30 August 2013

Angels Wanted - Apply Within


Do you have a little angel or two lurking around the place?
I am working on updating the illustrations in my Christmas Book, in readiness for a publisher (crossing fingers), or failing that, for an updated version on Blurb in time for Christmas until the book deal comes...

I'm simplifying the layout and just using lots and lots of angels. Kid angels.
Real kids, photographed happy, sad, angry, shocked, thoughtful, dreamy, gorgeous, cheeky...
With the magic of Photoshop I add wings and turn them into angels.

Til now I have just used photos of my own three kids... but I'd like to invite you to send me photos of your little (cheeky, quirky, adorable) angels for inclusion in my book.

What's in it for you? If chosen, your child will be in my book. You will get a photo credit and (if wanted) your child's name in the credits. If I get a book deal, you'll get a bunch of copies of the book, starring your child as an angel (amongst others).

If I'm not successful (yet) I'll send you copy of the book at my expense, as a way of saying thank you.

What I'm looking for:

  • Kids of all shapes and sizes and colours
  • A wide range of facial expressions - the angels are surprised and shocked a lot in my story, after all.
  • Good quality photos, nice light and clarity, decent resolution
  • A couple of photos of the same child if possible
  • Clothing - white or light coloured clothing preferred but not essential, angel outfits not required
If you would like to have your child/ren considered for inclusion in my book as angels, please email photos to: greatfun4kids@live.com.
Be sure to include your name (for photo credit) and your angels' names, and write this line in your email: I give my permission for Simone Graham to use my photos in her book, An Unexpected Christmas.

Thanks!

29 August 2013

Blogging about Blogging...


I've been reading some very interesting articles lately, on blogs.
There's a lot of good stuff out there!
It's always inspiring to come across blogs that make you think, and bloggers who read your mind and write what you wish you had written...

Here's a couple of the posts I've read and LOVED recently, from around the blogosphere...


A Letter to Miley Cyrus by iamRihanna

After all the hooha and media frenzy about Miley's OTT performance at the VMA's, this blog post was a shining light of reason. Rihanna (not the singer, just a young blogger) wrote what I had been thinking. I had foolishly been drawn into a discussion on FaceBook, on a friend's post, and the comments some of the ladies were making just left me bamboozled. When I stumbled over this blog post, I had to share it, everywhere.
It would seem lots of people felt the same way - the post went viral overnight, and this blogger who had struggled to get 400 pageviews a day, all of a sudden had over a million hits.
That's the power of social media.
(Gosh darnit, if only I'd written that post, right?? Ha!)


Blog School on Village Voices: Collaboration by Pip Lincolne

Pip writes about the new environment of blogging, and wonders what happened to the days when a post would generate comments and interaction, and there was a wonderful supportive blogging community.
This one really resonated with me, as I had also been pondering a drop-off in comments and interaction and wondered, What have I done? Where is everybody?
It was nice to realise it's not just me who's feeling it.
I mean my stats are the best ever, but it's the connection, the sense of blogging community that seems to have slipped. A lot of my blog friends from the early years have either given up blogging completely or blog (and comment) rarely. I'm sure these newfangled mobile devices which make commenting trickier have a lot to do with the comment/feedback drop-off too.
But the article made me decide to redouble my efforts to be a nice supportive interactive commenty blogger. It's the community and connection that is the real pay-off when it comes to blogging. Without that, as a writer, you feel like you're just talking to yourself.
As a result, I aim to be more generous with my social media sharing. If I stumble across a post I love I plan to FB it, tweet it, G+ it... heck even blog about it (like I am now). So watch out. I could be coming for you.


Dear Blogger, Just Write by Deb at Works in Progress

Again with this post, a lovely blogger has read my mind. Deb (a personal fave, both In Real Life and in Blogland) has written a from-the-heart appeal to bloggers to stop second guessing themselves and tying themselves in knots trying to please everybody, and just write.
I loved her post, so full of goshdarnit good sense. So of course I shared it.

....and finally. The post that had me almost peeing myself laughing...



