Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

I have thoroughly enjoyed the silly season this year and I threw myself into it head first.. decorated the house to excess, cooked up a storm, shopped til I dropped, stared at numerous Christmas lighting displays til I had stars in my eyes, wore my Christmas shirt at least ten times and overall had an absolute ball!  I can't believe its all over in the blink of an eye.. today I cleared out the leftovers from our very wet and soggy Christmas BBQ and for the first time ever I contemplated taking down my ornaments early, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.. I'll leave them up for just a few more days.

This year has been the first year in a little while that the cats haven't tried to destroy my Christmas tree, which has been nice, it looks the same as the night we put it up! So I guess I should relish that a little longer.

I loved having all the family over for a Christmas BBQ, it was so nice to have the majority of them all in one place, catching up.  If nothing else, that is my absolute favourite part of Christmas..

Other than that, I loved the following;

1. Sleeping in on Christmas day til 8am (although I wouldn't have minded being woken up at 5am either.. but it seems the little fella wanted to keep snoozing..) Quite thankful as we were up to 3am getting ready for it! And then seeing the look on the kids faces opening their presents.

2. Christmas lights; I love the effort that people put in, to put a smile on kids faces (and adults faces) at Christmas. There are so many beautiful light displays out there and even those with a string or two make Christmas all that more cheerful.

3. Reading Christmas books to the kids each night of December (or half of November..) I love the stories and they make the build up to Christmas a little more exciting each evening.

4. Advent Calendars.. Counting down to the big day with chocolate, what more could you want?? We had a chocolate style and a non-chocolate style too which was nice.

5. 12 Day of Christmas Activity - each day a new card hung on the tree for Indigo to open, what would we be doing today - visiting Santa, baking Christmas cookies, a Christmas movie?

6. Wrapping paper - I love wrapping paper, I bought 10 different designs this year because I simply couldn't choose one, so many pretty designs out there..

7. Tinsel - I'm not usually one to use tinsel, but this year I couldn't get enough of the glittery stuff, sparkly.

8. Chocolate - Both the children and I were given way too much, but it is way too nice to turn down. My favourite are chocolate seashells.

9. Making personalised baubles for my Parents, In laws and Grandparents. I was very happy with the way they turned out and I know they will be cherished for years to come. I was also touched to hear so many people are still using the ones I made years ago.

10. Seeing the loving care that goes into the plate of food and letter (or in my son's case, a gift pack he had handmade for Santa) that is left out on Christmas eve, its so sweet.

11. Shopping.. from the early presents I organised earlier in the year, to the layby's I made during the toy sales, to the Christmas shopping marathons I did earlier in the month whilst the kids were still at school, the late night shop where my son was in awe of stores being open at 11pm and the last minute grocery run on Christmas eve, I love the atmosphere of the shops at Christmastime.

So Christmas is done for another year, I hope you enjoyed your Christmas, whichever way you celebrated it, I look forward to next years Christmas.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

One of the ways to share my kids work :-)

I am blessed to have a little artist in my home, my son loves more than anything to create and make drawings, paintings and various artwork that I love to keep and treasure.  However, with 4 kids in the house, the archives of school and art work soon mount up to levels that I have no idea where to keep!

One idea I had earlier in the year was to utilise this cute little display board that I got from Kmart, hung centrally in our home, above my craft/organisation station that I change the pictures on to suit an event that may be going on, or just because I love them.. I did a display for Mother's Day of the kids craft they bought home from school and now again, their Christmas craft.. Im just loving these snowmen! they have taken pride of place on the fridge for weeks before now moving onto the display board today..

Other areas I store the kids artwork is on their own pinboards in their rooms, on the front of our fridge (the kids love putting their piccies on their to give to me) and each of them have a folder or sketch book which I collect and collate their various artworks into.  I am of course behind in doing this, so will need to get working on this during these school holidays!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Project Life Tuesday.. A restart after slackness!

Monday 29th November - Sunday 5th December..

Monday 29th..
Iv saved this spot..

Tuesday 30th..
Last day of work before the holidays! YAY! Great time to send other teachers out their presents.. kids loved giving these to their teachers today! Hope next years teachers are just as good..

Wednesday 1st..
Bought and decorated our new christmas tree!

Thursday 2nd..
Santa Photo!

Friday 3rd..
Christmas Crackers.. Had so much fun making these from scratch..

Saturday 4th..
Christmas Baking.. We made yummy cinamon crumble muffins in santa cases!

Sunday 5th..
Hubby Cooking Dinner after a day of christmas shopping.. needed a break!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Crackers over Christmas!

