31 May 2012

Brilliant Baking Birthday... comin' right up!

Look what I've been working on all day.
I got completely carried away creating this invitation for Miss Fab's 8th Birthday Party. Now my butt is aching and its nearly dark and dinner isn't even started.
But the invitation looks good.

This is going to be the sweetest party. Miss fab chose the theme and the name over six months ago, and I've been quietly stashing bits n pieces as I spotted the bargains.

There will be just three little girlie guests.
I'll be making aprons from teatowels. Chef Hats for them to decorate.
The brilliance of this theme is that the guests create their own party food. Wahoo.
Well, I'll do the boring bits (like baking the plain cupcakes, and mixing the cookie dough); they get to play with icing and sweets and sprinkles.
And I have the cleverest cake idea. It's brilliant. Just you wait.

Most importantly there will be a special guest all the way from China... bringing the party day forward a whole three weeks to make sure she can attend while she's in the country. It just wouldn't be the same without her - the party plan was dreamed up with her in mind, after all.

Can you feel the "vibe" of the theme?
I'm looking forward to turquoise and pink.
And using some of these cool ideas from my Pinterest Planning board...

Right now me and my aching butt better get outta here and go cook something for dinner.
And turn on some lights.

But tell me, how do you like that invitation? I think it's one of my best yet.


 (click the image to view larger)

Right-click to save to your computer.
Then just print and use.

Printed size = 10.5x 14.8 cm   (A6 or quarter A4)

I've put customisable versions on my Free Invitation Website so you can add your own wording.

(To make your personalised invitation really great grab some retro free fonts from here: Great 50's Fonts from Tack-O-Rama)

30 May 2012

Kids Cook: Perfect Pizza from Scratch

This week for our family culinary adventure we made Pizza.
Now usually this means shop-bought pizza bases with us simply piling on the toppings. But not this time.
We made pizza dough from scratch... and it turned out fabulously perfect. Better than gourmet.
We may be lost to Domino's for all time, because not only were these the best pizzas we've eaten in yonks, but they were also pretty quick and very easy.

First let me introduce you to my enthusiastic junior chefs...

Big brother was (again) not particularly interested in chef-ing. Never mind.

Recipe for Perfect Pizza Dough

1 and a half cups of warm water
2 teaspoons (1 sachet) of dried yeast
a pinch of caster sugar
4 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of olive oil

STEP 1: Activate the Yeast
Combine the water yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside (or watch vigilantly if preferred) for five minutes until the yeast is dissolved or foamy

STEP 2: Ready Dry Ingredients
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl and make a "well" in the centre.

STEP 3: Mix
Pour the yeast mixture and the oil into the "well" in the dry ingredients, and mix using a butter knife making cutting motions until thoroughly combined.

STEP 4: Knead
Use your hands to bring the dough together in the owl. Brush lightly with oil and tip onto a lightly floured surface. Knead with your hands for ten minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic (Take turns nicely please).

STEP 5: Wait
Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl and (turn the dough to lightly cover the whole ball with olive oil). Cover and place somewhere warm and dry, away from draughts. Leave it to rise for 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size (a truly miraculous sight for the novice dough-maker).

STEP 6: Add Toppings
Split the dough in half and stretch out with your fingers to fit the tray (or pizza stone) lined with baking paper (prevents sticking). Spread with pasta sauce/tomato sauce/tomato puree and then top with your favourite toppings and grated mozzarella cheese.

Bake in the oven at 180oC for 15-20 minutes or until the dough is puffy and browned, and the cheese is golden and bubbling.

From our dough we made one big kids pizza (ham and pineapple), three mini pizzas for lunches the next day PLUS one giant grown-ups pizza, half seafood (tuna, salmon, mussels, olives) and half "supreme" (ham, pineapple, basil, zucchini, olives, salami). The dough went a very long way!

Reward your little chefs for their productive pizza-making with perfect parfaits for pudding... yummy!

Parfaits: A scoop of vanilla icecream topped Aunt Betty's"jelly jiggle" sauce (or raspberry jelly), mini marshmallows, chocolate mousse (from a packet or a can) and a squirt of Dairy Whip cream.

Tune in next week when we will attempt to create a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (eek).


Printable Recipe Card (right-click to save to your computer)

29 May 2012

Chores, Routines & Rewards: Download Free Printable Charts

Which mother hasn't tried sticker charts as an incentive for good behaviour?
I've tried it umpteen times in umpteen ways, and to be honest the results were mixed at best and a pain to maintain. Usually my sticker charts would last a couple of weeks before fizzing out and being abandoned.

Until now.
Thanks to the wonderful Parenting Course I've been doing, I have finally got my head around how to make this strategy really work. Really really.
And I've made myself a re-usable chart that can be changed and used in as many ways as I need it too... cos it's laminated and I have a whiteboard marker (and I'm not afraid to use it).

