30 December 2015

Christmas in Hindsight

Christmas is over, and it was a goodie. Better than I'd hoped, better than last year, better than any Christmas for years, in fact.
If you read my earlier post, you'll know my theory: "less is more" and "giving is magic". Both theories held up this year.
We focused on kindness and left room for spontaneous hosting and blessing others.
Like candy cane bombing our local four square Carpark...

14 December 2015

Enjoying Christmas & Finding the REAL Magic

Christmas Chalkboard: Peace on Earth

This is not your usual Christmas post. I am not going to give you another list of things to do - you don't need that. There's an avalanche of crafty ideas on Pinterest, if that's what you're after.
No. This is a from-my-heart-to-yours post about how to REALLY have a magical Christmas and actually enjoy the season.

Isn't that what we all want? At this time of the year, don't we all wish we could recapture the lost wonder and magic of Christmas?

I wanted to write this post for the many, many mums out there who are madly trying to recapture Christmas magic yet are feeling only exhausted, overwhelmed and annoyed at that little Elf they keep having to invent antics for.
This post is for you. I'm here to tell you Christmas doesn't have to be an endless stress-headache.

08 December 2015


Les Miserables - opening scenes with Javert and Jean Val Jean

This weekend just gone, our church staged it's Christmas Production in the Civic Theatre and my daughter Miss Fab was part of it. The production was "Les Miserables" - our own take on Victor Hugo's story of redemption, forgiveness and grace, set in 1800's France, with modern songs and amazing amateur talent.

What an incredible weekend! Over 3300 people came to see the show over two incredible performances. The singing, the acting, the staging - everything. AMAZE.

Hard to believe how far we've come from the days when we ad-libbed last minute skits, to now when months of hard work go into making a performance good enough to grace the Civic Theatre stage. I can remember the old days and see how far we've come because I've been around for donkey's years. I've been part of Equippers Auckland for 25 years - the longest I've ever belonged anywhere.

30 November 2015

A Coming of Age Celebration (Turning 13)

A coming of age celebration: turning 13

A long time ago - so long ago that I can't even remember when it was - I remember hearing Ian Grant (from Parents Inc) talk about the importance of creating "marker points" for our children as they grow.

He remarked that our culture doesn't do this particularly well, we have no Bar Mitzvahs or coming of age ceremonies to mark the point where a child becomes an adult. This leaves teenagers drifting, acting like overgrown children, when in so many other cultures they are seen as young men and women from the age of 13.

24 November 2015

I'm the Mother of a Teenager (Help! Send Wine!)

It's official. I am now the proud owner of my very own teenager. Our eldest son turned 13 yesterday, and I'm a patchwork of emotions: I don't know whether to be nostalgic, proud or completely terrified.

The first thing I feel, as always, is WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?

17 November 2015

Bringing Christmas Joy to Kids in the Philippines

Bringing joy to kids in Manila this Christmas

Christmas is getting an early mention today on my blog - which is something I usually try to avoid, but in this case I'll make an exception.
This year I am excited to be partnering with the amazing team at Children's Garden in Manila to help bring Christmas to kids who usually wouldn't get one.
My part in this venture started back when we were in Manila in August, and I was chatting to the wonderful Sharon (CG director) about ways I could help. Because the kids in Manila got under my skin, bigtime.

Seeing as I do love Christmas (in theory) I asked her how it is celebrated in the Philippines and she told me that each child has a Ninang (godmother) and Ninong (godfather) who gives them gifts on Christmas. I asked, do the kids at CG have a Ninang/Ninong?

No. They have never had one.

13 November 2015

Cheer Up

Cheerleading is an incredible sport

Today I got sent a link to some photos taken of Miss Fab's cheerleading team at their competition last weekend, and as I clicked and saved them, I felt inspired.

I was inspired by the smiles, inspired by the teamwork, inspired by the sheer athleticism of these girls.

Miss Fab has been doing Cheer for nearly two years - and I wasn't always a fan.
The pageant-y makeup, the skimpy outfits, the glitter and bows - it all felt alien to me: un-Kiwi and overly-American.

There are plenty of misconceptions out there in the world about it as well. Many people are under the impression that it's like the Cheer teams on things like High School Musical and Glee: all pompoms and high ponies and backstabbing. But nothing could be further from the truth.