This is a simple craft activity that my Mum did with us as kids and it is something I enjoy making each year at Christmastime too.  I don't think it is much more cost effective than buying Christmas crackers, because they are relatively inexpensive these days, however, you end up getting better quality items on the inside of your cracker than just a simple hat and joke!  It is a great craft activity for the kids to get involved with too and Indigo and I had a lot of fun on Friday afternoon making our first batch for the year!

What you will need:
* Cardboard tubes (toilet rolls, paper towel rolls etc) as many as you require.
* Different coloured Christmas wrapping paper
* Sticky Tape
* Curling ribbon
* Fillings for the crackers; i.e chocolates, mini toys, jokes, balloons etc.

Start by filling the cardboard tubes with your assorted fillings. For this batch my son chose, Cadbury Time Out chocolates, Freddo Frogs and some wrapped lollies, put a cross of sticky tape over each end of the tube to stop the fillings falling out.  Place the cardboard tube onto a sheet of wrapping paper and roll it up, leaving an overhang at the end of the tube.  Use your curling ribbon to tie off each end.. I find it best not to twist the ends, rather use the ribbon to tie them in, curl the ribbons to make them look pretty.  And there you have a very simple Christmas cracker. 

When the kids pull them on the day, make them say 'Bang!' lol, it adds to the fun and something we thought was good fun as kids.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

We have spent the past couple of days decorating our home for the festive season, which has been a lot of fun. I have decorated a little more than in previous years, but both the kids and I are loving it! Christmas comes but once a year after all.. so why not!

Each year on Dec 1'st we start by putting up our Christmas tree, I decided to buy a new tree this year as I happened to be in Target on Wednesday and they had 40% off all tree's and ornaments.  I did love our old tree, but I have always wanted a fir style tree (the ones with the bottle brush branches) so I decided to buy one at the right price! We have a tradition when putting up our tree that we have a full roast dinner, play Christmas carols and afterwards the kids watch a Christmas movie. 

Iv also decorated doorways, the mantel, the bookshelf and many other areas of our home this year, love wherever we go, we are reminded that it is Christmas!  I particularly love this metal sign that I purchased from Bed Bath N Table this year to put up in our entry.

I got the idea to put the greenery and baubles at the Christmas Shop in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

Loving this cute little bird from Bunnings for only $4

Added a little bit of Christmas to our table centrepiece.  

I don't believe my decorating is finished as yet and hubby is going to start on putting up our Christmas lights outside this afternoon.  Tomorrow I am going to post about our homemade Christmas crackers..

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gifts for Teachers..

It is well and truly the silly season and with the school year coming to a close, I had 4 teachers to buy for to thank them for looking after my kidlets over the past year - and what an ask that can be at times!

I like to purchase an ornament for the Teachers, last year I bought gorgeous silver angels as the kids all had female teachers. This year, I had 2 male teachers to buy for and didn't think pretty silver angels were going to be all that suitable! I did still buy pretty glittery ornaments for the 2 female teachers, pictured is Indigo's teachers gift, the word WISH, I thought this a pretty gift that could be used all year round.

I managed to pick up the gift bags in Kmart for $3 for a pack of 4 and made the tags up myself, I also added a metal gift tag that read 'Merry Christmas' also from Kmart (pack of 6 - only $2!). The other female teacher had the word 'Joy', and the two male teachers a clear glass ornament, nutcracker figure - all teamed with chocolate. 

I was watching on parade this morning and noticed the teachers arms laden with gifts from so many grateful boys and girls in their classes, it is good to see their hard work being appreciated! 

Advent calendars and putting the Christmas Tree up tomorrow! Can't wait..

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas Goodie Bags..

A couple of weeks ago, the kids created their own handmade christmas cards to give to their friends at school. Tonight we made goodie bags to attach these cards to and got them all finished so they can hand them out to their friends in the lead up to the christmas holidays (which is only one week away!) Im so glad we made the cards early as the weeks have gone by so quickly! 

In the goodie bags (I ended up getting this clear bag from Spotlight, I went on a looooong search for patterned bags, but couldn't find any!) we placed a Christmas pencil, candy cane and christmas stickers into the bag, tied it off with coordinating curling ribbon and attached one of the homemade tags. Im really happy with the way they have turned out and its just a little something to spread some christmas cheer to the boys friends!