The Brutal Truth About the Third Child by Shannon at Relentless

All I can say is that if you are the proud owner of three (or more) children, read this while wearing a Tena pad. It's just so flippin hilarious, funny and TRUE. I'll say no more, just read.




Before I sign off and go do some kids-bedroom-swilling or dust-bunny bashing, I'd love to challenge you to join me in being more generous with our sharing of each other's great blog posts.
If a blog post tickles you, why not click a share button?
Like it? Share it!
Loved it? Let the author know.
Just a thought.
xx


(P.S. If you're a blogger, have you noticed changes in the blog community? A drop off of comments and interaction? If so, what do you put it down to?) 


28 August 2013

Endless Cupcakes (to Introduce My New Party Partner)


It's SPCA Cupcake Week round here, which means baking umpteen batches of cupcakes for each of my three kids to take to school. I don't mind, really. After all the SPCA helped us adopt our beloved crazy (female) cat "Dave". The SPCA does great work protecting, caring for and re-homing abandoned, injured and sick animals. We are all for that round here.
So umpteen batches of cupcakes are being baked in support.

Of course there is no lack of enthusiastic helpers, which only makes it all much messier more fun...


Want to know someone else who has been baking a gazillion cupcakes to support the SPCA?
My brand new Party Partner, Sandra, from Kiwi Cakes. A concern for helpless animals is just one of the many cool things I love about this new partnership between Greatfun4kids and KiwiCakes.

Other stuff I love about it:
  • They have screeds and screeds of cool party stuff AND baking/cake decorating stuff on their website
  • The service is prompt and friendly
  • They are a locally owned New Zealand company (in Whangarei) - I love supporting "local"
  • They love my blog and want to work with me (wahoo!)
HOW IT CAME ABOUT:
I was getting organised and thinking ahead to my next party (Dash's birthday in November) and decided to see what was out there. Google sent me to KiwiCakes and I found everything I was looking for and more. When I went to place my order, I added in a cheeky little note: "I have a blog; I do parties... would you be interested in working together?"
(I have wanted a Party Partner for AGES).


Oh joy when Sandra contacted me (after checking out my lil blog) saying "YES". There might have been skipping involved.

In honour of my new Party Partner and SPCA Cupcake Day I'm sharing my go-to cupcake recipe with you, in the form of a printable recipe card.

Right-click, save it to your computer, print and bake a gazillion cupcakes with my fave never-fail recipe.



You might also want to click this handily placed little "like" button for Sandra's Kiwi Cakes Facebook Page, so you will get updates about specials and new products in your FB feed.


So wahoo for my new Party Partner, and yippee for never-fail recipes (when baking endless cupcakes).



27 August 2013

No-Sew Fabric Bunting (that looks like it's sewn)



Just because I'm a non-sewer doesn't mean that I don't admire the beauty of well-made bunting.

I have sat and watched with envy as clever friends sewed perfectly-even triangles of coordinating fabric into glorious swathes of party bunting. 
Gone are the days when lopsided triangles hewn with pinking sheers and stapled to string would suffice for me. These days I crave perfect triangles and straight lines.

I may not be able to sew in a straight line (or have the patience to send hours hemming flags), but I can wield a glue-gun and scissors with some skill. 
So I put my thinking cap on and devised a way to make bunting that eliminates the need for sewing, while still giving me a perfect Fray-free Flag.

This post is for all the non-sewers out there, who like me, want to hang pretty bunting at their parties - without having to pay a seamstress (or enrol in night-school) to do it...

Here's What You Need:



Take your can of spray glue and spray across the width of the white felt or fabric stiffening (vilene). Spread the first piece of fabric onto the spray-glued felt; Press and smooth until it is wrinkle free. (If you want colour on both sides of your flag, spray glue the other side of the felt and press a second colour onto it).
Pin your paper flag template to the fabric.