Of course I can't make myself something so simple to use without sharing it with you as well, can I?

Printable Reward Charts

So all you have to do is click to download the blank chart  you want
(I've made two versions; one with three "thermometers" and one with two) ...

Print it out. Stick on photos of your kids (or write on their names). Laminate.
And then sit down for a family brainstorm session and figure out how you're gonna use it...
  1. Choose a behaviour or value you want to work on in your family - e.g. doing what you are told the first time you're asked
  2. Figure out what the stickers are worth - e.g. 3 stickers = a grab bag treat; 5 stickers = computer/TV/Media time; 10 stickers = $3 to spend at the shops
  3. When the stickers are "cashed in" mark them with a black dot
  4. To encourage family cooperation instead of the kids competing with each other, when the family reaches a combined total of 50 stickers, work out/brainstorm a family reward e.g. somewhere cool you can go together and have fun like mini golf, the zoo, the wave pools etc
You don't even need to use fancy stickers; I'm just using a packet of "office supply" red dots.
Because the chart is laminated, the stickers peel right off when we're all full up and cashed in. We can also easily change the rewards and goals, so I am far more likely to keep using it!

One of the rules we've learnt at the course is that once a sticker is earned for positive behaviour, don't take it away for misbehaviour. Keep the incentives separate from the discipline or the kids will lose motivation. This is something that was new to me, as we had always taken away stickers.

It's interesting to watch the kids begin to realise that by complying they can earn stickers and rewards really quickly. Dash was the first one to figure it out, and managed to save ten stickers which he plans to cash in for money to buy Match Attacks (trading cards).
Miss Fab traded in her first five stickers for a whole uninterrupted hour of computer time.
Scrag was the slowest to catch on. At four years old, it took him a while to realise that the stickers were worth actual stuff. When he saw the others trading theirs in (and I gave him a peek inside the treat bag) he finally clicked.
Now instead of shouting "NO!" every time I ask him to do something ( fun new habit he's developed since turning four), he's quickly remembering that he can get a sticker for doing what he's told the first time he's asked.

Calmness is creeping back in to our mornings and evenings. I've taken to awarding stickers to kids who do the right thing without even being told, too. Oh it is so nice not to have to nag.
Just a simple, "Oh you haven't done that yet? What a pity you just missed a chance for a sticker!"

They catch on pretty quick.

Also included below are the chore and routine charts I made, which were requested by many of you after spotting them in my "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" post last week. There's a couple of different versions; for the more adventurous, grab the ones you can customise. For the graphic-shy, just take the ready-as-is ones.


***By Popular Request***
Free Printable Chore and Routine Charts
(Click on the image below, select which chart you want, then click "download")

GENERIC VERSIONS (with some routines included):
Print as-is (borrowing our routines); laminate and use whiteboard pens to customise.

Take this .jpg file into any photo editing programme and add your own text, e.g. routines, then print, laminate and stick magnets on the back to show who is doing what.

{SIZE = A4; 297 x 210mm}

28 May 2012

Best in Blog Linky - "Comfort"

I confess, as I write this post I am looking to indulge in a little bit of comfort. So I typed in "comfort" on Pinterest and look at what I found... the sweetest bear, snuggled up in the prettiest quilt glowing with soft diffused light. Perfect, I thought. The bear on that pillow, his eye looks sad, but he's safe and cosy. Comforted.

Then I spotted this one...

When in doubt, make a cup of tea. Very comforting, indeed.
Oh sorry, have I got you all worried? What's up with me? Why am I obsessing about wanting comforting things...?
Ahhh, you must have missed Saturday's post (that's OK, not many people about in Blogland at the weekends, I know).
Sometimes things get Worse before they get Better.
Don't worry, we'll get through it I'm sure.

But while things are feeling all "worse" it's nice to have some comfort. A snuggle under covers with a cup of tea. So would you mind if this week we do things slightly different?
I'd love to request some "chicken soup for the soul" posts this week.
I'm not meaning "deep" posts necessarily... just the kind brimming with warm fuzzies.

Cast your mind back to a post you might have written in the past which readers said meant a lot to them. Or which in the act of writing, comforted YOU. Perhaps a picture you took which says it all. Or a story which is heart-warming, hopeful, funny. (You might even want to link up someone else's post which comforted YOU - there's a thought.)

Would you mind ever so much?
Share your duvet with me and I'll read your post while sipping a cup of tea.
It'll be ever so nice and cosy. Thanks, I really do appreciate it.

Of course if you'd rather, please go ahead and simply link up your favourite post from last week as we usually do for Best in Blog. No worries.

P.S. If I had to pick my favourite posts from last week it would have to be Cass. And Remaliah. Again. And since I don't want anyone mad at me for picking these girls so often (being as I am in need of comfort and all) I am abstaining from choosing this week. Don't hate me.