My eldest two, rather than hand out goodie bags are opting to hand out candy canes - Tyler (10) was ecstatic to find Star Wars candy canes & Hayley (9) requested no peppermint ones.. (what happened to the good old days where candy canes were just white with stripes and tasted like peppermint???) We ended up with fruit flavoured ones (I must admit they were rather nice & taste-tested a few whilst doing the goodie bags tonight!) With only 1 month to go, Christmas is certainly in full swing! Next on the agenda, Christmas cards for family/friends & Teacher's gifts.. more posts to come over the next day or so!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Hayley! :-)

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big Happy Birthday to my lovely Step-Daughter, Hayley! 9 today! I hope your day is filled with fun and laughter & your year is the best ever yet!  Dad and I are proud of the lengths you have gone to in the past year to continually strive forward and do your best to achieve everything your heart desires. Happy 9th Birthday from us all. 

Hayley's cupcakes I made were a real hit and I loved using my new cake display!

    Blow out the '10' candles (oops.. my error) and make a wish!

Only one 'family' birthday left this year, next on the agenda is hubby's on the 29th December.
Christmas is next on the planning agenda!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ordered my new Project Life tonight!

I just pre-ordered my new Project Life kit for 2011. Super excited! I guess I'd better hurry up and catch up on my 2010 Project Life or i'll never fill it in time to use the new one.  Project Life has been a fun hobby of mine this year and I have enjoyed documenting our lives through a daily photograph and journal cards, although at times I have slacked off! I chose the Turquoise design for the upcoming year over the Amber design as I think it will compliment my photographs nicely and be a nice contrast to this years.

I havent taken any recent photographs of my layouts etc, but I thoroughly enjoy documenting the kids and our daily lives in the weekly entries, I think it will be an awesome reflective tool for them to look back on over the years. I think next week Ill start participating in Project Life Tuesday again! might motivate me to keep on track with it all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Books, Books, Books!

Ever since I was a young child, I remember books and stories playing a very large part in my life. I had a passion for reading and remember being tucked into bed at night with a large pile of little golden books sitting beside my bed. It didn't matter that I had read them before, I adored the stories and to this day still tenderly remember many of them.  I still have many of the books from my childhood and the ones that were lost, I replaced from second hand stores to share the same magic with my own children. 

Tonight at bedtime I lay down and read one such book to my Son, Hansel and Gretel - he was keen to read a fairy tale as he has been learning about them at Prep and we chose this one off of our bookshelf. I remember laying in my bed at Nan and Pops place reading this very same Hansel and Gretel, Nan had bought me this book from a book exchange and I loved the illustrations that seemed to bring the book to life.

Other books I share similar feelings about are my Big Book of Christmas also bought by my Nan, I used to read it every Christmas as a child and complete the craft activities in it, unfortunately I lost this book over time and I was fortunate enough to replace it a few years ago at a second hand store. Each Christmas since, I have been able to read the stories to my children and I remember the illustrations so vividly. Coming up to Christmas, it will be taken out and a story read from it, each night.

As I got older I thoroughly enjoyed Enid Blyton books, My Mum had a collection from when she was younger and I purchased new titles to add to this collection and read them often. My favourite was the Famous Five series as I was able to 'get into' the storyline and imagine the adventures they had so clearly.  The Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and Mr Pinkwhistle I felt similarly about. Both my Stepdaughter and my Son have both been interested in the Enid Blyton range this year, my Stepdaughter has begun to read some of the titles I read as a child and my Son asked me to read some of the 'Bedtime Story' chapter books that Enid Blyton wrote that contained short stories.  So nice to relive those amazing stories again too. I have my eye on the Children of Cherrytree Farm next!

My Stepson who is 10 is a massive fan of reading and whilst I have never read any of the titles he enjoys, I think its wonderful - he has been through the 'Captain Underpants' and 'Zac Power' stage and is now onto the Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid stage. Anything to encourage him to read! My Brother struggled with reading as a child and Mum would buy him every dinosaur book in the Scholastic Book Club to get him reading! I'm not sure which button to press with my youngest Stepson as he isn't really into reading as yet.. hopefully now he is reading himself, he will start to enjoy reading more. Maybe he will end up like his Father who never finished a book as a child! LOL.

We have quite a large bookshelf and the kids have a large box of books in each of their rooms as well as books on their shelves. I downsized our book collection a few weeks ago, which was something I never thought I would do but I donated 2 roller-storers worth of books to our local lifeline.. Why?  I went through our bookshelf when I shifted our room around and set aside the books that the kids had either grown out of or didn't seem that keen on from the beginning. Not books that they had ever been attached to obviously! I have still kept many, many, many books. I usually purchase new books weekly for our children and I have been lucky enough to get many wonderful books from the same Lifeline that I donated the books to, however, they don't always have a lot of children's titles available - I wanted to donate our unused books for other children to enjoy and love! This is the same reason I often give books as presents.