(here's how to make a flag template in case you have no clue)





Cut out your first flag then flip your paper template over and cut out your second, then your third etc etc, until you have enough flags in this colourway



Flags with fabric spray-glued to both sides of the felt are reversible. The felt acts as a stiffener to stop fraying and allow for crisp clean lines, and a perfect fabric triangle with no sewing. Vilene is see-through and much lighter than felt but has the same effect; I found some patterned Vilene for $1.50 per metre at Geoff's Emporium and teamed it with a polka dot cotton. (Vilene is even better than felt, if you can find some)


When you have cut out enough flags, roll out the white bias binding along your table (rough side up) and position the first flags in an alternating pattern. Apply a thin line of hot glue to the bias binding under the first flag, then quickly press the flag into position. Repeat until all flags are used up. (Remember to allow a generous amount of Bias Binding on each end for hanging your bunting).



Once all the flags are attached, use hot glue to attach bias binding along the top of the flags as shown, to give a neat finish and cover up the exposed rough edge, making your bunting double-sided. Having the bias-binding on BOTH sides of the bunting  makes it look almost as if it has been sewn. Wherever you choose to hang it, it will be beautiful from all angles, back and front.


No one will be able to tell that you used glue and scissors to make such pretty, (all-but-perfect) bunting.




(P.S. Unlike quick and easy paper bunting, this no-sew fabric bunting lasts and lasts, and can be re-used again and again. It takes around the same time to make as paper bunting - but it's so much prettier).

26 August 2013

What am I Grateful for Today?


There is always something to be grateful for, isn't there?
Even on days when it feels like everything is in danger of turning to the worst kind of lumpy custard, still there are some blessings, hidden SOMEWHERE if we take the time to look.

This is the essence of The Grateful Project. It prompts me to stop and look, on the days when it's not so obvious.
Today just might be one of those days. 
I've had a few of those recently, the kind where your heart sinks when your child turns to you ate the dinner table and says, "What are YOU grateful for today mum? and the first thing that pops in your head is: "That today is nearly over."



It's so easy to start on a downward spiral, to slide down the slippery slope of doubt and negativity, isn't it?
Today my medicine was searching for some quotes about gratitude and turning them into these graphics in PicMonkey (Pin them if you like them).

As I was googling "gratitude quotes", I found it curious to come across quotes by people like Friedrich Nietzsche, who talked about gratitude as a trap, a rope that binds, and a weight. (e.g. "There are slavish souls who carry their appreciation for favors done them so far that they strangle themselves with the rope of gratitude.") 
As if being grateful was something negative?!?!
I fear Mr Nietsche and his ilk completely missed the point.
Gratitude frees you. It lifts you. It is good for your soul.

So on this grey day, I am challenging myself to come up with FIVE things I am grateful for. If you're feeling a little but "under it". Wanna join me?




I am grateful for each one of my precious children. I love their humour, their warmth and affection. I love that we grew closer while it was just the four of us. I love their company. Each one of them is a gift and a blessing to my life.




I am grateful for my home. I love it. I am blessed to live in it.



I am grateful for friends. Always and always I am grateful for the beautiful women in my life. Connecting with friends is a wonderful spirit-lifter.

I am grateful for sunshine. It might be grey today but the sun is still there behind the clouds. I am grateful for it's consistency in coming up every morning, without fail. I am grateful that the seasons keep on keeping on, and spring is now mere days away.


I am grateful for Jane, my counsellor. Where would I be without her wisdom?



I did it. FIVE THINGS.

Now it's your turn: What are YOU grateful for today? (Leave a comment, or use the hashtag on Instagram/Twitter and/or link up a blog post in the linky)


Join in with The Grateful Project
Use #thegratefulproject hashtag on Instagram and your "Gratefuls" will show up here automagically...


Use the #thegratefulproject hashtag to join us on instagram (and twitter)... or you can share your gratefuls in the comments section. There's even a button so you can let others know you're joining in...

Grab button for The Grateful Project
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Gratefully Yours,
24 August 2013

Family Movie Night: The Avengers (with DIY Super Heroes)


Each weekend 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).

Our Super-Cool-Fab Review Team...



Our crack team of expert Movie Reviewers are this week reviewing The Avengers.


