan Walker.
I love the way she sings all day, dreaming of her chance to be on X-Factor.
"Listen mum," she says, "Do I sing this one good...?"
She warbles her voice like an opera singer. Its very cute. I try to keep a straight face.
We love watching X-Factor together. We have our favourites, and play the part of judges, wishing we could vote.

Love her doofy attempt at a vlog... {she didn't want it on her own blog, so I might as well put it on mine, right?}

{I also Love that when there's a bug in the house we call Miss Fab who is fearless.}

Love my scooter-boy.
He waited and waited for his MGP scooter. Now he practically sleeps with the thing.
On his MP3 player Stan Walker reigns supreme. Dash thinks he's way cool. I'm thinking I should introduce him to Toby-Mac too.

What I really love? Discovering where all my cushions have got to...

On scooter-boy's bunk bed. Yep, that's right.
Dash has been watching plenty of 60-Minute Makeover and apparently he now has a thing for cushions.
Move over John Amabile*!

*{a 60-Minute designer who goes overboard with hundreds of cushions}

I also love that my cool-dude Scooter Boy missed his daddy when he was away in Wellington - so much so that he cuddled his daddy's childhood teddy bear to sleep. Awwwwww.

I also love Daddy's farsightedness. Investing in a double kayak so he can do daddy-bonding with the Boy before those puberty-blues hit. Buying him a fishing rod. Creating a way for them to spend time together in such an amazing way. O the adventures they will have. So grateful for a wise daddy who invests in his kids.

Love this photo of my boys. Brothers.
Wrestling comes with the territory.

Love this cheeky little face. He's a Scrag through and through. Keeps us laughing. Has us in stitches. Has been voted "Most Likely to Make Us Go Awwww". Also very loud. Very snotty. Very cheeky. But kisses me a lot. And snuggles me and holds my face when he wants to get my attention. Like "LOOK AT ME! IN MY EYES! I WANT YOUR FULL ATTENTION MAMA!"
Love that Scrag.

This Summer has been plenty rainy. We've spent our holidays at home so far.
But I'm loving them. Mostly. Apart from the occasional bug.
Ah yes, apparently Miss Fab is scared of large praying mantises after all. There's one holding them to ransom in the hallway and  they need me to go get rid of it.
Oh dear.
Better go pretend to be fearless.

Did you see these Posts from the Past Week?