24 September 2014

Sweet {stall} success

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret. One week into a new routine and I've discovered that there is no such thing as a routine, especially in a family of five. Between physio appointments for various ailments affecting different people, bugs and such-like, it is still in a state of flux around here that I am really looking forward to the school holidays next week just for the chance to enjoy some of that boring predictability.

On the plus side, Aimee has settled into school with ease. Alarmingly so. This is the child who cried almost every day for 18 months when I dropped her off at kindy. I would have to extricate her little arms from around my leg and quite often not succeed so would resort to walking across the room John Wayne-styles with her koala-fied to my leg to get the help of a teacher. It's funny now but so unpleasant at the time. I braced myself for something similar to happen at school. I don't want to sound all glass half-empty, but the transition has been just a little too easy and I find myself wondering when the curveball is going to be thrown in my face and smash a couple of my perfect teeth. By the end of the day, I have one very tired little five year old but each morning, she is the first one dressed and ready to go get 'em again. I hope that enthusiasm continues.

You might be wondering how a parent who has no preschoolers at home fills her days. I say quite easily, thanks for asking. Especially when one of my children announces she is going to have a fundraiser to help raise money for the new school playground. Our slightly abridged conversation over breakfast one Friday morning went something like this:

Her: "Mum, I've got a meeting with the principal this morning".
Me (vaguely alarmed): "What for?"
Her: "I want to have a lolly stall to raise money for the new school playground".
Me (quietly impressed): "Oh, that's a good idea. When are you doing it?"
Her: "Tomorrow".

Bless her. We managed to reschedule a more achievable date, which was Election Day and then set about purchasing sweets and sourcing donated goods for our stall. After chatting to a few knowledgeable people within the school community, we were able to use some surplus cellophane bags, lollipops and treats left over from the school discos, which helped to minimize our expenses. My sister and her husband also very kindly contributed two tins of sweets they received from the current Resene paint promotion. We used them for a lolly jar competition, and it was a very popular addition to the stall. Thanks, sis *mwah*.
We woke on Election Day to the sound of hail hitting our roof, and the weather did not improve at all throughout the day so I was surprised (but glad) to see so many children out and about with their parents as they passed through on their way to the polling booth around the corner. I didn't even realize that my husband had taken this photo, but I am glad he did because it's the only one that shows our stall before it was pillaged.

A number of other stalls were lined up with us underneath the school verandah, including a sausage sizzle, bake sale and lemonade stand. We all managed to make a combined total of about $1200, which was such a great achievement given the terrible weather.

Leading up to the event, I spent a few days huddled over the kitchen bench with the curtains pulled in case Nigel Latta showed up making all kinds of treats from quite possibly the most versatile sweet of them all, the humble marshmallow. Some were successful and very quick to make, like the Hello Kitties. I stumbled across a blog that showed how easy and effective marshmallow flowers are to make. Instead of skewers, I used a fruit stick so the whole flower was edible. Once I started making them, I couldn't stop; these are very addictive.

We also made lolly necklaces, cars from Moro and Crunchie bars with edible axles and marshmallow wheels, Jaffa flowers and the girls sat down with a friend one afternoon after school and created monsters using different types of lollies joined together with toothpicks. They had unique painted facial features using food colouring. These were a surprise hit. The fact that each individual monster was concealed in a plastic egg was really appealing to other children and they quickly sold out. In fact, everything sold within a couple of hours despite the miserable weather so my husband gallantly made three trips home to whip up some more bags of treats to top up our stall.
I didn't stop to think about photographing the stall items so these are the ones that I took throughout the week with my phone. In fact, if it weren't for my husband and the school principal, we would not have even had a photo of the stall itself on the day.

This was most definitely a team effort, a fun family activity and a very important lesson for all of us to see exactly how much is involved in fundraising. The whole exercise was very worthwhile even just to see my excited daughter and her friend proudly marching into the school office earlier this week to hand over the proceeds. Plus, we made it into the school newsletter. Ticked that puppy off the bucket list.

