27 November 2014

This is why we never go to restaurants

Blurry photo to match the haze of parenting these three.
For her birthday, Sienna asked to go out for dinner to a restaurant. This type of request is not ever undertaken lightly. We very rarely do this as we know that children + any eating establishment that requires reservations and that uses glassware and has carpet on the floor = exponentially high stress levels for the parents. This place even has tablecloths and no play area so you know it's classy. For a few days leading up to the event and even as we were getting out of the car on the night, we reminded the girls of how we expected them to behave otherwise someone was going to get it. We arrive at the restaurant with the plan to finish dining before we can disturb all the childless couples arriving to enjoy a quiet/romantic/insert-any-adjective-that-is-the-polar-opposite-to-dining-out-with-children dinner and, ideally, before anyone recognizes us. We sit down to our table but only after the children have run around it and under it several times and tested out all the chairs to see which one they want to sit on. The seating arrangements last just for a few minutes until they decide that actually, that other chair furtherest away from them does look more comfortable. I'm feeling pretty good having made it to this settling in phase using only my mildest hushed threatening voice.

Once they are all sitting nicely and can leave the cutlery and empty wine glasses alone, we offer the girls something to drink. From glasses. With bendy straws. I told you this place was classy. To their credit, they do remember to speak nicely to the waiter taking their orders, and only need reminding a few times to say please and thank you. We tell them several times to make that solitary drink last because it is the only one they are getting, but there must have been some deaf tonic thrown into the fizzy drink because they are emptied within minutes, so with nothing more to occupy them, I sit back and wait for the slippery slope of boredom to come beckoning while we wait for the other dinner guests in our party to arrive.

I love it when I can sit back and observe my children causing mayhem in the restaurant. It's delightful. I really feel like I have done my job as a parent. Because if children cannot behave decorously in public, then that surely is a reflection on how they have been parented, and usually the finger of poor etiquette points directly at the mother. You know it's true. We all know that Dads are just put on earth to teach them all the bad manners and that brushing your teeth only needs to happen the day before you have a dentist appointment. It's the yin and yang of parenting. So, when one of the girls lets out a burp at the table, my husband laughs, stopping short of giving her a hearty "That's my girl' pat on the back, but only because he sees my death stare. So, yes, these little cherubs sitting in the middle of a restaurant with straws shoved up their noses clearly learnt that trick from him, but I will be the only one at that table being silently judged by onlookers. With drinks downed, and straws banished, I wait for my favourite melody "When can we eeeeeaaat? and its harmony "I'm hunnnggrry" to start on repeat.

At this time of the year, this restaurant is offering Christmas-style buffet dinners, complete with sparkly Christmas crackers. After they have eaten their fill from the all-you-can eat buffet, the children are finally allowed to open them to play quietly with the treats that lie within - ha! The stuff of fairytales. Of course, someone wins a toy that the others all want so then there is a mad rush to ransack the remaining nine crackers at the table to see if there is an identical toy. There isn't. Never mind that we are on a rare outing on a school night with their younger cousins and they have just filled their tummies with some delicious food and a single flavoursome beverage, the measure of the success of the evening rests on whether we are going to leave with three tiny plastic soccer ball yo-yos.

So, once the bill has been settled, there is the small navigational issue of herding all the children back into the same lift simultaneously while correctly remembering whose turn it is to push the button and then out to the car without the need for any of them to practice their cartwheels in the hotel lobby or to have to go back up the lift to use the toilet because they suddenly remember they have a bladder or we need to find a missing shoe.

This is why we never go to restaurants. It is all just a bit too hard. We thought we were over the days of needing to bribe our children to behave in certain social settings. We're not quite there yet. We may need to wait another 12 months to see how far along the etiquette path we have travelled. In the meantime, it is strictly McDonalds drive-through for us.

26 November 2014

Easy vegan chocolate cake

This is a delicious never-fail chocolate cake recipe and surprises many people when they learn it is dairy and egg-free. I make this cake regularly and it is always a hit with everyone who eats it. Even if you are not vegan, it is a handy recipe to have for the times when you have no eggs or milk in the house and is very quick and easy to make so there is no excuse not to make it now is there?

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1/4 cup cocoa
1/3 cup oil
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Combine all but vinegar and mix until smooth.
Fold in vinegar.
Bake at 180°C for 30-50 minutes depending on tin size (30 minutes is sufficient in a 22cm cake tin).

Icing - Combine sufficient icing sugar and cocoa to your taste and mix with hot water to desired consistency. Spread onto cooled cake.