30 October 2015

A Bit of Shameless Self-Promotion - My Etsy Shop

Greatfun Design Etsy Shop - raising funds for Children's Garden orphanage

Childrens Garden in Manila will receive all profits paid by Direct CreditDid you know that I design and sell personalised party invitations on Etsy? No? Well I do, and I thought it was about time I updated you all on some of my new designs - as well as the exciting news that MY ETSY SHOP IS NOW NON-PROFIT.
I have decided to donate 50% of the proceeds from my shop towards the work of the Children's Garden in Manila, after my recent trip there. It's something small I can contribute to this amazing work.
So now when you purchase one of my designs, you're also helping feed and clothe orphans and street kids in the Philippines.

28 October 2015

Confessions of a Lazy Mother - Party Edition

Confessions of a Lazy Mother - the Party Edition

I'm terribly sorry if I have misled you all - that was never my intention. I'm a little worried that some people may be under the mistaken impression that my children lead a charmed life full of whimsical tea parties, theme dinners and picnics; a life full of jolly fun, a magical memory-filled enviable childhood. Because after all, this blog was called (until very recently) "Greatfun4kids". And wasn't it all about having fun with your kids? Wasn't I meant to be some kind of role model for an impromptu fun-filled life?

No, no, no. If you thought that, I'm sorry but you have me pegged all wrong.
While you may have imagined that the person who could pull off a party for no reason at the drop of a hat must be exceedingly energetic and well organised in the domestic department - and while you may have been under the impression that my kitchen always smells like fresh muffins and every dinner is themed - nothing could be further from the truth. I am anything but energetic. I am more often boring than fun. And I only bake when I have to.

20 October 2015

Loving... NOT loving...

Jasmine in Spring

Golly gosh it's been years since I've written a "Things I'm Loving"post. What better way to get back on the blog-horse than with a random collection of life's moments, right?
Because when it's been so long and there are so many stories piled up that you want to write, you have to start with the easy ones, just to get the ole ink flowing.

First up, I'm loving jasmine.
It's everywhere down my street, and when I'm walking past hedges of the stuff, I can grab a bunch and fill my home with the smell of spring. Every time I walk in the front door, it hits me. The sweet sunshiney smell of jasmine.

12 October 2015


Hi. Well, as you know it's been a while.
School holidays, black dog, etc.
I'm just popping in to let you all know I'm still alive and will be back blogging when I've got my head straight.

In other news, I've got a story popping up on Esther and Friends any minute now...
Appropriately, it's "Walking With a Limp." And yep, I sure do.
Limping today, but still walking...

much love
24 September 2015

Mums, We Need to Stick Together (in this cold online world)

I've had this post rumbling around in my gut for a while now, but just lacked the hook to hang it all on. I found my starting point last night when I spotted a post from kiwi mum-blogger Emily Writes in my FaceBook feed. Emily has managed to catch the eye of the mainstream media moguls with her self-deprecating, honest and hilarious blog posts about the realities of parenting. This latest story was a doozie, and I found myself chuckling and shaking my head all the way through. The title itself is fab: "I was a great parent - before I had kids". Mmmhmm. Yep. Weren't we all?
Then I hit the comment section and my stomach literally dropped. Poor Emily!
She must have been so excited to get her blog stories up on a mainstream news website (I know I would have been) and then, whammo, the crazies start in on her. The judgey comments, the meanness, as typified by this one:

21 September 2015

Honey Roasted Pear Salad (the best you've ever eaten)

Honey Roasted pear Salad Recipe

This salad I am about to share with you is hands-down the yummiest salad I've ever eaten. It's better than any I've tried at any restaurant, it's so yummy it makes me want to eat a whole bowlful, all by itself. I am not usually a huge salad fan, to be honest, but this salad? This one has me reaching for seconds.
And I invented it.

It happened one Thursday when I was cooking for my parents' weekly dinner; I'd planned steak with mushrooms, baked potatoes and salad, but when I reached into the fridge the tomatoes had gone soft and squishy. There was, however, a lone pear. And that gave me an idea. I'd heard of pears being used in salads, and I reckoned if I roasted this one, it would taste better.

The rest is salad history, set to the sound-track of much delighted groaning and guests exclaiming, "BEST SALAD WE'VE EVER TASTED".

