26 March 2015

Once Were Bloggers

If this post were a song from the sixties, it might go,
"Where have all the Bloggers gone... gone to Instagram every one..."
Ha ha. It's true though. So many bloggers I "know" have stopped blogging for one reason or another, but where I thought I'd lost them forever when they abandoned shop, I found that they were alive and kicking it over on Instagram.

On Friday night when we were up in Whangarei for our Cake Escape, we finished off a great day with a "Bloggers Dinner" at a Middle Eastern restaurant (with complimentary Belly Dancer, he he).

At one point someone asked the question, "Hey who here is still actually blogging?".
Giggling, silence, a couple of hands raised.

Then the comments started. "Haha I haven't blogged in forever..." "I gave it up, Instagram is so much easier..." "Yeah people talk to you on Instagram..." "When I was blogging I would get comments from the same four faithful people..."

The funny thing is that these girls - who Once Were Bloggers - had formed such tight connections while blogging that even though most of them had abandoned their blogs long ago, they still see each other as a group. And all you have to say is "Bloggy dinner"! and they're there.

That's one of the things I love most about Blogging - the connections I've made. The real, hearty, online friendships. I have to admit that I MISS SO MANY OF YOU who have stopped blogging.

I understand that blogging is not for everyone. Sometimes you do it for a season. Sometimes you dip your toe in the water, write a few posts, and decide it's not for you after all. Sometimes life and circumstances, new jobs, family drama and general busyness all conspire to put blogging in the too-hard basket.

It becomes just One More Thing on the endless to-do list, and something's gotta give.

I know. I get it. But I still Miss you, my once-were-blog-friends.

I miss Widge, Mon, Rebecca, Weza, Anya, FaerySarah. Gail and Penny I get to see in real life, but I still miss your blog posts. Jackie, Tania, Lyns, Neetz, Rachel, Emma, Vix - some have officially stopped, others just have tumbleweeds rolling through their blogs.

If I look on my blog list at so many of my blog faves it reads: "Last update 1 year ago..." "...4 months ago..." "8 months ago..."

I live in hope that some of my faves will pick it up again once life calms down and I console myself with the fact that I can still connect with my faves on Instagram. Yay for Instagram with it's quick and easy pictorial awesomeness - but it's not really the same.

There's something about a blog. It's a glimpse into someone's world in a way that IG just can't compete with. It's the difference between a snack and a meal.

Bloggers are good peeps. I've never met a blogger (whose blog I love) that I didn't love in Real Life.
I'm glad there are still enough of us old-timers still hangin' on in Blogland.
PaisleyJade, Deb, Miriam, Meghan and Sammy are still here... and a bunch of newbies are churning out posts like there's no tomorrow. (I hope they can keep up the pace).

Whatever happens, I plan on being here for a while yet.
I love blogging, and bloggers and writing stories and having this little window on my world, which I hope you, my lovely readers, find an encouraging place to be.
I hope you'll stick around too.


PHOTOS THIS POST: From our "Bloggers" dinner on Friday night, where I got to meet one of my all-time faves Neetz in real life. Oh man, she is so awesome! Everyone who knows her told me how lovely she is, but meeting her was even better than I'd imagined. Wish she lived next door; she's a beautiful soul. And so FUNNY! 

Now to the Belly Dancer - he he. That was so AWKWARD! We all didn't know where to look, but her brassiere was impressive - aye Jackie?? (Nothing moved, even with all the shimmying and shaking). 

And then I completely embarrassed myself when I blanked on the name of my blog-friend Tracy, at whose home we Auckland gals had spent the entire afternoon. Someone said "Tracy blah blah blah..." and I had a blank moment where the name rang NO BELLS and I blurted out, "Who's Tracy?"
Oh man. Duh. Sorry Tracy, erm, Janice, uh, Margaret... Lucy?
Yeah, sometimes my brain just blanks and the result is a bit embarrassing. Anyone else ever blank out like that?

Are you a Once-Were-Blogger? What made you stop? Are you a long-time blogger? What keeps you going?
23 March 2015

The Cake Escape - with Bloggers & KiwiCakes

A few months ago I got cupcake envy, when I saw one of my friends posting pics on Instagram of her rosette cupcakes, which she declared "easy". For all my love of parties I am very much an amateur cake decorator, making do with frosting squirters and tips from the $2 Shop and trying to be as clever as I can with my limited skills.

But after seeing those "easy" rosettes on my friend's IG feed, I felt inspired to up my game. I wanted to be able to make rosette cupcakes too, dammit! And I knew just the lady to help me.