Source: Essentially Food Feb/March 2005. Recipe given to me by our neighbourhood baking queen, Steph.

24 November 2014

DIY - Crochet name cake topper

1. Begin with a slipknot on your hook.
2. Feed the end of the wire through the slipknot and bend the wire back on itself so it stays in place. You may need to hold both the end of the wire and the yarn tail at this early stage while you start to crochet along the wire.

3. Pass your hook under the wire and do a single crochet.
4. Continue to single crochet along the wire until you have enough wire covered to begin forming some letters. (My capital letter is 6cm tall and the lowercase letters are 4cm tall).
Once you are happy with how the name looks, cut the yarn and the wire, leaving enough length on the wire to wrap it around one of the skewers. Tie off the yarn. Using your wool needle weave the yarn tails back through a letter to hide them.
Wrap the wire at each end around a skewer. Stand back and marvel at your amazingness.

20 November 2014

Foxes, bikes and bears oh my!

Our newest family member arrived into the world last month and even though I did not know whether he would be a boy or a girl at the time when I started my projects, I threw all my eggs in one basket and sewed some wee baby boy pants and a gown as gifts. If he had turned out to be a girl, I would have found a happy home for the clothes, I am sure.
Sewing with knits is still something I am still unaccustomed to, so this was a good opportunity to overcome my fear of the fabric and have some fun with some cute organic knits, especially the bike print which is a little joke for his cycling-obsessed Dad. I drafted a pattern for the pants and added some cuffs mainly because I wanted to hide the ugly crooked seams - ha! They turned out better this way so hooray for happy accidents. Of the three, my favourite item is the gown. Love the bear print, love the softness of the garment and love the envelope neckline. Love, love, love. The pattern I used for this one can be found here. I added some binding to the neckline and sleeves using some offcuts rather than turning down the seams and stitching. I would also say that the pattern size is on the generous side, and would probably fit a 3 month old as opposed to a newborn.

Welcome to the world, nephew. We had better pay you a visit before your Mum sees this on here and you've outgrown everything.

Come and see what other creatives have been up to over at the Queen of crochet's place.

19 November 2014

Dairy | Egg | Nut | Gluten-free recipe: Sables

This is a sweet recipe but come on, people on a gluten, dairy, egg and nut-free diet are already living a joyless life, so cut them some slack.

175g dairy-free margarine
75g caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
250g gluten-free flour

Put the margarine in a large bowl, soften and whisk until smooth.
Add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Whisk until fluffy.
Add the flour, mix well with a wooden spoon.
Using your hands, press mixture together to make a ball.
Remove from the bowl and press the mixture into a large sausage shape. Wrap it in cling film or tinfoil and cool in the freezer until firmer.
Unwrap, cut into slices about 6mm thick. Lay the slices on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
Bake for 10-15 mins at 200°C in top third of oven.

Melt 50g of dairy-free dark chocolate and drizzle from a spoon over the tray of cooled biscuits.

Makes 30 approx.

Recipe adapted from The NZ Food Allergy Cookbook and printed with permission from Allergy New Zealand. The cookbook retails for $40 and is available to purchase here.

17 November 2014

It's my blog and I'll be a nepotist if I want to

November is all about family. Two of my daughters have their birthdays, my husband and I were married and two of my close family members also have anniversaries this month. It's hard to believe that it is nearly a year since one of them got married. It was such a special day, made all the more so by the involvement of many friends and family putting their individual talents to good use. Take, for example my brother-in-law, Chris. He is quiet, very unassuming, and also very creative, having trained and gained qualifications in video editing. His skills have been put to use filming and editing the wedding of one of my other sisters and he also enjoys dabbling in surfing videography. 

He designed the invitations for his nuptials and tied in items of significance to the couple. Music is hugely important to them, and the fish symbolism represents their star signs but also Chris is a keen fisherman and surfer. Butterflies also have special significance to them and they featured everywhere, from the cake to the floral arrangements down to the guests seating plan. Being a self-confessed font geek, I really love the use of the different typefaces and the colours that he chose.
You may have noticed a little bit of a spruce up around here too. There's nothing like a bit of a banner change and injection of subtle colour to make a blog feel fresh and new again. It's looking more and more how I imagined this space to be when I first started blogging here over a year ago. While I've been happy to potter around teaching myself how to alter the look of my blog with the help of the internet and some of Simone's very useful tutorials at Greatfun4kids, I handed the design of my new logo over to my brother-in-law, who came up with this sewing concept - I really like the texture of the crumpled paper and even though I loved the old font, the new typeface is more legible when it is shrunk down into my profiles on Facebook and Felt, which is quite important and something I never even considered when I first started blogging.