18 September 2015

Taking Stock (cos I'm all outta blog love)

I need to get the words flowing again, so I'm using that old favourite formula, Taking Stock. I've been really finding it hard to blog - or to want to post online at all, really - since returning from overseas. But I love this blog, and I have no intention of neglecting it for too long, and I have story ideas rattling through my brain and I just need to get started somehow. So this is it. A beginning of sorts...


Making :  the most of days to myself before school holidays start. Oh lovely lovely days where I choose what I do. (But school holidays will be lovely too).
Cooking :  mostly uninspired dinners on repeat -  apart from Honey Roasted Pear Salad, which I have invented and will share with you soon.
Drinking : Six Barrel Soda - from my new favourite supplier of all things lovely, Good Thing. Just a dash of syrup and then chilled soda water. Would be even better if I remembered to freeze some ice cubes.

11 September 2015

Children's Garden in My Heart (Philippines Odyssey)

Manila in my Heart

The first thing you notice about Manila is the heat. You walk out of the air-conditioned airport and wham, there you are in a sauna. Never mind that it's night time - the tropical air has sweat dripping off the end of your nose in minutes.

The next thing you notice is the traffic. There is no other traffic anywhere in the world like Manila traffic. Trust me on this. You think you have traffic where you live? Nope, you don't.

In Manila, you sit in traffic for an hour and lean across to your hubby and ask, are we nearly there? And he points to the Terminal Three building out your window, and says, haha, nope, we haven't left the airport yet.

08 September 2015

On Travel and Life

Time has a funny way of playing tricks on you when you travel. It's almost like the moment you board the plane you enter some weird time machine that contracts time, making it race by ("I can't believe there's only one day left of our holiday!"), while at the same time, it also expands, making it seem like you've been away for weeks, when in fact it's only been days.

Our Asian adventure only lasted ten days - TEN DAYS - but it seemed like at least three weeks. At least.

04 September 2015

Um, hi. I'm back.

Vintage suitcases (we did NOT take these travelling)

Hello, hello.
This is not really a post. It's more like a disclaimer.
I am back in the country, returned from my sojourning and adventuring.
There are a gazillion photos and stories galore, which I will get to. But right now I am so flippin... emotionally exhausted. Worded out. Overwhelmed. (And I have strep throat).
I just can't go there yet.

In brief - the first part was luxury, amaze, everything we hoped it would be (Raffles Hotel in Singapore, the Oriental Express. Unbelievably good). Then we hit the drama-back-home wall, and I fell in the return-of-strep-throat ditch for a day in Bangkok. I almost had to come home.
Somehow we got through that, and I made it to the Philippines where I met some of the most beautiful people on God's earth and sweated an ocean in the heat and humidity. (I have new respect for AirCon, for our deliciously mild Auckland climate and for Filipinos everywhere).

Upon our return I have found myself wishing just to keep a low profile. I don't want to post on Facebook, on Instagram, txt or phone anyone. I owe many wonderful people bottles of duty free perfume and baileys by way of a *thank you* for all the help they gave our kids while we were away, but I am going to wait til next week in the hopes that I may feel less inclined to hide by then.
I might have found my words again.
In the meantime my heart is full, even if my brain is empty and my throat is sore.
The antibiotics have gotta kick in soon, right?

So, hi. I'm back. See you next week when normal transmission should resume once more. I hope.
21 August 2015

Tomorrow I'm going on the trip of a lifetime

Eastern & Oriental Express

This is one of those posts that is not intended to make you jealous, but it might.
See, tomorrow, I am leaving behind the humdrum everyday world and going on the trip of a lifetime with my handsome hubby. We'll be traveling through Asia on the Eastern and Oriental Express. (That's a train, by the way - and it's meant to be one of the world's most romantic rail trips. It's hubby's work trip; part business for him, all pleasure and relaxing for me.)

If I'd ever thought it might be humanly possible, I would have included the Orient Express on my bucket list (it's a very bucket-listy thing to do), but the idea simply never occurred to me. I never could have dreamed I would get to travel by luxury train through Asia, see the historical bridge on the River Kwai among other amazing sights, and stay in fabulous colonial hotels at either end. Who'd have thought? Not me.

18 August 2015

Girls Weekend in Wellington

Girls weekend in wellington

I'm an Auckland girl through and through, but I have to take my hat off to Wellington - the Windy City really did show us a good time this weekend.

Six of us "girls" (three mums, three cheerleading daughters) packed our bags and took off in a rainstorm, with a bit of trepidation (i.e. "if the weather's this bad in Auckland, how will we ever land in Wellington???") heading for the National cheerleading competition in our nation's capital.

