30 April 2012

Best in Blog - Monday Linky

Monday again, but this time I am not here.
This post is being brought to you by the magic of Post Scheduling, for I am on the other side of the Tasman - Coffs Harbour to be precise. 

What for? Not a holiday. Going to see a Man about a Dog. 
With who? Just my husband.
OK, it's a leeeetle bit of a holiday, seeing that it'll be kid-free and will involve potential sleep-ins. We'll be dressing up and hoping to impress the check-in staff enough to score an upgrade to Business Class (something that is never an option when travelling with small people).

While I am gone I have prepared a Week of How To's for your reading pleasure, so I hope you like them cos I spent all day Thursday writing posts for when I'm away. I am such a blog-nerd.

The Best of Me from Last Week
Well, to judge by the response, my Art Rules were a big hit - who knew? I rushed that post through before kindy pickup and was gobsmacked when so many comments rolled in. I mean I know loads of people read my blog, but lots of you are non-Bloggers and don't tend to comment. Loads of comments is a real treat (loads of comments for me, that is. A super-blogger would think she was having a bad day at the office, but I read and appreciate every single one - even if lack of computer time prohibits me from replying).

The Best of You
My favourite posts from last week's linky fell into roughly two categories, Beautiful Pictures of Faraway Places and Miriam's one.

The Drool factor was high in Brigitte's post. I live life in an Italian village vicariously through her. Remaliah wowed me with her spring blossoms and her amazing tablecloth cubbyhouse. Always a visual feast at Remaliah's place. And then there was Nikki. Sweet Nikki in London who has avoided blogging for the past two months and then returns with a bang. Some of her snaps made me gasp out loud; Nikki needs to blog more, so lets all encourage her to do just that...


Finally, there was Miriam's Post. Words. Challenging, thought-provoking words. Thankyou Miriam, I needed that. (Don't forget Miriam's Free the Slaves Project is finishing at the end of this month. Amazing prizes are up for grabs - including a painting by ME. You get one entry into the draw for each $10 you donate to a very worthy cause.)

How to join in with my "Best in Blog" linky.

The "Best in Blog" Linky opens at 7am every Monday (NZ time*) and closes midnight Friday.
You don't have to write a special post, or take a photo on a theme or anything that requires extra work...
All you have to do is pick your favourite post from the past week (the one you are most proud of) and share it with us. I will feature my favourites on next week's Best in Blog.

Just one thing you need to do before you link up... Can you please dress your post with this pretty button I've made so your readers can find our linky too?

Best in Blog
Thankyou kindly!

(Oh, and please leave us a comment telling us why you picked this one... even if it was because it was your only one, hahaha!)

*For some of you US readers, that will be sometime on Sunday!
28 April 2012

Intensely Debating

I've taken the plunge and switched to the Intense Debate comment system.
Just closed my eyes and jumped.

After years of dissatisfaction with Blogger's standard comment form, and the inability to easily reply to you, I'm trying something else.
Years ago, I tried Disqus... and hated it (especially the way my comments seemed to dry up overnight.)
But technology has moved on. Intense Debate looks prettier, less clumsy.
There are cool plugins that I've drooled over for years, like ComLuv, and now I'm finally gonna get me some.
So this is a test post, really. To see if my new comment system is working.
It won't show up on posts that already have comments - so if you visit any of my older posts, you'll be commenting in the old Blogger way.

But hopefully if I've done it right, from this post on I'll have a sexy new comment form with which to leave me your valuable thoughts.

It won't matter whether you're a blogger or not, you can get a reply by leaving an email address.
If you are a blogger, leave your blog address... and ComLuv will display your latest post, for us all to see. I LOVE ComLuv.

Of course there's the slight inconvenience of signing in. But if you use Google Chrome as your web navigator, it will remember your details, so next time you won't have to re-enter them.
Or you can sign in using your Twitter account.
I'm gonna figure out how to allow Facebook sign-ins too, when I get the chance.

So here's hoping that my new comment form will (a) work  (b) not put you off commenting and (c) encourage easier conversation right here on my Blog... so if someone leaves a doozie of a comment, we can all chime in and add our two cents... and actually get replies.***

Now I'm going to close my eyes, hit "PUBLISH" and hope for the best.
Did it work?

Please give it a try and let me know what you think....