[IMDB]
Hands up who likes Super Heroes? OK, well I can usually take them or leave them but my kids LOVE them. So when I spotted The Avengers available with a Get Now (GN) symbol while browsing Fatso this week, I thought I'd give it a go.
Since I am not a major comic book fan either I can't give a geeky exposition on how well the characters and villains were depicted, I can only tell you whether this was a decent watch for a family movie night and whether it held  the kids attention without making the grownups cry tears of boredom. All round? Not bad.
Lots of action and drama and fight scenes; plenty of villains trying to take over the world and heroes attempting against the odds to stop them. The usual stuff. But rather classy in its way. My personal fave hero is IronMan (he's rather snarky and has the coolest flying suit), but I also rather liked the Black Widow a.k.a. Scarlett Johannson. There's nothing sleezy or coquettish about her portrayal, in fact this is a very clean movie. The reason it's PG13 (I'm guessing) is because of the invasion of ugly aliens and all the fighting. Any inuendos certainlyOh and in one scene Black Widow is slapped while under interrogation and I reached for the remote... but not to worry, Scarlett taught those Russian nasties a lesson. She is awesome.

There aren't really any surprises, it's pretty slick and formulaic "good vs. evil"... but I have definitely seen worse.

[Source]

Movie Plot Summary: There's a powerful cube called a Tesseract that everyone is trying to get their hands on, including Thor's estranged half brother Loki (the plotter) and his allies, the Universes' ugliest aliens. Thor is trying to stop Loki, and so is SHIELD, who have called in The Avengers to help find the Tesseract before Loki can use it to take over earth. Quite a lot of time is spent establishing who is mad at whom etc. (The beginning is a little hard to follow if you don't speak ScienceGeek or ComicBook, so you just have to hope that if you keep watching it will all come clear...)
The Avengers are a motley crew of rejects a.k.a. superheroes, comprised of IronMan, the Black Widow, Captain America, Hulk and Hawkeye, with help from out-of-towner, Thor. They have to figure out a way of becoming a team, not just a collection of clever individuals if they have a chance of winning... blah blah blah. You know how it goes. Bad guys lose, good guys win in the end. But still, not bad. And makes for a fun theme night.

RATED [PG13] This isn't one for little kids - it's too complicated; primary age kids will love it though.



Here's what our experts have to say about The Avengers.


Dash. B. Cool: "This is a very cool action movie. It's a four star for me."

Dash scores this movie's "coolness" as: 


Foxy Fab: "I liked Captain America and also the Black Widow. The Black Widow is flexible and she's got good aim and Captain America saves people. I liked the fighting scene and the action."

Foxy rates this movie's "fabness" as: 



Super Scrag: "I love it!!! I want to give it ten hearts! I love it because the good guys won. If the bad guys won I would give it two. I like it because it has super heroes."

SuperScrag scores this movie's "super-ness" as: 


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



The Avengers: Super Theme Night Fun

We thought we'd add a bit of extra fun to our movie night by raiding the dressup box and coming up with our own super hero persona.

Let me introduce you to: SuperSoccer (super stinky feet, super strong kick); AquaGirl (can do amazing things with a glass of water); the Amazing SpiderBoy (has "strong webs" and is "really really strong")


And just because the parents have to lead by example we also have Mother Nature (who else?) and Kung Fu Geordie (super skilled at rarking up kids far and wide).

Photo Booth: String up a stripey sheet and snap away
Dinner: Pizza delivered super fast...


What are your favourite family moviesSend me an email or leave me a comment with your suggestions so we can check it out and feature it here.


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 Weekend!
22 August 2013

Oops! Forgot my 5-year Blogiversary...


There I was, so busy juggling broken arms and insect bites that I missed my blogiversary!
FIVE YEARS... can you believe it?
It's hard to believe that when I began (O so very long ago) my three kids were just babies.
Dash was the age Scrag is now - five years old.
Scrag, of course, was a babe in arms. And The Fab, well she was a Feisty Four.
It all began with a party... and there have been many more. I have been able to share them all with you here, and you've been able to take my ideas and make them your own.
It also began with honesty and the sharing of a difficult journey. Five years on that journey has taken some crazy twists and turns... and all along the way I've been documenting it here, sharing it with you all.


I've met a whole bunch of you. Some of you have even stayed in my home. Others are on my "Must Meet" list. Many of you are now dear and real friends.