So I emailed my lovely Party Partner, Sandra from KiwiCakes in Whangarei, and said, hey I need to learn how to do this stuff better, could I come to a workshop - or would you be interested in hosting a workshop for me and some other bloggers? Sandra was keen, gave me a date, I started a Facebook thread for those I thought might be keen, and the The Great Cake Escape was born.

[Our Intrepid cupcake decorators. L-R: Tracy, Lisa Jackie LisaKristy and me]
We ended up with a group of six bloggers - three of us who made the trek in my people mover from Auckland, and three blog pals from Whangarei.

All of us were amateurs and cupcake novices, keen to absorb as much as we could from our very clever cake guru who assured us that we would be able to create cool cupcakes by the end of the day (some of us were not so sure - just look at Jackie's face!)

We brought with us a batch of "nude" cupcakes (some of them sunburnt, hehe Lisa!), and spent the afternoon learning a whole lot of cake decorating skills. Man it was fun! My idea of awesome, hanging out with lovely blog-pals while creating edible works of art...

Here's a few of my humble creations:

I was by no means a natural. in fact I am pretty kack-handed, holding the piping bag wrong and wasting loads of buttercream while trying to perfect my rosettes. I will have to keep practising I think!

[The Paris-themed cupcakes are practise for Miss fab's next Party = Paris; the brick wall is an idea for our TMNT Party coming up]
Sandra was awesome - she put us at ease and gave us her best tips and tricks. Turns out the $2 Shop gear I've been using just doesn't cut it. If I want to do awesome cakes I need the right gear. So I got Sandra to put together an Essentials pack for me, so I could take what I've learned and do it at home.

A few things I learnt:

Piping bags - use disposable ones. You can make perfect two-toned frosting by putting two separate colours inside two separate small piping bags and then putting them both inside a large one... and out will come two-toned buttercream frosting.
Crisco - this is the secret ingredient to having buttercream that (a) holds it's shape and (b) is nice and white. Where your recipe calls for butter, use half Crisco.
Tylo Powder - When you're making fondant shapes and toppers for cupcakes, work a little Tylo powder into your fondant and it will harden nicely to give nice non-floppy cut-outs and molds that hold their shape and stand up stiff.
Cornflour: Dust your fondant with cornflour before pressing it into molds so it pops out nice and easy
Equipment: Use the proper equipment to get a proper result. No more $2 Shop gear, if I invest in the basics the job will be so much easier and the result, so much better...

  1. Large Coupler for fixing tips to piping bags
  2. Closed Tip for piping swirls (start on the outside and work your way in)
  3. Open tip for piping rosettes (start on the inside and work your way out)
  4. Squiggle tip for piping grass, fur etc
  5. Standard Coupler
  6. Edible Glue for fixing on decorations 
  7. Tylo powder for hardening fondant decorations (work a small amount into a lump of fondant before using
The two-toned frosting applied (by Sandra) using different tips:

[Top left: closed tip; top right open tip for making a rosette]
And here's the awesome squiggle tip which makes such cute "grass" (of course we use gel colours not the liquid supermarket ones - but you already know THAT aye?)...

[Me and Sandra - finally got to meet in person after years of party partnering]
We can't thank Sandra enough for giving up a whole afternoon to patiently teach us novices! I know one thing - my cupcakes will never be the same.

20 March 2015

Weekend Rewind: Linking up with Maxabella & Co Right Here!

Yay, Friday, my favourite day of the week. This Friday is even more awesome than usual because (among other things) tonight I'm a guest host on Maxabella Loves' most excellent linky Weekend Rewind!

Weekend Rewind is one of the very few linkies that seem to be still alive and kicking these days (and the only one I still link up with), so when my favourite blogger and fellow-party-nut Maxabella emailed, inviting me to be a guest host, I was like, I am there.

Actually, thing is, at the moment I am not actually there (or should I say here?)
I'm having to let auto-post do its magic because right now as you read this I am actually up North in Whangarei, eating dinner with some fellow bloggers, after spending all day learning how to decorate cupcakes FANCY (at a workshop with my lovely party partner, Sandra, from KiwiCakes). Just one more reason this Friday is even awesomer than usual.

I'll tell you all about our adventure next week - and I promise pictures, lots of pictures. I am REALLY looking forward to learning how to do those fancy icing techniques - I do my best but I'm no pro. And I really want to know how to do those roses!
I'm also very excited to get to hang out with a bunch of lovely blog pals and I'll FINALLY get to meet my blog-friend Neetz in person. I bet there will be some hugging.

[Cross Country is a very serious race, obviously]

In the meantime, I've got pictures from today's fun episode of The School Cross Country. This event has always (in the past) provided ample blog-fodder. There have been stories about running while injured, coming in first (and second) place unexpectedly, and stories about what you do when you fall down (um, you get up and keep running, in theory).