***OK it's working, but if you want to receive email replies, you have to select "Subscribe - Replies". Then if someone replies to your comment you will get an email with their reply (but if you don't choose "Subscribe: Replies", you won't get them via email. BONUS: When you receive an email reply, you can actually reply to THAT by simply replying to the email... it automatically posts right back on to the comments, without you having to go back onto the blog! Crazy huh?
27 April 2012

Mrs Readalot Waits and Waits

Why are you so late with your post, Mrs Readalot?
You were meant to be reading "The Birth House" for Book Club.
What's that? Fishpond still haven't delivered the book you ordered over six weeks ago???
Ahhhh, so you've been waiting.
Waiting for a book. Waiting for Fishpond. Waiting and waiting.
And the book still hasn't arrived.

That's sad.
Sad that you are waiting. Sad that you have no book to read. Sad that you are so late with your Book Club post.
Sadder still that Fishpond are so slack.
I know, why don't you let your readers know how bad Fishpond's service is?
That'll teach them to keep you waiting. And waiting.

But why did you order from Fishpond  when people warned you their service was so poor?
Oh it was .30 cents cheaper than from Book Depository and you thought it would be quicker because they are local. Ha. Ha ha. Hahahahahahahaha...

Sorry. I don't mean to laugh at your predicament. It's just, ha, so funny!
Fishpond. Quicker than Book Depository!
You took that risk for a mere .30 cents?

That'll teach you, Mrs Readalot.
What's that? You've learned your lesson and now you're an affiliate for Book Depository? That's more like it.
Are you telling me your readers will get an extra 10% off the already great prices if they click your links to reliable, awesome Book Depository which ships free anywhere in the world????
Come, on Mrs Readalot, now you're sounding like an ad campaign.

Lets get back to talking about Books shall we?
What have you been reading while you were waiting and waiting....?

Mrs Readalot Replies:
I have been devouring A Dance with Dragons, the latest book in the Game of Thrones series, by George R. R. Martin. Of course I had been waiting for my own copy to arrive from Fishpond (grrrrr) but it took so bloddy long I cancelled the order. And then my lovely friend Meg offered me her copy to borrow, and I gobbled it up in three days. It's a brick of a book, but it had to be done. I just had to know what happened to Tyrion and Daenarys and Jon Snow.

I bought the first four books for myself for Christmas after hearing people rave about these books for years. My brother is a huge fan and he told me how they work. You start off loving one family (the Starks) and they are your heroes, the goodies. Then you get inside the heads of their enemies and start to... well... understand them. Care about them even. The bad guys become almost sympathetic. You start off thinking Jaime is a nasty nasty man, then you end up pulling for him. Tyrion seems like a devious scoundrel, but in the end you like him; there's more to him than just being a Lannister. You want to slice Theon Greyjoy's two-faced head off his shoulders, but in the end... you feel sorry for him. (Cersei though, Cersei has NO redeeming qualities. She is all Lannister - which is to say HORRID).

But now... the book is finished. It sits on my nightstand, mocking me, calling me back to the Seven Kingdoms.

I want to know what happens next!!!
Arrrggghhh. My brother warned me this would happen. Now I have joined the millions of other frustrated George R R Martin fans... waiting. Waiting for the him to finish the next book.
Seems I'm always waiting these days. Sigh.

{And for the purposes on Things I'm Loving... I am loving George R R Martin and Book Depository}

{Now I really want to watch the HBO series of Game of Thrones while I'm waiting.}

Mrs Readalot gives the Game of Thrones Books ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
{apart from Feast for Crows which gets only ♥ ♥ ♥ because it was too slow and had too many new characters; but A Dance with Dragons made up for that}

P.S. If you've thought about reading this series, you can get the first four books as a boxed set from Reliable Book Depository for $NZ44.00 (free postage anywhere in the world). Try not to race through them like I did. Take your time. Read them slowly, savouring every moment... it could be a long time waiting for Book Six.


If you are a keen reader, you are welcome to join in.

How it works:
  • Book Club members take turns choosing the Book of the Month and hosting the linky
  • You can choose to read & review either the Book of the Month or a book of your choice
  • Anyone can join in the linky fun - you don't have to be a signed up member
  • Members are kept up to date via email, so nobody misses their chance to link up or host
  • Linkies go up on the host's blog at the beginning of the month and remain open all month 
Grab the Button...


Sign up here to become an official member and linky host.

