30 January 2013

New At My House


There's almost nothing I love better than lazing on the couch with a good book. Even better if the place I'm lazing is pretty and full of sunshine. Better still if this sunny haven is a corner of my very own bedroom.


This is the sunroom attached to our bedroom, where the computer used to live and where I loved to blog. Just before Christmas I had grown fed up with the kids constantly in my bedroom using the computer, so I kicked the computer out into the hallway.

Not such a pretty place for me to blog, but it left my room a kid-free haven once more. But in spite of it's awesome potential as a sanctuary for me and hubby from the noise and crazy, that little corner of the house had never been given much attention. It was under-achieving.


So last week I gave it some love, scattered some cushions (and invested a bit of dosh on some new cubby shelves). Now it is an inviting space to relax and create in. I can write (with a pen), draw, paint (I've even organised all my craft and party supplies)... and spend sunny afternoons enjoying a book in the sunshine.

I love it.


 Meanwhile Dash's poor cupboard of a bedroom was trying to over-achieve. A welcoming space for a ten year old boy that can fit nothing more than a divan bed and a shelf or two? Nothing a lick of blackboard paint can't fix!


I painted the whole wall with black board paint and added some words in bright colours at the top: NO FEAR... to relieve the dark colour in a small space. Funny thing is that rather than closing the room in, it actually feels bigger, because you notice the height all the way up to the roof. Dash' cupboard room may be small, but it is pretty cool now. And what's more it's all his (he'd rather have a tiny space all his own than share a large space with his pesky little bro).


Meanwhile changes are afoot in the dining room too. Gail is back from China (yay) which means that her  beloved Bus Blind art which has graced my dining room wall for the past 18 months has been returned to its mama *sniff*. I've had to make do with my "Family Words" canvas from the hallway. Not bad. But I might need to add something underneath it, I'm thinking. Some more words on canvas. Perhaps "BLESSED" or "PEACE"... can't hurt to have those words seeping into my brain aye??


And finally... while I've been playing interiors, My dear hubby has been busy outside.


He has ripped up our old rotten deck and it's wobbly apple-green balustrade and replaced it with this *sexy new deck* (as Scrag says in a hilarious Scottish accent). I am very proud of Mr G (not born a Kiwi = not born with DIY running in his veins). He has done a beautiful job. Even though this is only Stage One... it's a vast improvement on what was there before.

Hey! What's that I hear? More DIY projects are calling... this tin of duck-egg blue wants to be slapped on some walls. 

Phew. Once I start I just can't stop!

(more *at home* stories)
28 January 2013

How to Build a Lemonade Stand...


This afternoon I built a Lemonade Stand.
My very own rustic, whimsical Lemonade Stand from ripped-up, rotten decking timber.
All by myself (I have the blisters to prove it).

I may not be able to crochet or drive a sewing machine, but baby I am feeling very clever today!


Earlier in the day I drew up my backyard plan for Scrag's Carnival Party (all the way in April. I know. I'm CRAZY), and I sketched in a spot for "Lemonade". What I really wanted was a Lemonade stand like the one's I've seen on Pinterest.
There's a load of old decking timber that my darling hubby has ripped up off our deck and lovingly replaced with a whole new deck. Rotten and ugly timber makes things wonderfully rustic.
I'd already created some pretty fab signs for the party by hammering together some bits and pieces, slapping around some white paint and decorating with testpots...


So surely I can figure out how to make a lemonade stand too?
Armed with leftover nails, a hammer and a handsaw, I started the project with nothing more than a rough idea...


Just a few hours later I am the proud purveyor of my very own Pin-worthy lemonade stand. Perfect for parties of all kinds.

Wanna know how to do it??
Here's how...