16 September 2014

Big Little Pixie Pants pattern and blog tour

This week is shaping up to be a goodie. I am one of several bloggers taking part in a week-long blog tour showcasing the latest children's clothing patterns from Lisa of Big Little. It is a good opportunity to discover other like-minded creatives - unless you're like me and following them already anyway. Even if you read nothing else I've written, be sure to read the last couple of paragraphs *eyebrow waggle*.

I've never met Lisa in person, but we share a love of beautiful fabrics and whimsical garments for children and if ever I could find as much beauty in the local secondhand stores as Lisa does with her thrift-shop finds, I'd be making many more garments out of refashioned clothing. As it is, I content myself with admiring her beautiful blog and the clothing she makes and sells in her store and on occasion, am lucky enough to test some of her patterns.

I have mentioned before that most of my girls' clothes are passed down to them from older cousins and so far, they are always excited to receive them. I do buy clothes when necessary, although nothing is more satisfying to me than being able to make something for them to wear. When I was invited to test the Pixie Pants pattern, I was quite excited firstly because I had a valid reason to eschew housework but also because I have never made pants before.

I know.
The pattern is easy to follow; it's a little like having Lisa right there next to you holding your hand which, for someone new to sewing pants, is quite reassuring. I would say a confident beginner would be able to tackle this with ease. To make these pants, I found that I actually had everything I needed in my sewing space, which is a rare thing. It made me realize that, while not very sexy, interfacing, white thread and 2.5cm elastic are quite important sewing supplies to have on hand, would you agree?When I cut out the pattern pieces, I had always intended for the scallop pattern on the fabric to align but it actually wasn't all that easy to achieve. Fortunately, due to the way the pants hang, it isn't all that obvious where the scallops don't line up.

I really love that the pants have pockets, because what little person doesn't like to stash their treasures? The contrasting fabric in the pockets is another detail that I really like on this pair, although there is the option to make them without pockets too.
All told, it took me an afternoon without children around to make these pants and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting them together. While they can be made from heavier fabrics for wearing in the cooler months, I opted to use a thin cotton fabric which makes them quite light and summery. Unlike Aimee's expression.
Thank you Lisa for allowing me to test the pattern for you. The pants are adorable and are a relaxed fit which is so important for my active child.

*LAST COUPLE OF PARAGRAPHS - Caution: may contain exciting, wet-your-pants information*
If you are eager to have a go at making a few pairs for your own children or other lucky little person in your life, you can enjoy 15% off the newly-released Pixie Pants and shorts variation in Lisa's store for the duration of the blog tour.  All you need is the coupon code PIXIEPANTS15, valid until Tuesday 23 September.Be sure to check back in on the Big Little blog next Tuesday for a giveaway too. I can't wait to see the other blog tour participants' versions. Tomorrow is the turn of a lovely fellow Kiwi blogger, Jenny at Mend and Make New, who not only makes cute clothes, but also really cute children. See you there.
Just for a bit more overkill, I am showing and telling at Leonie's this week.

09 September 2014

Minnie Mouse birthday party

Thanks for your supportive comments on my previous post. Four days, one birthday party and one official kindergarten farewell later, I'm feeling bouncy again and thought you might like to see how the party went.

For months now, Aimee has been fixated on having a Minnie Mouse party for her fifth birthday. Being reticent about buying items months in advance to tie in with party themes because I know how fickle most children tend to be, I decided to wait until the week before her birthday to hunt for supplies in case she changed her mind. She never once wavered from her decision. This girl knows her mind and I should never doubt that.
Rather than go too crazy with purchasing licensed products which are ridiculously expensive, I opted for the simplicity of polka dots and incorporated that idea in the decorations and food. Fortunately, over the years, I have built up quite a supply of polka dot decorations and tableware that tied in nicely with her theme.

Pink paper lanterns were perfect to hang in the house and I bought a packet of white round stickers that the girls used to decorate our front door.

There were the odd nods to Minnie Mouse in the paper cups and I made the personalised labels on the glass jars using Picmonkey and a free Disney font. Mickey and Minnie also welcomed the guests from their spot at the head of the table. I have had those soft toys since I was a little girl when my sister brought them back from her trip to the States and Disneyland.
In all, nine kindy friends came to help Aimee celebrate and on their way in they were invited to help themselves to some mouse ears that they could take home with them afterwards.