April Book Club is being hosted by Leonie Dons at Sunshine x3
Leonie has chosen has chosen The Birth House by Ami McKay.
The book sounds fantastic, a story about a Nova Scotia midwife. 
You can read other people's reviews of the book here on GoodReads 
You can buy the book from Book Depository (free delivery) for around NZ$17 if you can't find it at the library.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Link up your Book Reviews HERE

May Book Club will be hosted by Amy at Mahlimoo

Amy has chosen has chosen Putting Alice Back Together by Carol Marinelli.
You can get the book from Book Depository (free postage anywhere in the world) here

26 April 2012

Art Rules

This disorganised mother-of-three-crazy-kids embarked on a 14-week parenting course this year, in the hope that it would help me become a better parent.
Part of my parenting course homework was to come up with some Family Rules.
We were meant to talk with our kids and make a short list of the things that are really important to us, then put them up somewhere everyone can see them.

So the night before our homework was due I dragged out Miss fab's whiteboard (while the kids were trapped eating dinner at the table) and we brainstormed some Rules. They came up with a very long list which included things like, "Brush your teeth twice a day" and "Wash your hands". Riveting stuff.

Our list was long, unwieldy and full of Don'ts.
Don't swear. Don't hit. Don't pull hair. Don't Come in Your Parents Bed Before 6am.

I took my list along to the course... and realised that our Rules needed some refining.
Our facilitator's Family Rules were much more inspiring - short sharp positive statements like "LOVE OUR PETS" and "OWN YOUR MISTAKES".

Armed with this inspiration I re-wrote our list, focusing more on the positive and the values. I *channeled the spirit of the list* into a few snappy, easy-to-quote statements of our own.

Then I turned them into Art...

I ruled horizontal lines across the canvas at various intervals, and then blocked in the words in capital letters. They are all hand-drawn, there was no measuring (as you can tell) which gives it a very loose organic wibbley-wobbley look.

I left the letters white - that's the canvas showing through. I painted the background, using a small brush and a steady hand. The paint is a metallic-blue testpot* from Resene (which is really hard to photograph but has a lovely sheen.)

{*Resene Lucifer - hate the name, love the colour}

It took me an evening and an afternoon to complete...

Yes, I borrowed "OWN YOUR MISTAKES".
It sits nicely alongside "Be Honest", dontcha think?

I love the result, and the way it's right there in our entry hall for everyone to see.
When other kids come to our house, they'll know we want them to MIND their LANGUAGE.
When my kids are tempted to pretend it wasn't them that broke the plate, I can remind them to BE HONEST and OWN their MISTAKES.

There will be no confusion about what we value as a family.
After all, it's right there on the wall, in metallic blue-and-white.

Family Rules as Art. Who would have thought?

Other Stuff I'm Learning from My Course

P.S. "Brush your teeth twice a day" and "No kids in parents beds before 6am" are still good rules, but they might have to get written in vivid on a refill page and blu-tacked to the fridge. They just didn't make good art.
25 April 2012

On Two Wheels

This little boy just turned four, right?
Just last week he was on a balance bike, doing his tricks.
Then on Sunday, daddy takes the trainer wheels off Dash's old red bike.
Scrag jumps on it... and off he goes.

Just like THAT, he's riding on two wheels.

So today we went on our first all-biking family adventure, to celebrate.
No more being a passenger on the back of daddy's bicycle.
Scrag is on his own two wheels...

23 April 2012

How to make a Treasure Map Cake

A Treasure Map Cake is simpler than it looks... which is always top of my list for birthday cake requirements! It needs to look impressive (so the kids go "Oooohhhh!")... taste delicious (buttercream icing...none of that fondant thanks) AND be simple to make. Deceptively simple.
This is one such cake - perfect for pirate parties (and Peter Pan Parties too of course).
Impressive, delicious and EASY.

Here's how to make a...

Swear-by-it Never-fail Chocolate Cake Recipe

50g butter* (convert measurement)
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of cocoa
1 cup plain flour*
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 cup of milk*
1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

Melt the butter and golden syrup in a microwave safe mixing bowl. Add egg and sugar and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa together and fold into mixture. Dissolve baking soda in milk and stir into mixture. Pour mixture into a cake-pan lined with baking paper. Bake at 190oC for 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

* To make this recipe gluten free, use all-purpose Gluten Free Baking Mix instead of flour (you'll never know the difference). To make this recipe Dairy-free, substitute dairy-free spread for butter and use soy or rice milk instead of milk.