[See? Serious.]

But this year? Well it was a bit of a story washout.
Miss Fab (Ten Year Old Girls) made a pact with her pals to jog round the route and try their best to avoid getting a place and therefore having to run again at InterSchool Champs (last year's torture).
So no drama there.

[One of the youngest in the group, sure, but still one of the tallest]

Meanwhile Scrag (who is still six) had to run with the Seven Year Old Boys, and while meeting with no disaster, and finishing a respectable 15th out of 50, was also unhelpful anecdotally.

So I'll just leave you with the pictures, and a round up of my latest posts and an admonishment to drag out you best post of the week and come link up on the awesome linky as soon as it opens (just scroll past the pictures of the little children running...)

IF YOU'RE VISITING FROM THE LINKY (Hello! and Welcome!): You can find out more about me on my About Me Page OR you might wanna go straight for the good stuff...
  • Parties: All my ideas and tips (including Parties for No Reason and Theme Dinners)
  • Printables: All my free party printables in one place. How convenient!
  • Recipes: For people who like things simple, easy and delicious
  • Blog Tips: Tips and freebies for beginners, code-phobes and bloggers of all kinds
  • Parenting: Confessions of a lazy mother and other gems...
  • The Power of One (plus One plus One): My thoughts on the XFactor NZ bullying debacle. Obviously everyone was fed up hearing/talking about it by the time I posted; the comments didn't exactly flood in!
  • Ninja Turtle Party Printables: I shared the Free Printables I've designed for Scrag's upcoming TMNT party. No-one ever comments on those posts. It's OK. I'm used to it. (It would probably help if my comment system was mobile friendly, but there ya go)
And if you haven't met Maxabella yet, you should. Go there right now and say hi from me, OK?
While you're at it the other Linky co-hosts are also pretty Awesome: Life Love & Hiccups (looks like my kind of blogger); Sonia Styling (if style is your thing) and Kelly Exeter (has written a book about living Life Less Frantic).


(***WARNING: I am a bit crap at figuring out time zones and/or following instructions, so it's highly likely that this post will go up before the linky opens. Don't worry, just roll your eyes at my daftness and check back in an hour or two...)
19 March 2015

Ninja Turtle/TMNT Party FREE Printables

The next party round these parts is Scrag's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bash. It took me a while to convince him to have something other than ANOTHER Star Wars Party (really? How many Star Wars Parties do we need to have, Scrag??!) But after he watched latest TMNT movie, it was decided: Turtles it is. Phew! (the blogger in me was relieved; I've already shared with you all my best Star Wars tricks).

We'll be going to Uptown Bounce in Grey Lynn (an awesome new indoor trampoline place that is very handy to where we live) and having a few other games and TMNT themed party food back at home - our favourite combo of going out AND having an at-home party.

In an effort to make my party posts a little shorter, this time I'm gonna share with you the printables I've designed BEFORE the actual event.

I'm pretty pleased with them, and I hope you likey them too. Of course, you don't have to be having a full-on birthday party to use these - you could always do a bit of a theme dinner/movie night Just Because. Anyhoo, here they are - my slimy sewer-worthy designs, for you. For Free.
(You're welcome).

Printable Water Bottle Labels: "Filtered NYC Sewer Water"

These labels are set up four-to-a-page, ready to print. The design features slimy brickwork background with a Sewer Lid front and centre.

We'll be taking our water-bottles to Uptown Bounce, where our young ninjas will be sure to get hot, sweaty and THIRSTY with all that bouncing around. A bottle of New York's finest Filtered Sewer Water is sure to come in handy...

TO USE: Right click on the image below and save to your computer. Print out in colour (page size = A4; 210x297mm) and then trim and attach to water bottles (with their labels removed) using a glue stick. Voila! Bottles of Filtered Sewer Water!

Mason Jar "Sewer Sludge" Printable Lid-toppers
I decided to serve the drinks in these cute Mason Jar mugs I got from Kmart a while back (for $2 each); we'll be serving that delicious sugar-free green tea Apple Punch (also known as Yoda Soda, but which for our purposes will be re-branded as "Sewer Sludge").

To make the mason jars look less whimsical and more sewer-friendly, I've created a sewer lid-topper printable, which I'm pretty pleased with... 

TO USE: After Printing the Sewer Sludge labels (which are sized to fit perfectly on the Kmart jar lids), cut out each label neatly.

Make a cross ("X") in the centre of the white straw-hole circle.
Stick label in place on lid using a glue stick (don't worry they'll peel off easily later).