Imagine our surprise when we touched down and - no wind. No rain. Eek, is that the sun??? Imagine!

13 August 2015

It's My Blog's Seventh Birthday (Let's Party)

It's hard to believe that I've been writing this blog for seven years. (Actually I thought it was my 8th anniversary, but then I counted back, and it's only seven.) But still - seven years blogging! that's like 45 in blog-years. I'm like a blog-granny or a fairy blog-mother.
What started out as a little exercise in party idea-sharing has turned into a place for me to share my life-journey, with all the fun of the circus, and all the stomach-dropping ups and downs of a rollercoaster.
> > Where/how this blog began
Today to celebrate my blog-birthday I'm sharing with you my favourite parties, in case you've missed any. I've made the pictures clickable, so if you want to check out a party from days-gone-by just click on the picture and it'll take you to the post.

Read on for a GIVEAWAY to celebrate my seven-year blogiversary...

07 August 2015

Easy Gluten-Free Scones (that aren't like bricks at all)

Soft and Fluffy Gluten Free Scones

I am excited to share this recipe with you today - gluten free scones that are soft, fluffy, delicious and completely un-bricklike!

I've attempted a gluten-free version of my regular scone recipe before and they were VERY brick-like. Hard, crumbly, ugh. I had given up on ever being able to serve up scones that were gluten-free AND edible.

So yesterday when I invited my mum and dad over for afternoon-tea scones-with-cream-n-jam (and then remembered that they can't have gluten!) I turned to my friend and ally, Google....

04 August 2015

Dyslexic Brains are Good Brains Too

dyslexic brains are good brains too

Hi, I'm Simone and I'm dyslexic. Did you know that about me?
Just typing the word, "dyslexic" it came out "dysexlic" the first time I wrote it.
But writing things backwards is not what makes me dyslexic. In fact, that was just a typo that may or may not have anything to do with my dyslexia.
Being dyslexic is very different to what most people think, if they think about it at all. Most people's understanding of dyslexia is typified by this joke (that I thought was really funny when when I first heard it, before I knew I was dyslexic)...

Hey did you hear the one about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac? 
He stayed up all night wondering if Dog really exists.
Yeah. Ha. Ha.

Most people (including teachers) think that dyslexia is struggling with reading, writing and spelling. Full stop.
Unfortunately for people who are dyslexic, they are only touching on a fraction of the issue.
In fact, they are missing the point altogether.

31 July 2015

Mum DIY: My Quirky Toilet Makeover

My Quirky Toilet Makeover

Like it or not, we humans spend a lot of time in the smallest room in the house a.k.a. the toilet, the loo, the john, the W.C., the can. But this room is usually boring, bland and functional at best.
Even without the dribbles on the seat and puddles on the floor left by lads who need to go to Aim-Your-Weapon School, the loo is usually a pretty uninspiring place to be.

I had a cunning plan to change all that, at my house. What I needed was a window of uninterrupted DIY time. It's my Mum DIY philosophy that "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission".
Some ideas are just too hard to explain to the people you share a house with. They will probably not agree that your vision to wallpaper your toilet walls with pages torn from 1950's school annuals is a good idea. They may not be visionary enough. So you need to show them rather than tell them...

29 July 2015

La Café de Paris Party - c'est magnifique!

La cafe de paris Party

The day finally arrived - Sunday was Miss Fab's Paris Party at long last, after months of planning and preparation. The cakes were baked, the croissants and macarons purchased. The bunting was hung, and so were all the other homemade decorations: the Patisseries canopy, the Paris street scene sketch, the blackboard menus etc. Ooh la la, but it was all looking très magnifique!
This was a party that looked absolutely gorgeous (if I do say so myself), but the true test of a party is not whether the photos get repinned a gazillion times - it's whether the guests and the birthday girl have a fab time. By which standard this was (and I quote the birthday girl): THE BEST PARTY EVER. Which is saying a lot.

Here's some scenes of party gorgeousness:

22 July 2015

*Ooh La La* Paris Party Prep & Printables

Paris Party Prep and Printables

My beautiful girl turns 11 in less than a week, and to celebrate we are going to Paris. Well, not literally. We are pretending to go to Paris by holding an "Afternoon in Paris" party.
I'm turning my dining room into a café, we'll be speaking french and wearing berets, eating croissants, macarons and taking photos in front of the (blackboard-drawn) Eiffel Tower.