  1. Mix up a triple batch of the above recipe and bake in a lined roasting dish
  2. When cool, make a template of the "treasure island" out of baking paper (I traced the shape of Neverland for my island); cut out and pin to the cake using toothpicks.
  3. Mix up a batch of blue buttercream, and spoon into a piping bag with a round nozzle.
  4. Pipe around the edges of the template as shown (don't worry if it's a bit wobbly - it's a map!)

5. Fill in all the sea areas with buttercream, using the piping bag

6. Use a knife to gently smooth the surface of the icing until it's nice and flat(ish)

7. Remove the toothpicks, and the paper template - voila! A perfectly piped sea.

Next we bury some "treasure"...

8. Use a knife to cut a circle in the place you want to bury some "treasure"; carefully it spoon out

9. Place your "treasure" in the hole (we buried Smarties); don't overfill

10. Carefully slice the top off the piece of cake you dug out and use this sliver to cover your hole.

Later, make sure to mark the spot with an "X"!

11. Now mix up a batch of creamy-yellowish buttercream. Fill up your piping bag and pipe an outline of yellow around the edge of your island.

12. Fill in the colour by piping icing on and then smoothing with a knife, like you did with the blue.

13. Now the fun part. Add the details using a squeeze-tube of chocolate writing fudge (available from most supermarkets). The good thing about this stuff is that it comes off really easily if you make a mistake.

I used other squeezy colours to add more depth and texture, smearing the colour with a knife to blend it in, in some places, adding colour to the "X" and palm trees etc. (This step isn't necessary; I just wanted to play a little.)

As you can see the birthday boy was pretty happy.
The kids went "Oooohhh!" and Captain Hook had fun digging up the treasure...

More Peter Pan Party Stuff...

Best in Blog - Monday Linky

Monday again. Monday.
Back-to-school Monday... yippee!

We survived the school holidays by the skin of our teeth, and this morning my offspring scooted off school. On their scooters. Wahoo! Miss fab has a new scooter (combining Grandma's Easter gift with a pocketmoney and a 40% off sale) and I am now freed from the early morning school run.

And Hot off the Press news... Scrag has graduated from his balance bike to a two wheeler in one easy step. Yaaaaay! He is so clever. Daddy fixed up Dash's old bike with a new tyre, removed the trainer wheels and on Scrag hopped... and off Scrag went. It's the balance bike I tell ya; they are brilliant. Scrag has such good balance and so much confidence, he was biking all afternoon with not even one fall. We are all so excited imaging family bike outings...

The Best of Me
Meanwhile I am here with the Best of Me from last week... which of course would have to be my Perfect Peter Pan Party. I promised how-to posts (with printables) and they will be coming, this week. Honest. As soon as I have recovered from it all.
I also enjoyed photographing my kids at the skatepark... and was surprised what we all learnt there.

The Best of You
Sometimes it's really hard to pick a favourite from the posts you link up.
So you know me... I'll pick three... or four...

A standout for me last week was my dear friend Leonie's heartfelt post Socially Intolerant... about the trials and realities of being a dairy/gluten/egg/sugar-free person in a dairy/gluten/egg/sugar-filled world. Whether you are living with food allergies or not, I recommend reading this post and the valuable insight Leonie gives us.

I also loved Meg's post showing off her framed vintage board-games-as-Art (they are awesome AND still playable) and A'Casarella's Laundry Room Art... loving all the arty inspiration!

Finally I just have to mention Neetz... who received her Lego set in the post and called me "a must-read blog"... *shucks*

How to join in with my "Best in Blog" linky.

The "Best in Blog" Linky opens at 7am every Monday (NZ time*) and closes midnight Friday.
You don't have to write a special post, or take a photo on a theme or anything that requires extra work...
All you have to do is pick your favourite post from the past week (the one you are most proud of) and share it with us. I will feature my favourites on next week's Best in Blog.

Just one thing you need to do before you link up... Can you please dress your post with this pretty button I've made so your readers can find our linky too?

Best in Blog
Thankyou kindly!

(Oh, and please leave us a comment telling us why you picked this one... even if it was because it was your only one, hahaha!)

*For some of you US readers, that will be sometime on Sunday!

20 April 2012

Not Loving but Still Grateful...