When I pack my teaching bag I always include 3 new books each day, if a class is being particularly unruly we come together and read as a class, sometimes it can be the only time of the day that I have every child's attention, they are mesmerized and so am I!

Reading is truly inspirational.. I might go off to bed to immerse myself in my newest Marian Keyes novel now :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Born to Shop!

My Stepson told me the other day, that I must have been 'born to shop' and although I'd like to think I was put on this earth for something other than gracing Target hellbent on getting a bargain, he was pretty spot on.  I can't remember a time that I haven't enjoyed shopping, shopping of all kinds - I even love grocery shopping (until I reach the cash register and ponder upon how many other things I could have bought with all of that money if only we didn't need to eat!)

As a child, I looked forward to Friday afternoons as this was our shopping day. Mum and Nan would take us to the local Target/Woolworth's (before the big shopping centres started to appear) and we would get a bucket of chips, cup of cordial and Nan would buy us a $2 toy each week.  I can still vividly remember walking down the aisles and the smells of the store, some of the things we bought and events that happened when shopping such as loosing my Brother in Target (he was hiding under a round rack and Mum nearly had a coronary searching for him).  As I got older and the shopping centres got bigger, I was in awe of the atmosphere, particularly the atmosphere at Christmastime with all of the lights, crowds, decorations and music, still to this day, that is my favourite time of the year to shop!

My favourite shops by far are Op Shops - second hand stores like Lifeline etc - as a child I wouldn't have imagined walking into such shops, let alone buying and wearing things from them (snooty much).  They are wonderful outlets for home wares, clothing, books, toys and renovation items and over the years I have found many bargains and saved myself thousands of dollars - many of the items new or near new - you would never know they are second hand.  My most recent purchase was a 3.5 seat chocolate brown suede lounge, gorgeous modern design and at only $299 was a fraction of the price you would pay from a furniture retailer & the best part is, it was brand new!  

Other favourite stores I love to explore are Bed, Bath and Table, Target, Myer, Trade Secret, Pumpkin Patch, Loot & the Vast Interior & even the humble K-Mart (which has an awesome selection of fantastic home wares this year) including this gorgeous bedding, wall decal etc that I picked up the other day.

I guess my tips for finding a retail bargain are; shop often - the more you shop, the more likely it is that you will come across price reductions, only buy things you genuinely need - after all it's not a bargain if you buy it to store in the cupboard.  I don't tend to lay by as I find I get the item cheaper before the lay by expires or I change my mind about what I purchased in the first place, cancelling multiple lay by's each year can become costly.  For example one year my kids wanted those electronic interactive cubes, $59 each at Toyworld, I picked them up for $3.00 each from Target right before Christmas, guess what a lot of the kids in our family received that year!  I also picked up the I-teddy, originally $120.00 for $15.00 by playing the waiting game at Target.  Patience is luckily a virtue I have!

Another tip, after becoming an avid second hand shopper is, often if you wait, you will find the item in a second hand store.. so why buy new??  An example of this that happened to me recently was shopping for our family portraits. I went to target and bought myself a red top ($40) and my stepdaughter a white cardigan ($29) only to find a near identical red top ($2) and an identical white cardigan ($4 - WITH TAGS!) in Lifeline only 3 days later!!!! I was also able to pick up all of the Marian Keyes novels at Lifeline for $2-$3 each over time, rather than purchase the at department stores for $20+ and the other day I picked up a whole bucket of Mr Potato Head toys (including Darth Tater) for only $4 - a toy I have been resisting paying full price for, the kids now have more than they would have gotten if I'd bought new - Good things come to those who wait!  Go to garage sales and utilise eBay to your advantage also.. you'll never pay full price again..

Later this week, I am going to try out a new method of shopping for me, the world of online grocery shopping! Ill let you all know how that goes too...

Happy Bargain Shopping! :)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Fruit and Vegetable Adventures..

Fruit is a big part of our families diet and it seems we go through so much of it every week. I particularly love eating fruit as the weather gets warmer and enjoy the variety of fruits that are available at this time of the year. The kids and I were particularly surprised to see a yellow seedless watermelon at the grocery shop yesterday, iv never seen a yellow watermelon before. We cut it up for afternoon tea today and it was really nice, I liked that it was a little sweeter than the usual pink watermelon and there seemed to be less of the white rind, so less waste! 