C'est Magnifique!

The inspiration for the party theme came from Miss Fab's styley black-and-white bedroom makeover. Somehow it put us in mind of Paris chic, and since I LOVE all things Paris and topped my high school french class, I was ecstatic when she said: We should do a Paris party for my birthday!

Ooh là là, mais oui! Bien sûr!

18 July 2015

Nights of Fire and Marshmallows

Cooking over the fire and toasting marshmallows

One of my favourite things in the world is what we call "Fire Nights".
Basically, when the evening is fine - be it winter or summer - we light the brazier and cook our dinner over the flames. Sausages or chicken skewers, either will do.

Sometimes we have fire nights "just us". Sometimes we have friends over.
We snuggle under blankets on chairs pulled up as close as safety allows to the warm fireglow. 
We toast marshmallows, tell stories and play games like Truth or Dare or our fave: Circles and Triangles*.

Fire nights are the best. Nobody needs to be entertained, it's nothing complicated or fancy. We just hang out around the fire, under the lights. (Of course we may snap a pic or two, as evidence of fun times, for posterity, but otherwise gadgets are superfluous).

The last couple of weeks, I've been sole-parenting, with hubby galavanting in Europe (as you do). And of course, during his absence it's also been SCHOOL HOLIDAYS (best-of-times/worst-of-times).
But a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do, and sometimes you just need a Fire Night, even if there's no dad around to chop wood.

08 July 2015

We Made a Jungle

Jungle theme decor with pallet bridges

I just wanted to share with you these photos of the Jungle me and my clever friend Carla created in the foyer of the Mercury Theatre for Shout Kids school holiday programme this week. We sewed acres of vines, cut out thousands of felt leaves, sewed a four-metre giant snake, a gazillion cushions, made a waterfall from cheap taffeta and tarps and a rock wall from brown paper.
But the pièce de résistance had to be the AMAZEBALLS pallet bridges that Carla's amazing hubby made from pallets, from the dump.

Together with an army of Bible college student volunteers we pulled an all-nighter on Sunday and transformed a boring foyer into a magical jungle. All the months of planning and sewing and gluing and cutting came together and, just WOW.

02 July 2015

My Two Cents on the "Christian" Response to Gay Marriage

Love vs Hate

I had to write this post even though I know every man and his dog has already had their say on Social Media. In fact, that's exactly why I have to write this. Heck, America is not even my country but the stories have been clogging my Facebook feed all week, and the comments on those stories - the awful ugly comments - have literally made me sick. Actually vomitous. Like, I am lying awake at night feeling very upset.

So America has legalised gay marriage and the sky has started falling. No? OK, the end is near, fire is on it's way from Heaven, God is very upset and so is every Christian pastor who is worried he might be forced to marry gay people.... Come on!
Oh my goodness, the backlash! Is it true what my friend told me that a Texas pastor actually threatened to set himself on fire if the law was passed?
People! What the heck??!!!

My country, little ole New Zealand, legalised gay marriage back in 2013, and guess what? The sky didn't fall. The end didn't come, there was NO FIRE FROM HEAVEN to destroy us all.

Also, I've not heard of one Christian pastor who has been forced against his will to marry a gay couple.
Even stranger, the teachers at my kids' school who are gay didn't suddenly start forcing their gayness on their students. My kids are completely oblivious to the fact that some of their teachers are gay. Because guess what? The teachers are there to teach, and that's what they do. Their personal lives do not come into it. It's none of our business.

Why do I feel like I have to write a response to the outpourings of hate and judgement I have seen in my Facebook feed? Because I want to make it very clear to the people I know and love who are gay (and my straight friends who have gay people that they love) that the haters do not represent me.


01 July 2015

How I Turned my Reluctant Readers into Book Lovers

Turning Reluctant Readers into Book Lovers

Hi, my name is a Mrs Readalot and I'm a bookaholic. I gave birth to three energetic offspring who rarely sat still long enough to pick up a book. Not one of them showed any librarian tendencies. All of them were Reluctant Readers. It fair broke my heart, I tell you.
I've known since my youngest days the magic of books.
Books contain worlds. They expand our horizons. They let us inside other people's heads. Reading fiction even helps develop empathy (and combats narcissism).
"A recent study found that reading fiction helps people improve their empathy, because it encourages them to place themselves in others’ lives and understand their actions. In that way, reading is like traveling — with your mind." (Source)

For all these reasons and more I was desperate for my children to love books, I wanted them to enjoy rainy evenings snuggled in bed with a good book, nodding off to sleep as the rain pitterpatters on the roof and the book grows heavy in their hands, their eyelids droop and they slip into dreamland...