How to Make a Rustic Lemonade Stand
Before you start you'll need a pile of old decking timber. Measure off 8 pieces of table-height length and 4 pieces the width you want to make your stand. Rough is good. No need for perfection here. You'll need nice long nails too (leftover decking nails are perfect)


  1. Nail together one of the table length pieces, and one of the width pieces at right angles to each other
  2. Nail another table height piece on the back as shown
  3. Do the same at the other end of the width peice
  4. ...and the same again at the top
  5. Repeat the whole process until you have your two "stands"
  6. Nail on the "top" - lengths of decking timber (lean the "stands" up against a wall until you have the first few pieces nailed on)

7. Nail some more lengths of decking onto the front of the stand. (This helps hold it firm and square and stops it from wobbling; it's also great for displaying prices)

8. Make the sign as shown. You'll need extra-long pieces of decking for the two posts and three of the same lengths of wood as for the counter top. Before you attach the sign to the stand, slap on some white paint. It's looking pretty now! And then paint the word "Lemonade" with a testpot and medium paintbrush

9. Attach the  sign to the stand with lots of nails. Voila! You're done.

Now make a batch of  delicious homemade lemonade... and enjoy!


26 January 2013

Movie Duds to Avoid


Movie Nights are back for the new year! Every Saturday we share our ideas for family movie nights, with Movie reviews, fun theme night ideas and a month of FREE DVDs courtesy of our sponsor, Fatso (see below for details).

Avoiding Movie Night Flops...
Sometimes you pick a movie thinking it will be good, only to have it flop horribly. Nothing worse than all the family (and any random friends) groaning and complaining about your movie choices.
"Who picked this??!"
"This sucks!"
"Can we turn it off and go watch the paint dry? it would be more exciting..."

Well, we've picked a few flops and watched a few duds in our time. Here's a few of them so you know which DVDs to avoid...



Sheeba (G) *

This movie sucked. It's meant to be a dog movie, but it was more of a lame drama about marriage difficulties. Firstly, it is barely about the dog. Secondly the acting was pathetic. thirdly the story was disjointed, slow-moving and confusing. there were huge gaps of logic and style. And to top it all off, near the end (by which time we were all groaning in pain over the lameness of it all) the dad (a fireman) arrives in the nick of time after an 11-hour drive from New York, sees smoke AGAINST A DARK SKY and rescues his son from a burning building which is meant to be deep in the woods but somehow he parked his ute right by it and just HAPPENED to have his firefighter suit in the back.
The only person who quite liked this movie was Scrag. He said he wanted to have a Sheeba birthday party next time. NO, Scrag. NEXT TIME, MUMMY will pick the movie!!!

KID WATCHABILITY - Arrrgggghhhh!! we had to make our own laughs. Scrag dressed up as a dog (maybe that's why he liked it??)
SCARY BITS - The grown ups keep having flashbacks to 9/11 (the source of all their problems. This is not scary as such, but it would be if you were there.)
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - TERRIBLE. Painful. Mr G apologised the whole way through for its lameness. I can't believe we watched the whole thing!



Watership Down (G) *

Sadly, this was awful. Mr G also picked this one, having fond memories of it from when he was young. But even though it's meant to be a classic, the animation is poor, the story is grim and confusing - it was the worst one we have watched as a family. Ugh. All ages avoid!

KID WATCHABILITY - They stuck it out but didn't enjoy it.
SCARY BITS - Too many - who rated this a (G)?? Someone who saw cute bunnies on the cover and didn't bother to watch it?? There were some very weird gory bits with rabbits choking to death, rabbit spirits coming back to speak to other rabbits, ugly cruel rabbit generals who clawed other rabbits and tore their ears - we forwarded quite a lot. this was not a feel-good movie at all!
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Terrible. I hated it. Needles in my eyes started to sound quite appealing??! Even Mr G admitted it was a bomb, rewatching it 30 years later!




Biggles: Adventures in Time (PG) *

This looked like it might have been a bit of fun what with time travel and World War I and airplane dogfight action. But no. Biggles (1986) was memorable for lots of bad 80's acting and big hair. We gave it ten minutes and then all agreed to dump it. Just couldn't get past the bad acting. And the big hair. Yaaaawwwwwn.

KID WATCHABILITY - Terrible. The worst yet.
SCARY BITS - The bad acting and big hair was enough to give us nightmares for weeks.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Pathetic. I can't even blame Mr G for choosing this one. It was my pick. And it sucked. I should stop giving 80s movies a chance. Really.




Tron (PG) **

Now this one I remembered as being cool from when I was a teenager. We had watched the 2005 sequel (Tron: Legacy) and quite enjoyed it, so I wanted to show the kids one from my glory days. Oh dear. The computer graphics were cutting edge in their day, but this was more bad 80s acting and complicated scripting. It was hard to follow and not nearly half as cool as I remembered. Sadly. Still it's not as bad as the other movies so I give it two stars. I have decided not to pick any more movies from the 80s. They are BANNED from hereon out.