As time has gone by and I've practised my story-telling on you, I have gained new opportunities and realised some long-held dreams. (For the past few years I've been writing regularly for my favourite NZ Parenting Magazine. What a privilege! This opportunity would never have come about with this blog.)

I hear from many of you, thanking me for sharing my journey, my ideas. These messages are the oil in my creative engine; your feedback makes all the difference.

My favourite email EVER was this one from Lissy in the UK:
"I owe you a massively huge amazing big THANK YOU SO MUCH
....for being your real, creative, out-there, fabulous self and for sharing it all with the world on your brilliant blog.
I did a mega cut-and-paste of your Toy Story party for my big boy's 4th over here in England!!  From INVITES to DECOR to CAKE to GAMES, it was pure imitation, blatant plagarism, and I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for offering up all of your great ideas. Thank you so much.
I have to say that in spite of my HUGE gratitude for the  templates/ ideas/ inspiration, I am most deeply grateful to you for giving me the ***confidence*** to throw my first real-live kids birthday party.  This party was a really big deal for me. I thought about it when I fell asleep and when I woke up for months on end... and really honey, I would not have had the guts to do it without your advice and inspiration. Thank you so much. By being your great self you have made me a bigger, more confident, happier me. So thank you!! Thats all I can say!!!
...I've kept up with your blog a bit over the past few months (as you have been so present to my thoughts during the party planning!) and on several occasions your thoughts and offering of your real self have been very helpful for me.  Thank you xxx
So basically, girl, I owe you, and I'll probably never get to repay you! Hopefully someday i can give you a big hug!"

Isn't that amazing? I literally wept. It totally blew me away that I had really actually helped another mum gain confidence. Just thinking about it now, I get goosebumps.
This is why I do it, girls.  This is what keeps me going and ensures that I never run out of ideas and motivation to keep on blogging.
If my little stories can make a difference and encourage someone else to have a go, well, why wouldn't I?


So here's to the next five years blogging.
I don't plan on going anywhere and I hope you'll stick around too. There's plenty more stories in this old gal.

What do you get out of reading this blog? What are your favourite posts? (Parties? Movie nights? Fun ideas? The personal journey? The photos of my laundry pile?)

P.S. You might have noticed I've been playing around with my blog design *again* (what can I say? It's fun for me!). I've created this new blog button which I think is pretty sweet. Grab it if you want!

Grab button for Greatfun4kids
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21 August 2013

Comfort Food: Fluffy Bread & Butter Pudding


Nothing says "comfort" louder than a bowl full of cinnamon-vanilla custardy bread pudding. Childhood faves are great for re-invigorating sagging spirits, especially when you find a way to make them less stodgey and more light-n-fluffy.

I used to whip myself up a batch of this pudd when I was solitary single and needing a boost. Flatmates would come running from all directions - instant social connection on lonely nights as well being a yummy treat to scoff.
Recently I fancied a bit of comfort food (on my lonesome), so I whipped out my old recipe, reminded myself of the secret to success (soaking) and dished it up for my offspring.

Here's my version of Bread-and-Butter pudding...

INGREDIENTS:
4-5 thick slices of good white bread (e.g. a cobb loaf, past its best)
1/4 cup of sugar
3 eggs
2 cups of lite blue milk
a splash of vanilla essence
a generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon


METHOD:
  • Lay the slices of bread overlapping in the bottom of a rectangular oven dish
  • Beat together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon to make an eggy mixture
  • Pour the eggy mixture evenly over the bread
  • Leave to soak for 14-30 minutes (essential for the Fluffiness Factor)
  • Bake at 180oC for 15-30 minutes (depending on your oven) or until golden and set
(If you do it right it won't be stodgey at all, but will be fluffy and custardy)

[I might have left it in a teensy bit long - distracted by House Rules - still delish tho]

Serve warm with vanilla icecream or whipped cream.
Mmmmm, so comforting, so delicious.
Enjoy.

(P.S. No idea why it's called bread AND BUTTER pudding - there's no butter in it. This recipe is adapted from the ole Kiwi classic "Edmonds Cookery Book". What's your favourite comfort food?)