29 June 2015

Ninja Turtle Party - How to Make and Do it All

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Party How To's

It was about time that I finally posted the tutorial for our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Party (seeing as it was nearly three months ago now). In this post I'll show you how to do all the cool-but-simple things that made our party so cute-and-fun. Like the Ninja Turtle Piñata, the cute Ninja lollipops, felt masks, the brick-stenciled table cover, that Turtle Face Fruit Platter - and of course the CAKE.
It's all here in this post.
Here it is, as simple as I can make it - How to throw a super Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Party...

24 June 2015

Kids' Sport the Way it Should Be

Kids Sport is all about having FUN and working as a TEAM

We've all seen those stories on the news: over-competitive parents overstepping the sideline and attacking the Ref, the opposition, each other.
These days there are signs up all over the place on Saturday mornings reminding us all that: "This is not a World Cup match, this is a kids' game of soccer/rugby/netball".
Some of us get a bit excited and forget that fact, apparently.

17 June 2015

To Kill A Mockingjay Cake (and other cake fails)

To Kill a Mockingjay Cake

There have been many cake fails in my birthday party history, but none quite as spectacular as the time I nearly killed the Mockingjay Cake.

Ironically I photographed every step, because this was meant to be a tutorial post on how to create a marvelous flaming Mockingjay Cake for your epic Hunger Games party, sponsored by my lovely party partner, Sandra at Kiwi Cakes. Sandra had sent me all the gear - the black pre-coloured fondant, the clever little fondant cutter, the edible gold dust - so really I had no excuse. OK so I was still making do with my $2 shop piping kit, but I HAD A PLAN and it was a good one.

The first few steps went so smoothly that I was literally clapping my hands with glee...

16 June 2015

Grateful for Grandparents and Great Sausages

Sausage sizzle fundraiser

This is the post I intended to write on the day I lost my camera cord and all the fun that followed. It was meant to be a simple sharing of pictures from my son's weekend's fundraising efforts, aided and organised by my amazing husband and sponsored by the awesome blokes at Westmere Butchery (best sausages in Auckland - and maybe the world).

12 June 2015

The Upside of Imperfection

The Upside of Imperfection

I don't know where we ever got the idea that perfection was a possibility, but every second mother I talk to beats herself up on a regular basis for not being perfect.
We agonise over whether our lack of consistency is going to result in life-destroying character flaws; we lie awake at night worrying if our growling and nagging and shouting is wreaking havoc on our children's fragile psyches; we compare ourselves to every other mum out there who we imagine has it all together... When the reality is that we don't. Not a one. None of us do.
We are flawed and imperfect, every one.
Because we are Human. That's just how we are: none of us perfect.

I myself am far from perfect, and to try and pretend otherwise would just be silly.
Maintaining a pretense of perfection fools nobody.
There's something very freeing about admitting you fail, acknowledging your weaknesses and mess-ups and letting others see you are human.

09 June 2015

Getting the Black Dog Under Control (beating depression)

Getting the black Dog under control

Last week I wrote a post on a subject I haven't broached in a while as I found myself pursued by my old Nemesis, the Black Dog. After a nice long spell free from it's hounding, it was something of a shock to feel those old feelings again. But after years of dealing with that mutt's harassment, I was in a much better place than I once was to get it back under control again.

I'm talking about Depression, if you haven't figured it out. It dogged me for years (ha, see what I did there?).

In recent times I've been symptom-free, partly helped by anti-depressants, which deal with the chemical side, and partly helped by regular visits to my awesome counselor, Jane - or as I prefer to think of her, my life coach. With this two-pronged plan I've been making steady progress at dealing with stuff, getting stronger, finding my voice - and the Black Dog was nowhere to be seen.

But I knew it was still lurking in the background somewhere, waiting for it's opportunity to pounce. It was tied up, sure, and under control, but I was under no illusions that I was done with that Mutt for good. It's a vulnerability I have, like a dodgy knee that plays up in cold weather. If I don't stay vigilant, if I let things get on top of me, if pressure starts to build and I'm not careful, then look out - the Black Dog will slip his chain and start roaming free again.