Finally poke a green straw through as shown and Voila! Cute mugs of green sewer sludge to drink.

Mmmm yummy.

PRINTING: Right-click on the label image (above, next to water bottle labels) and save to your computer, then print and trim. Labels are set up on an A4 Page. (Each label measure 5cm across.)

Sewer Lid Plate Printables

Using the same basic sewer lid graphic, I've created some cute themed sewer-lid plates. Print these off very cheaply (they are black-and-white), then cut out each graphic. To eliminate any copy-toner transfer onto the food, I placed each cut-out graphic face-down onto a sheet of Duraseal/clear "Contact" and then cut away the excess plastic. Then simply glue onto a cheap silver coloured paper plate with a glue stick. Too cute, too easy.

Right-click the graphic below to save to your computer. (It is set up on A4 page ready to print.)

Pizza Frisbee Game - Pizza Printable
This is a game idea I've found on Pinterest; it looks super simple, and should be fun.
Free printable Pizza Pictures suitable for sticking on frisbees are harder to find than you'd think! So I've made my own and am sharing it with you below.

TO USE: Right click and save to your computer; then print, trim, stick on a frisbee. Print the sign and stick it on the inside lid of a pizza box. Then PLAY, by attempting to get the pizza in the box!

TMNT Personalised Party Invitations
And finally, I might as well plug my little Etsy shop, and these *ahem* (if I say so myself) super-cool TMNT party invitations I've designed. Scrag can't wait to hand these out (even though there's a whole month until his party).

You can order the invitation here on my Etsy Shop and I'll turn your kid into their favourite Ninja Turtle (Raphael, Michaelangelo, Leonardo or Donatello), and add in your party details. Doesn't matter where you are in the world, cos I'll send you the file and you can print off as many as you want, whatever size you pick.

That's all I've got for now. Until next time, party on dudes!

17 March 2015

The Power of One (plus One plus One...)


I still have paint on my fingernails from all the painting I did yesterday. Three quarters of my hallway is now complete. (I'll show you all soon.)

I'm sitting here at my trendy new white trestle desk, in my half-painted hallway remembering how troubled I was as I spent the day rollering the walls and thinking about the gross display of bullying New Zealand had witnessed on X-Factor the night before.

Two judges (a husband and wife couple, Willy Moon and Natalia Kills) had gone after a contestant and skewered him with cruel words, taunting him, calling him disgusting and creepy among (many) other terrible things.

See for yourself (if you haven't already)...

The contestant, a socially awkward chap called Joe, who is usually prone to tears, stood his ground bravely in the face of their bullying tirade.

By the morning New Zealand was in an uproar. There were petitions going around and Facebook Pages set up to try and get the pair of judges sacked; two major corporate sponsors (2degrees and McDonalds) complained to TV3 about "unacceptable behaviour", countless official complaints had been made to the broadcasting standards authority and even Simon Cowell's production company were investigating this "bringing of their show into disrepute." The debacle even made headlines around the world on massive webzines like Daily MailPeople and Buzzfeed.

By the afternoon, they were gone. Sacked, given the boot, gone-burgers.

I never thought it would happen (my kids never thought it would happen).
We thought the best we could hope for was a lame apology and a rap over the knuckles. But no.
It was great to be able to say to my kids, See, it doesn't pay to be a bully. Look what happens when people stand up to bullies. One person can make a difference!


Apparently New Zealand really is serious about sending a message to bullies.
The way the whole country responded with a resounding "THIS IS NOT OK!" was pretty awesome.
It's unheard of, really.
Judges on a show like this being sacked in the middle of a season???

And who made it happen? All the little people who hate bullying.
All the little people who signed the petition (like me). Over 70,000 in less than a day.
The big people in those corporates who saw a mass of little people making a fuss and for once, used their influence for good (money talks).
And the big wigs who actually listened and did something unprecedented.

I mean, who does that?
Well, apparently here in New Zealand, WE DO!

The power of One (plus one plus one); a tide of voices on social media. Clicktivism.
It's a form of democracy, really, with pretty powerful results!

As I read through the comments which accompanied the Herald article link on Facebook, I saw one comment which really struck me:

"Yep, we used our voices to get rid of of some bullies and see justice done. Awesome New Zealand! Now how about that cyclone in Vanuatu? What we gonna do about that now we're on a roll...???"

Makes you think doesn't it?
Imagine what we could do if we got this up-in-arms and motivated about the cyclone victims in the Pacific. Child poverty. Human trafficking.
Just think what we could achieve.
I wonder why mostly we don't speak out, use our collective voices to demand action, influence change, do something?
And I wonder why sometimes, like in this situation, WE DO?