Not Loving...
Fishpond orders that never arrive
Finishing the fifth book in a series... when the sixth book isn't written yet
Chores that won't stay done
A vacuum cleaner with no suck
Endless Dust bunnies
Endless School holidays
Endless Complaints
Nits on kids... again
Fleas on Cats...
Fleas from Cats on kids...
Itchy bites, itchy hair
Endlessly zapping nits
Cat pee
Wet beds in the middle of the night
Washing piles that stink of kid-pee
Endless Washing piles
Waking up tired
Waking up with a headache
Waking up to endless complaints, Nits on kids and washing piles that stink of pee

But Still Grateful for...
Sunshine through my window
Dishes done
Floor swept
Fridge cleaned
A house to keep
Book Depository
My trusty Nit Zapper
Eyes that can see the sunshine and read the books
Ears that can hear the complaints (even if I'd rather not)
Children to love (in spite of endless complaints)
School holidays (in spite of their endlessness)
Heroic Husbands who swoop in on their black chargers
and take complaining kids to the Park for a Picnic and Pies

Thankful for a new day
Breath in my lungs
Love in my heart and a life to live
in spite of all the mindnumbing drudgery
I still have a lot to be grateful for.

19 April 2012

Stuff You Learn at a SkatePark

Scooters are the Thing right now. MGP's, customised with BMX grips. Tail whips and jumps and hops.
School holidays, and all my kids want to do is go to a Skate Park.

Henderson Skate Park was the destination today, where Dash practised tail whips and Miss Fab tried out her new Razor.

Scrag was right in there too, on his balance bike, showing me his tricks...

"Look mum can you do this...?" he says, twisting his handles round...

"And mum... MUM! Can you do THIS???" He flips his bike over and brooms the wheels really fast.
I choke back a giggle, and say with a straight face, "Nooooo, I can't!"

Scooting and skating and practising skills should be good wholesome fresh-air fun.
But there's a draw-back. The skate park is full of little try-hard wannabes, who are all trying to out-scoot and out-curse each other. The language coming out of some of these kids' mouths, as they zoom around looking oh-so-cool, would curl your granny's hair.

That's why I've hesitated to take them to the skate park before now.
But in spite of the fluent French some kids use, I learnt a few things.

There's a bunch of nice kids there too. Not posing, not swearing, just scooting and making friends. Like this kid in the blue hoodie, who even invited Dash to go ten-pin bowling with him and his dad afterwards.

Unlike this hood in the pink. (Yeah, pink is apparently "meanage" amongst scooterkids these days.*)

Anyway, Miss Fab came scooting up and told me a tale. That pink-clad-lad is not meanage, he's just mean. He starting using his fluent French on a little kid who got in his way. Started swearing and being mean and made the kid cry.

Miss Fab saw it all and her blood started to boil.
She marched up to this mean kid and started telling him off; never mind that he's way bigger than her.
"You shouldn't talk to little kids that way! Don't you swear at him and make him cry! You're setting a bad example!" she told him.
My girl is FIERCE. She was completely unafraid to scold this boy and put him in his place.
Then she found the little boy's mother and told her what happened.
My girl is KIND.

It's not the first time Miss fab has jumped in on behalf of kids getting picked on. I can totally imagine her as a lawyer or an aid worker in later life. New Zealand's answer to Bob Geldof.

Meanwhile Dash keeps working on his tail whips. Scrag keeps doing his tricks.

We also came across a different kind of teenager at the Skate park. Not the big-mouthed show-off get-outta-my-way type. There was a boy there who really stood out to us all.
A teenager on an orange MGP.

This boy stopped on several occasions to help younger kids who tripped or fell. He didn't use foul language. If he got in someone's way he said, "Sorry about that." And he joined Miss fab in helping the kid who was getting picked on.

In the car on the way home, we talked about what we'd seen and learnt at the Skate Park. My kids know that bad language is not acceptable, or any kind of meanness.

Miss fab told her brothers her story. They all shared observations about the nice kids vs. the foul-mouthed kids.
We compared notes and discovered that the boy on the orange MGP had caught all of our attention.
Doing his thing. Enjoying himself. But not needing to show off or talk dirty like the others.

"That's the kind of teenager I want you kids to be," I told my offspring.
"Doesn't need to swear to impress other people; just doing his thing but he's a nice guy..."
"Kind..." said Miss fab.
"Not a show-off," said Dash.

Yeah, I think they got it.

*meanage= "cool" in kidspeak