I think Chris, like many men (and Kiwis in general), doesn't like to broadcast his talents but I just wanted to say that while his passion lies in surfing videography you need only look at what he created for his own wedding to know that his talents are much broader than that and if anyone was considering a new design concept for business cards or if you were looking for unique wedding invitations, I know he would be only too happy to discuss your ideas with you. Chris, if you are reading this, I hope you're not blushing too much at this unsolicited plug, you are talented and I hope you can live your dream.

After all, isn't that what we all want to do in life?

This is not a sponsored post, although I may receive some whitebait for Christmas lunch *eyebrow waggle*.

12 November 2014

A lesson in the art of perseverance

Thank you to everyone who commented and understood where I was coming from on my last blog post. I don't want people to think I was throwing myself a pity party, in fact, what I meant by being a number 4 was that I was feeling frustrated by an idea that I couldn't execute properly. So many ideas jostle around in my head so when I test something and it doesn't turn out how I imagined, I second-guess whether it was ever a good idea to begin with. Is it just a case of needing more practice? The alternative is to accept that there are some things that I simply cannot do well or at all - like drawing. I wish I could, but I really can't. I will continue to create because I enjoy it, but every now and again the voices plague me, as I am sure they do with everyone who has a dream that they want to fulfill. Self-doubt is such an obstacle; it can cause us to never finish something that may end up being quite good if only we trusted in ourselves more. Which leads me to this question:

How do you know whether to continue to pursue an idea or when it is time to cut your losses and move on?

I know the answer is going to be different for everybody. I experienced this very thing this morning when I spent two hours trying to get a woven label printed on my home printer so I could sew it on one of my buntings. I was forced to persevere because it is heading off-shore soon and noting its origin is necessary given where it will be displayed. There was little choice but to keep feeding fabric through the printer in the hope it would suddenly produce a clean label.

All I needed was one label. Just one.
It really did come down to me saying a few Hail Marys and telling myself that I'd have just one more go before resorting to Plan B (finding a good supplier who could make me some labels within a tight timeframe) or very unappealing Plan C (to send it without a label on it).I was just about to admit defeat, but then I asked myself: Would Tom Cruise give up? No he would not because he is the best of the best and keeps cool in crisis situations. So, I took that snippet of encouragement and gave it one more go.I really could not believe it when I saw this one come out of the machine. I stared at it, a little bit amazed that it had worked. I may have danced around the dining room with the Top Gun anthem blaring in my head. Thank you washi tape, thank you printer, thank you Tom Cruise.The lesson in all of this is that perseverance can pay off. This is all well and good for a one-off project like this one, but logic dictates that the smart thing to do is to pay someone to make the labels for my items. Would anyone have any recommendations for good quality woven labels that preferably are made here in New Zealand?

11 November 2014

I am number 4

Creatively speaking, I am feeling stymied. Sty. Mied. I lay awake into the small hours for two nights last week excited by the prospect of some creative ideas and then I check the internet and see that they've already been done and so I start to wonder if I will ever come up with a truly original concept. So, I forge ahead with one idea because I am stubborn like that, and I spend a whole day drafting a pattern and then another two days sewing it up. And still I am not happy with it. And I begin to wonder what is the point of reworking it at all when the cost and time to make it is going to chew into any idea of a profit, meaning the price would need to be raised so high that few would consider buying it. Hmmm. So, I quietly pack it all up and go back to the drawing board. It reminded me of this:
Sorry about the swearwords grandparents, my children and any future grandchildren.
So that was my week. I'll eventually arrive at number 6. Perseverance and all that.

I know two of your fridges are going to feel some love because Ellen Giggenbach's magnets are coming to live at your place. One set is off to Elizabeth in Sweden and the other (drum roll) is going to Amy at Love Made My Home *tickertape and rainbows streaming from the sky*.

Congratulations my EU buddies and thank you so much to everyone else who entered. I am so glad you love Ellen's work too. Renee and I spent a few hours on Saturday making up some of the projects, and I thought you might like to see how they turned out:
These are a definite 6 on the creative process continuum.

Enjoy your week everyone and come and say hi on Facebook too if you feel inclined. I just set it up last week and the Facebook strategists have cunningly decided that a minimum of 30 likes are needed before I can access my stats. Just sayin'.