KID WATCHABILITY - OK. A little confusing. Story hard to follow. Some good action/racing scenes but not enough for kids of this day and age.
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - Disappointing. Mr G didn't even stay in the room for the whole thing. And the end was stupid. Very sudden and not what I remembered at all.



Under the Mountain (PG) *

This was one of my favourite books from when I was 11, a Maurice Gee classic, set right here in Auckland. I was looking forward to sharing this homegrown alien adventure with my two big kids. But about 10 minutes into the movie we had to turn it off. It was just too creepy. So disappointing.

KID WATCHABILITY - NOT FOR KIDS
SCARY BITS - WAY TOO MANY!!!
GROWNUP WATCHABILITY - I watched it later by myself when the kids were in bed and it was just OK. I wish they had doen a better job of bringing this wonderful book to life. It could have been a Kiwi classic. I have a feeling it was a flop.






Here's what our experts have to say about our Movie Flops...


Dash. B. Cool: "None of these movies was cool. Don't watch any of them, that's my advice."


Foxy Fab: "I hated Sheeba because it was supposed to be about a dog but instead it was about a kid and his parents problems. It was just dumb. I hated Biggles because we watched only a couple of minutes of it and it was so dumb we turned it off. Some old movies are really dumb. Tron was OK but a bit boring. Mum said it was cool but it wasn't."



Super Scrag: "I hate Tron because he turned into a TV programme game, the game guys. It was a bit boring because it was very short. I didn't understand the story and what it was about. But I did like Sheeba. Because the shed burned down and the firefighters came. And that's why I liked it."

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



So that's some movies NOT to watch, but here's a list of some that we've actually watched and enjoyed...




Seen any good movies lately? Or any duds you can warn us about???
Leave me a comment below...


If you haven't tried Fatso Online DVD rental before, check out my post about why I love it. Then click the box above and use the magic code FAMILY45 to get a Month's Free Trial on the Super Plan (worth $28.99).


Have a great Saturday!
25 January 2013

Mrs Readalot Discovers eBooks (and alternate realities)


Mrs Readalot got a tablet for Christmas. You know what this means... she can now read eBooks.
First of all she downloaded the Kindle app. Then she explored Amazon looking for cheap eBooks, but couldn't find anything that took her fancy. And why fork out money for a book you can't slip under your pillow? Nothing can replace the joy of turning actual paper pages, right?

Nervous Mrs Readalot really didn't know where to begin. Until she talked to her friend Lyns and heard about Overdrive. The library app.
Where you find your local library and download eBooks to read for free.
Surely it can't be that easy?

Mrs Readalot downloaded the Overdrive app. She searched for Auckland Library. Yep, there it is. She signed in with her library card... and started looking for eBooks to request.

[Lyns introduced me to the Overdrive Library App]

Jodi Picoult, she's always a good read. Request a few of them.
How about Stephen Lawhead... has he written anything new? Oh! A whole new series. Time travel and alternate realities??? Written by one of Mrs Readalot's favourite authors? Wahoo.

Within a few days of requesting the titles, Mrs R got a notification they were available to download. (You keep them on your device for up to three weeks, then "return" them and delete after your borrowing period is up. Mrs R is a fast reader so she got through three or four books easily within two weeks).

[I love my tablet - but so does everyone else]
How did reading on the tablet compare to reading a paper book? Well, it was actually easier while camping! No need to hold a torch up to read the pages; the screen glows all by itself. Mrs Readalot is now fully sold on eBooks. She loves how the eBooks automatically open to where she was reading last (the kids were always moving her books and losing her pages, before).

Mrs Readalot is totally raving about the Library Overdrive app. So easy, and FREE. Download it and look for your local library, then sign in with your library card for a bunch of FREE eBooks. Do it. And since you'll be getting new books to read for free, you can join in with Bookclub more often! (see below)


Mrs Readalot Loves Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empires Series

BOOK 1: THE SKIN MAP
BOOK 2: THE BONE HOUSE
BOOK 3: THE SPIRIT WELL


I absolutely love this latest series from Stephen Lawhead. It's like nothing else I've ever read. I've always loved this author's ability to paint history so vividly, to dig deeper than the usual answers and create fascinating characters and riveting plots with a thread of the familiar running through them.