 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 Linky

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!
26 May 2012

Sometimes Things Get Worse Before they Get Better

Have you ever noticed that?
How things usually get worse before they get better?
It should be oddly reassuring, but somehow when you're in the middle of some struggle or another, those words can sound like just one more cliche.

Sometimes when you uncover problems or issues that have been buried or ignored for years, it's like ripping off a bandage or a scabbed-over wound.
Youch! Ugh, look at all that stinky pus. What a mess. Oh that hurts. Am I dying? Is this curable? Give me some drugs... oh why did I have to go and rip this bandage off...? I just know there's gonna be a big ugly scar. Will I lose the leg?

The wound was always there festering away.
The buried issues. The hurts we've hidden deep inside. The disappointment we've been in denial about.
Facing these things hurts like hell.

That's what I mean by things get worse before they get better.
Denial is not a cure.
Numbness is not healing.

My counsellor told me this week that when I "find my voice" and are able to "be my true unique self" the Pendulum will stop swinging.
She talks about the "Defended Self". The Me that uses all these coping mechanisms to make myself feel better by serving/giving/helping... then I push too far and collapse in a heap and withdraw into escapism of some kind. Then guilt about that plunges me down into the hole of depression, where the black dog torments me until I can drag myself out of the pit determined to do better next time... The Pendulum.

It's good to know that one day it's possible that I can be free of this tyranny, even after so long.
It's also helpful to know that my lovely counsellor has walked this road before me. She's not a theorist, she's a living example of someone who has found freedom.
Gee, but it's a painful process.
Facing all this pain.
Lying awake at night, mind racing, stomach churning.

Makes me so thankful I'm not alone.
Amazing how when you reach out and open up you discover the gift of encouragement and strength from a community of others.
The women from my Parenting Class. The girls from my prayer group.
My amazing counsellor. Friends you can be completely honest with.

Last night I was feeling overwhelmed and in a world of emotional pain, after some of my "bandages" have been ripped off, and old wounds revealed.
This morning, after meeting with some mums to pray for our kids, I feel re-charged. Encouraged. Lifted up. Hopeful.

Problems, battles, struggles are the norm in life.
"What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger."

Here's some food for thought:


Don't you love that? It gives meaning and purpose to the struggle doesn't it?

In the end when I am completely myself, the struggling will have knocked off my sharp edges, my wrestling and crying will have forged compassion and empathy, perseverance through pain will have developed patience and tolerance for others... it will be a beautiful thing.
Makes working through the pain worthwhile.
24 May 2012

Mrs Readalot is Hungry for More

Mrs Readalot is sometimes slow to the party. Last Christmas so many people had "The Hunger Games" on their recommended reads list... and yet it has taken her until now to read.
Maybe it was because it was described as "young adult fiction" (and Mrs Readalot can hardly be described as young...)
Perhaps it was her preoccupation with The Seven Kingdoms.
And of course there was the exceedingly long wait for books to arrive from Fishpond.

Whatever the reason, when Mrs Readalot finally got hold of Suzanne Collins' book this week, she devoured it within 36 hours.

Mrs Readalot was hungry for more. She just had to know what happens next.
So she went online and ordered Books Two and Three from  Book Depository .

But Mrs Readalot is impatient. Even though the books are on their way, it could still be weeks before she discovers whether it is Peeta or Gale that Katniss really loves (I vote Peeta.) And how the Capitol might wreak their revenge on Katniss for her defiance.

So when a friend mentions she has a copy of Book Two, Mrs R drives across town and borrows the book, staying up into the wee small hours to gobble up more. (She's still sticking with Peeta.)
Now she's finished. And Book Three is in the post, perhaps weeks away.
Help, anyone? Anybody (in Auckland) have a copy Mrs R can borrow to sate her appetite for more of the Hunger Games story?
Mrs Readalot heard rumours that Books Two and Three are not as good as the first one, so she had low expectations for Book Two. But no, it was fine. And now she MUST KNOW how it all turns out.

Mrs Readalot Says:
Why did I wait so long to read these books? I haven't stayed up so late reading in years.
Mind you it is probably partly because I genuinely couldn't sleep so got up to read myself to sleep. But this story is not one that gets you nodding off. 
Now that I'm stuck waiting for the conclusion, I am considering watching the movie.
I'm not usually a fan of book-movies, as the movies are rarely as good as the book. In fact too often filmmakers take annoying liberties with the story and characters... but in this case it might keep me going til my book arrives. or a kind friend lends me their copy.
I've heard it's violent and disturbing. Somehow the books are not.
OK, maybe a little disturbing, but only in a thought-provoking way.
Imagine if the government really did hold such things as these Games, as a way to keep the population under control? How would that make you feel about having children, knowing there was a chance you were raising them only to have them reaped for the Hunger Games...?