(It helps me to personify the Depression as a Black Dog, prowling. It may seem odd to you, but it works for me).

Over the many (many) years I've spent dealing with the black dog, I've learnt a few things. I'm not the quivering mess I once was, in the face of the Mutt. I know I can beat it and I'm not afraid of it's bite anymore because I know how to act quickly and get it under control before things get out of hand. At the first sign of it's loathsome growl, I am on alert and the call goes out:

We have a situation: The Mutt is free, he's off his chain. Beware! Alert all systems. Move to DEFCON 4. 

02 June 2015

Today it's all Too Much

It's been a long long time since I've felt this way. Today, for whatever reason, I have hit the wall and I don't really know why. For months and months - maybe more than a year - the Black Dog has been safely tied up. He hasn't been barking or snapping at my heels or raising his ugly black head.
But today, all of a sudden, there he is. Ugh. I hate that mutt.

What is this feeling of overwhelm? Where has this desire to climb back into my bed and pull the covers up over my head come from?

It's been building all weekend. I've been snappy, snarly and a right grumpy git, to be honest.
But I've been holding it together. Until just now when I went to plug in my camera to upload some photos from the weekend and SH*T, some bugger has taken my camera cord and stuck it who-knows-where.

In that instant all of the little things that have been building up like a weight of snow on my emotional roof suddenly become too much. In the blink of an eye, here comes the whole lot of it crashing through and landing on me like a cold wet blanket.

Suddenly everything is too much.

29 May 2015

At My House: Things I'm Loving and Doing

Sometimes I have so many ideas for blog posts running through my head that I end up writing nothing at all.
Today I'm going to just let the pictures do most of the talking and show you what I've been up to round my place lately.

See that picture above? It's my mantelpiece, which is sporting a new pair of dipped cast-iron candlesticks found at SaveMart for $5.99 the pair. Brightening up the room with a bit of seasonal cut beauty, are some crabapple branches. I think they look amazing. Who needs flowers when you have branches?

25 May 2015

Cooking Together is Very Entertaining

Cooking Together and Entertaining

It's an idea we'd thought of before, cooking together. One Christmas I even bought the husband "Jamie's 30-Minute Meals". It was always something we thought we might enjoy, but not something we ever got round to.
Until my ever-practical counselor suggested it as a way for us to connect more.
See, in the ever-crazy busy-ness of life we were too often passing each other like ships in the night, our opposite personalities, different ways of relaxing and seldom-intersecting schedules meaning that too often we would only talk deeply when the crap hit the fan. Anyone else know what I'm talking about?
What the engine of our marriage needed was some regular interaction, a shared activity that would bring us together to just hang out on regular basis. Something do-able. Something that wouldn't end up in the too-hard basket. And something we would both enjoy.

Like cooking together.

Spanish Tapas Feast
[Tapas is all about little bites - this is lamb balls, marinated anchovies with tomatoes and olives with dips]

When I ran the idea past the husband he was all for it. Like I said, it's something we've wanted to try for ages but never got around to it.
The husband is pretty useful in the kitchen, with a number of go-to recipes he can whip up when needed, but he was keen to expand his repertoire.
Meanwhile, I was bored to tears with churning out the same tried-and-true dinners on rotation. Sure they were easy, but it would be cool to try new stuff and expand the pool of quick and easy meal options I could call on.

Potato "tortilla" with fennel seeds and Rosemary
[What Jamie calls a Potato "tortilla" - it's really like a frittata - pan-fried potato cubes with fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic and egg]

And in the past whenever hubby and I managed to work together on a project, we've found it very rewarding, so this was a win-win proposition, in theory. Now it just had to be DONE.

The first week I scoured Jamie's 30-Minute Meals book looking for something that would be fun to cook, not tooooo challenging and something the kids would eat (two out of three of our bunch are super-fussy, and very nervous about trying anything new).