The Bright Empires series takes the premise of Ley Lines* as doors to alternate realities and opens up a whole new world / universe / multiverse of possibilities.
Parallel realities, time travel, alternate universes. It's a fascinating idea, so well written and fast paced.
This is the best series I've read in ages. I got the first two books as eBooks on Overdrive from the Library. The third book is only recently published and only available in hardback. I couldn't wait. I had to have it, so I ordered it from Book Depository and it arrived yesterday. I can't wait to dive into it. Two more books are planned in the series, so I'll have to be patient before I get to discover the end, but at least Stephen Lawhead writes faster than George R.R. Martin!
I'm trying to think of books you might have also read, which are comparable, but there's nothing. These are truly original stories, well written, addictive and more-ish.

Kind of Diana Gabaldon (without all the sex), meets Tad Williams meets Suzanne Collins.
If you're not sure it'll be your thing, hey, just download the Overdrive app and find your local library. Read it for free. Can't go wrong really.

Stephen Lawhead also wrote other great series: The Arthurian Legend series, The Robin Hood Series and many others, all great reads. For other books of his I've reviewed go here

(Ley Lines = lines of energy which run in certain areas, often marked out by the Ancients with standing stones etc) 


MRS READALOT GIVES THE BRIGHT EMPIRES BOOKS:





buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery                  buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery


Find a Book on BookDepository...



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

Grab the button for your posts and sidebar and make sure you're "following" Greatfun4kids if you want to join in the Book Club on a regular basis...

Sign up here to become an official member and linky host


Mama’s Losin’ It
I'm also joining in with mama Kat's writers workshop, "sharing what I'm reading"

January Book Club is being Hosted by Rachel from Rachel Cotterill Books
21 January 2013

Carnival Party, Here We Come


Scrag turns five in three months' time. 
Three months. FIVE.
And here we are in January, preparing already.


Miss Fab has her outfit all picked out. Katy Perry eat your heart out. 
She even made a sign. Bless.


Scrag may or may not go as a lion. But the hat's a keeper.


Miss Fab is going to be the Carnival Fairy. Dash will be some kind of Sporty Clown.
We plan to co-opt their friends (the big brothers and sisters of the party guests) as helpers at the party.
They get to come and join the fun if they are prepared to dress up and man stalls. And games.
Dish out popcorn, paint faces, run games.


We see this as a real family day. A real Carnival in our back yard.


I've ordered a roll of 2000 rip-off concession tickets from the States.
Tickets will be for everything. We'll have a prize tent, a popcorn stand, a bouncy castle
and all kinds of games where kids can win more tickets.
Which they can cash in for more prizes, icecream, candy floss, popcorn...

[Miss Fab's Cute Sign]

It's gonna be big. The biggest party we've ever done.
To celebrate the coolest little kid turning five and heading off to school.
Sniff.


But why are you starting party prep so early, Simoney? I hear you wondering. Aren't you taking this a bit far?


Well, at the rate time whizzes by these days, I know that I'll be blinking and the party will be upon me.
If we start early we can get really creative. Have fun making it without stressing.
Look for deals and streamline our fab ideas.


As you can see I am rocking the pink wig.


But this girl. She is like WOW. Gorgeous.


She is so excited for her brother's party. Her daddy is super impressed.
"I love your attitude, Fab..." Daddy said the other day. "You're more excited about his party than your own."
And it's true.


She has all kinds of plans. She's even made lists. I'm just letting her run with it.
Love her enthusiasm and creativity.


Last night as we were browsing Bouncy Castle websites, I heard her say to Scrag, "You know Scrag, this is going to be the biggest and best party any of us have ever had. And I'm not even jealous. You should be so grateful you're going to have the most amazing party..."


We're all a bit party mad around here.


And some of us really really suit blue hair.
(But not so much the pink, really)


I'm collecting ideas and inspiration for the Biggest Backyard Carnival Ever 



If you've ever done a Carnival Party I'd love to hear your ideas/see your party. You can leave me a comment or post your link on my party linky...