It would make you think twice alright.
Suzanne Collins depicts a horrifyingly realistic world-of-the-future. This is the best  kind of sci-fi.
Scarily, spine-chillingly possible; a world not so very different in detail from our own.

I am loving this story. And thankful I've had it to keep me company these last few sleepless nights.

Now if only Book Depository comes through for me really really quick...

Mrs Readalot Gives The Hunger Games: *****

10% Discount / APMA12 Coupon Code / Book DepositoryGet "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins from Book Depository for around NZ$11.00 
Get the Whole Trilogy for NZ$29.00 (what I should have done)
(FREE delivery worldwide)

If you are a keen reader, we'd love you to join in our monthly bookclub linky.

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 
Mrs Readalots bloggy Bookclub

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

THIS MONTH: May Book Club is 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

22 May 2012

Kids Cook: Chocolate Self-Saucing Pudding

Friday night dinner at our house is usually Takeaways. Daddy will ring up and say, What do you want me to pick up on the way home? And we'll order fish 'n' chips or Indian or pizza. To be honest it's getting kinda boring, but I refuse to cook on Friday.

This weekend just gone though, Daddy was away. There was no convenient dial-up/order-in service.
So I decided to try something new: Lets get the kids cooking.
After all they love Junior Masterchef.
And our dinner choices are getting a bit repetitive. Time to try some new things.

They loved the idea, and picked Making Sushi. I thought, what better to go with a nice healthy dinner like sushi than sticky chocolatey pudding - with magic sauce?

The sushi-making was a huge success. When I went to try and buy a humble bamboo sushi-mat, the lady in Stevens convinced me to get the Sushezi instead. Easy sushi. Oh yeah. We made sushi like pros. All weekend. This morning I even rustled up a batch for their lunch boxes. No photos though.

Then Dash raced off to Futsal (Brazillian soccer) leaving the younger two to navigate the chocolate pudding.

This recipe is like magic - the sauce starts out at the top and ends up at the bottom. Fun to make and delicious to eat.

Miss Fab and Scrag worked as a team; they did all the mixing and measuring themselves, working off the recipe card I made for them.
The only thing I helped with was the sauce, where you sprinkle the dry sauce mixture over the batter and pour on the hot boiling water. It turned out delicious - although the sauce dried up a bit, so next time I'd make double the amount. Perfect with whipped cream.

So Kids Cook Fridays are here to stay. this week we'll be making Pizza (from scratch) and Parfaits. Bye Bye boring unhealthy takeaways. Hello my little junior masterchefs.

Here's the recipe card for you...

{right-click to save to your computer}
21 May 2012

Best in Blog - Monday Linky


I love it when I stumble over little snippets of truth. Words so crisp and perfectly phrased they zing right into your heart. I have a whole collection of them on Pinterest. Sayings that sum up truth deliciously.

This past week words have featured large in my world.
Words in articles that challenged me. Words with a counselor that strengthened me. Words from a preacher which encouraged me. Words are powerful things.

This week I shared some of my own words. Did you catch them?

Firstly I Went to See a Man About a Dog. A Black Dog, that is. The mongrel that has dogged my steps for over ten years. Thanks to some powerful words of truth, the fighter in me is back, ready to kick that mutt next time he growls at me.

Then I explained how I Don't Want to Miss a Thing. Childhood is fleeting. Life is busy. I am challenging myself to be more "present" with my kids.

While I'm at it a few helpful freebies for ya.
Due to popular request, I've added my printable chore and routine charts at the bottom of this post. You can customise them with your own routines etc in any photo editing programme, then print, laminate and magnet to the fridge.

While I was feeling helpful, I also updated my grabable social media buttons, adding in a bunch of new styles and added in pinterest and email buttons for each set. So go here and grab yourself some pretty buttons for your blog.
You're welcome.

The Best of You
We had double the entries for Best in Blog last week, thanks to my reminder email. {If you want to be included in my email reminder list, let me know}
Double the entries, double the reading.
So hard to pick my favourites.

I had to come back to this question: Which post(s) gave me goosebumps/made me sigh/laugh???

Here they are:
Cass has again made the list. Her post about why she is bored with blogging was a wonderful read. Especially since in the end she decided to give up "blogging" and start "writing" instead. Way to go Cass! Inspiring stuff.

Meghan from MNM's gave me goosebumps with her Badges of Motherhood post. Read it and be encouraged.

Remaliah shared her twin daughters' second birthday... and a video of the journey from 700grams to today. Oh my. Goosies. Tears. Wow.

And finally. Brigitte's post about Genitori made me laugh out loud. FOR AGES. When I finally got control of myself and kept scrolling down, I found myself literally sighing over her pictures.

 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 Linky

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!