06 November 2014

In love with Ellen Giggenbach

Browsing away on the internet the other day in my quest for unique birthday gift ideas, I stumbled across this amazing paper craft designer who is based in Eastbourne, near Wellington. She has an online presence - a website and Facebook page - but I had not come across her work before and I only live a stone's throw across the harbour. It always amazes me to discover such clever people right under my very nose. I spent so much time on her website in complete awe of all of the incredible work that this talented woman produces that I wanted to share my discovery with you as well. She has published books, moved into textiles with her own fabric line and has some homewares as well. I was reminded of some European influence when I saw them so I was not surprised to learn that she was born in Germany. I am so excited to know that there is someone living on this side of the world who makes such profoundly eye-catching and distinctive art. I really want this horse art, and some of the paper craft would look so great in my children's rooms.
Image reproduced with permission from Ellen Giggenbach.

I bought one of her books, Animals, which arrived too late to gift to my daughter on her actual birthday, and I have had to hide it for an extra day just so I can photograph it for you before it gets massacred.
My first impression is that it is a quality paper craft book. The cover lifts off and converts into a sturdy envelope in which to store half-completed projects or the pages that are still to be attempted. The paper is deliciously thick and hours of enjoyment shall be had transforming the pages into 3-D creations.  There are also stickers included to further embellish the various creatures such elephants and giraffes among many others including this pony - I'm in total love with it all!
The age guide is specified as 6+ which I think looks about right, although I suspect I will still be needed to assist with cutting some of the trickier curves. I have my eye on Ellen's other titles, where an entire zoo and town can be made and used for interactive play. I'm thinking they'd make amazing gifts for someone this Christmas.

This is in no way a sponsored post, I just love Ellen's work and I even emailed her to tell her so. This does not happen very often but I think that offering words of encouragement especially to independent designers who may feel isolated at times, is just nice for them to know that someone out there is looking at and admiring their talent. Not only did Ellen send me a gracious reply but she offered to send me some fridge magnets, which are like six pieces of miniature art. I have two sets to gift to my readers. I will have one giveaway on this blog and another on Instagram.
Magnet art may vary from those depicted here.

This giveaway is open to my international readers. I will draw a winner randomly next week. Good luck everyone.

03 November 2014


Somebody turns 7 this week. We had a small party over the weekend for her with just a few of her friends, which was all about bubbles. The party guests made their own bubble wands using straws and string and even got to experience what it's like to be inside a bubble.


My bubble pun was inevitabubble.
If you want to try this activity yourselves, you will need plenty of bubble mixture. We bought a one litre bottle from Moore Wilsons and probably could have gone through twice that amount. It's a German brand (so you know it's quality, right?) called Pustefix. We tried out several other cheaper bubble solutions too and made our own with dishwashing liquid, but this product gave the best results. We used the lid of our compost bin as the tray to pour the mixture into and laid down some timber to give a platform for the children to stand on. A hula hoop was dipped in the tray and formed bubbles large enough even for me to stand in.

If you decide to try this, the weather needs to be absolutely still. Also, try to set it up on grass. Calm days almost never happen in Wellington so we brought the activity indoors. Bubble solution + slippery platform = parent skidding in ungainly fashion on the concrete kitchen floor when stepping out of the tray. This happened just seconds after the same parent warned her children of the inherent dangers.

Shame-o. Shame-ifying. Shame-adelic.

What another big year you've had, Renee. Looking back on all the photos, I can really appreciate how much you have grown and that you lost both your front teeth along the way.

The year hasn't been without its worrying moments for your parents too, of course.
The last part of the year has been about that arm. It took several months to heal and prevented you from taking part in some after-school activities, but we know it won't stop you from taking on those monkey bars again, nor would we want it to.

Earlier in the year, you took part in a few activities for the first time including rollerblading, skating, the vertical bungee and running in the Magic Mile. You are now old enough to enter the Weetbix Tryathlon next year too, and it is something you are excited to be participating in with your older sister.
Ever the animal-lover, it has been decided that you shall get that pet rabbit that you have been wanting now for over two years. One day. When the hutch is finished. Lucky you're patient. Still, you couldn't contain your joy when the power tools came out of hibernation because you knew it was finally going to happen.Keep being that gorgeous little soul that you are, Renee. We love that you'll try anything at least once even if it might take you some convincing at times. Our twirler, loom band hoarder, gastronome and adoptive parent to the neighbourhood cats, we love you. A million times we love you.