Cured meats and cheese platter - Tapas Feast
[Sticky Glazed chorizo with the cured meats and cheese platter]

The best option looked like Jamie's Tapas Feast, mixed and matched with a few substitutes from other meals that looked simple enough. Yummy - and hopefully fun to create.
  • Cured meats & cheese platter drizzled with honey and ground coffee (!!!)
  • DIY anchovy skewers with cherry tomatoes, lemon and thyme
  • Sticky chorizo sausage and ciabatta bread
  • a Potato "tortilla" with fennel seeds and rosemary
  • roasted peppers with Brie
  • Minted Lamb balls
  • Dips and Spanish olives
  • rocket with herbs
  • Sliced oranges in chilled sparkling water and Sangria to drink
I figured we should be brave and invite some guests to join us. Saturday night was the appointed time. The ingredients were bought, the brave guests confirmed.
Meanwhile, I was having trouble pinning down my cooking partner as he rushed from one appointment to another, a fifty K cycle to the gym. The husband never sits still (unlike his couch-potato wife, moi).

The conversation would go like this:
Me (waving Jamie's book): "Babe have you got a sec to go through these recipes with me so we know what we need to do on Saturday?"
Him (rushing out the door wearing lycra): "yeah, yeah, I'll get to it, I trust you, just whatever...."

Jar Candles on the table
[I wound jute twine around the necks of jars to give a rustic feel]

Saturday dawned, another crazy day of sport and taxiing kids. Come 4pm, we still had not sat down to discuss our menu plans. I began setting the table, rigging up candles in jars, setting the atmosphere.
Where was my cooking buddy? He ended up racing out to get some drinks and the olives I'd forgotten, so I ended up glazing chorizo and roasting fennel seeds alone.

He came back just in to light the candles and save my hanging jar display from falling on our guests' heads. I cooked alone.
The meal was superb, the guests AND kids enjoyed it immensely but I cooked it alone.

Our guests at the Spanish Tapas Feast
[Our friends Gail & Mark came with their kids - who loudly enjoyed the the Tapas feast]

But don't worry I wasn't going to let my cooking partner off that easily. We teased him and got smart about me doing it all alone, and he tried to plead his case ("But you did it so well! This is amazing! you're so good at it!"). Not the point buddy! We're doing this TOGETHER. And there's always next week...

I was not put off. We were going to DO this. TOGETHER. And to make sure I got complete buy-in I asked him to tell me what HE wanted to have a go cooking next time.

Toad-in-the-Hole, he said. That classic English pub dinner of sausages baked in batter.
Righto, you're on, pal.

I searched online and found Jamie's Toad-in-the-Hole recipe. We booked in another round of brave guests to experiment on (it's always more fun with others to share the culinary adventure) and through the week I kept reminding my cooking pal that THIS TIME WE'RE DOING IT TOGETHER.

This time, he did not shirk...

Husband helps in the kitchen

He sprinkled cinnamon, pinched pastry and whisked eggs. He zested oranges and wrangled sausages into hot oil. (He DID question Jamie's wisdom about having a whole CENTIMETRE of vegetable to cook the batter in, but I assured him Jamie knew best).

Traditional English Toad in the Hole
[Traditional English Toad in the Hole]

Our Toad-in-the-Hole turned out perfectly. Two roasting trays filled with the best Westmere Butchery beef-and-Guinness sausages and melt-in-your mouth Yorkshire pudding batter, delicately flavoured with rosemary. Mmmmmhmmmmm.

Brave guests sample classic English pub fare
[Our brave friends Carla and Bonnar seemed to enjoy their classic English pub fare, as created by us]

We served this English classic to our guests and our kids, with onion gravy, mashed potatoes and peas (your choice of mushy or non-mushy). Classic English pub fare, proudly created by me and my hubby working TOGETHER to feed two hungry families on a wet and wild Saturday night.

Toad in the Hole with onion Gravy, mashed potatoes & peas

For dessert we made Jamie's "Quick Portuguese Tarts" (cinnamon infused pastry shells, filled with zesty custard and topped with homemade caramel). So delish!

Portuguese Tarts - custard in cinnamon pastry with caramel

It was better than any restaurant. The kids came, ate and then went off to play, while we got to hang out with our (very appreciative) friends, feeling proud that we did it. Together. There was no teasing the husband for leaving it all up to me this time!

I really think we are going to keep doing this on a Saturday night. It means one less night eating takeaways. It means we plan ahead and invite friends to join us, which results in us being more social; our kids get to hang with their friends and so do we. And best of all - we are having fun and connecting while working on creating something together.

Next week we're cooking Italian, and attempting a Tiramisu, among other things. Another family of brave food-testers will be joining us. Can't wait.