The table was covered in a polka dot fabric that I bought a few months ago from Spotlight and it was laden with Aimee's favourite food - cupcakes, cheese balls, sushi, popcorn, marshmallows, oreo biscuits, grapes, carrot sticks and hummus and lemonade.
At Aimee's request, the cake was chocolate and covered in pink icing with polka dots made from fondant. The cake was polka dotty inside too - this is a variation of the coloured dots cake that was popular on the internet a couple of years ago. I made vanilla balls in muffin trays first and then when they were cooled off, put them in a cake tin and poured chocolate cake batter over it and cooked it again. There's always that moment when you cut into a cake that's meant to have a hidden surprise in it but it turned out well and it was really tasty too.
It rained the whole day but there was a little break in the weather that allowed us to get outside to smash the pinata. Two hours flies by in record speed when there are so many little energetic souls sapping you of your own life source. My older daughters were tasked with overseeing the other games of musical statues, duck, duck, goose and pass the parcel. Now that they are a little older, they relish being given some responsibilities, although I did add an extra couple of layers to pass the parcel in case they decided they weren't too big to join in after all.
Happy birthday Aimee. What a livewire you are. We always joke that you have two speeds - fast and asleep. You are so capable for one so young. My spirited daughter, we are never left in any doubt as to how you feel at any given moment. You are about to embark on a whole new stage of learning. It is bittersweet to see you grow up, but it is time for you to join your sisters at school and I know that with the right guidance, you are going to soar. We love you. Always and forever.

05 September 2014


All year, instead of feeling sadness in knowing I would no longer have any preschoolers in the house beyond September, all I had been feeling was excitement. Excitement for my daughter who has been waiting for so long to join her sisters at school; excitement at the adventures that she will no doubt experience there; the joy of being reunited with her kindy friends who have recently started school. There was nothing to look back and feel sad about. She has been ready to leave her kindergarten days behind for a little while now. We were both ready.

Until this moment today.
I was in the kitchen washing up from baking up a storm for Aimee's birthday party and I looked across to see her sitting, wordlessly, on her footstool. She was staring, full of anticipation, through the oven door at her birthday cake. Her five year old birthday cake. All these flashbacks of her started playing like a movie reel through my head. True story. It was ridiculous - I half-expected the Forrest Gump suite to start playing. I just wanted to run over to her, put my arms around her and say "You can't go. You are not ready". But that would have been too weird and she would have looked over my shoulder and asked who that strange man with no legs was in the corner and I would have had to say, "That's Lieutenant Dan, he's a good guy, despite appearances". She looked so small sitting there. I had to rush and grab my camera because all of a sudden, it was even more important to me that I remember her like this. Capturing her mannerisms and these beautiful, quiet moments that I have had my eyes closed to because I've been too busy making pointless vignettes on Instagram or deemed my house too messy to take a nice photo with a good angle and decent light, or because I have been preoccupied with trying to get children to where they are supposed to be on time (and mostly failing at that, thank goodness kindy had a relaxed attitude about it) and making sure they've done their homework (and not succeeding at that lately too, sorry Miss H. When Aimee is in your class, we'll be more organized. Promise).
Aimee often helps me bake but this was the first time she had ever pulled up a pew in front of the oven. There was something in the way that she was sitting there waiting patiently for her birthday cake to cook that made me realize that she knows this is a really big deal. She is going to be a schoolgirl and I won't have these days with her at home with me any more. Just us two. We've been sorting out some of her clothes and passing them on to her younger cousin who we visited the other day. She was wearing some of Aimee's cute old shoes and it struck me again that I had wished I'd have noticed more when my daughter wore cute things and why didn't I take more photos of her little feet?!

But, it'll be okay. She'll be okay. I'll be okay. I know this. Having two older sisters to watch out for her at school comforts me and my sadness will fade like it did after my eldest two started school.

Funny old thing this parenting lark, isn't it? It's full of milestones, ones you are pleased to reach and others that hurt the heart.