Another fruit that is a little left of centre and a favourite of mine is the pomegranate - growing up, my Nanny Beryl had a pomegranate tree in her backyard and it was always very exciting to pick a ripe pomegranate, have it cut up and pick the little seeds out of it with a teaspoon.  I thought it was great earlier this year when I first noticed Pomegranates at my local Woolworth's, they seemed a lot larger than I remembered and at $4 a pop, I wish I still had that Pomegranate tree!
Other fruit picking memories from my childhood were picking oranges, grapefruits, lemons and macadamia nuts from my Great Granddad's tree's.  Behind his house yard was a gate that lead to an area with lots of these fruit tree's, it was always so much fun to pick the fruit and crack the macadamia nuts in the cracks of the cement with a hammer. Shelling peas out of the pod at my Great Aunts was also a lot of fun, I did this at my Mums the other day and think I ate her whole plant full, so different to the peas you buy out of the frozen section!

In our own backyard we had a loquat tree, mango tree, mulberry tree, peach tree and passion fruit vine. The peach tree never bore much fruit, the peaches were always undersized and the insects got to them before we did, thankfully I didn't like peaches, but I always remember the tree looked so pretty and I was fascinated with the flowers.  Our passion fruit vine was an elaborate affair, growing all over an old hills hoist, I loved the curly tendrils that came off the vine and the gorgeous white and purple flowers that grew all over it, giving shade to a fantastic play area underneath.  Unfortunately our mango tree rotted out and had to be chopped down as did our Mulberry tree, but that was after many years of collecting the squishy purple fruit off of it, getting purple fingers and purple feet.  I haven't had a loquat or mulberry in years!

I now have a macadamia tree growing in my backyard and my kids love to search for the macadamia's that have fallen from the tree and crack them open just as I did as a child.  When we travel up to my parents place, they have a wonderful vegetable garden filled with pumpkins, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, peas,  zucchini, spinach, celery, strawberries and herbs that the kids like to pick with Nanny.  It is such an experience for them to see what plants these fruits grow on and eat something fresh off the tree. It even helped them to eat fruits and vegetables they were unwilling to try before!

I would love to set up a vegetable garden and think that it might be a venture we will have to try in the not too distant future. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

First hint of Christmas.. 47 days to go.

With only 47 days to go until Christmas, the kids and I made a start on some of our Christmas craft today. There are only 4 weeks til school breaks up, so I thought it best to start on making Christmas cards for their friends. I usually purchase store bought cards for them to hand out, but this year I decided making handmade cards would be more fun and would kickstart the festive feel.

We headed to Kmart to stock up on supplies, my favourite products being the precut mini cards (as it saved me a lot of cutting!) a pack of 25 for only $4.00! We bought silver, black and pearl cards for the kids to decorate and they worked wonderfully with the adhesive christmas glitter shapes, so simple, yet they looked so effective! Other items we bought to decorate were glitter pens, gel pens, metallic pens, christmas tree/star scatters, pom poms and ribbons.

I used a cane basket to store all of the christmas craft in, which will keep it nice and accessible over the upcoming weeks and made it easier for the kids to pack up after they finished their craft.

The cards the kids created were soo cute and they are looking forward to finishing them off over the next few days and giving them to their friends later in the month. All except for my eldest stepson who in response to making handmade cards said "I think I might use my pocket money to buy some Christmas Cards.. " Don't you just love the motivation of the pre-teen! LOL.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Little Mini Break..

We just got back this afternoon from a 2 night mini-break after heading to the coast with my Husband's family. It was nice to take time out and catch up with everyone, which is something we haven't done much of this year as life can sometimes lead everyone in very different directions and things get busy. But a couple of days of bbq's, swimming, fishing, chatting and a deviation away from the regular routine was nice and probably just what was needed. After all, who could say no to such a beautiful view...

As much as we love getting away, we are big homebodies and enjoy coming home just as much! My Brother stays at our place whilst we are away to both housesit and petsit and this is a wonderful arrangement that works for all of us. He does a wonderful job and we go away reassured that our pets are happy, fed and comfortable and that our house is in safe hands.

Another thing that made our homecoming so nice was being able to unpack our bags without the burden of a million loads of washing piling up as I thought ahead last night and washed and dried everything before we headed home. Something I will definitely do in the future! So nice to not have wet, sandy washing to wake up to in the morning!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Welcome, One and All..

To my new blog! Yes, there was an old blog 'Happymum81' but I felt I needed a new blog, a fresh start and a blank canvas on which to welcome you all into the life of me. Sometimes interesting and at other times boring (like all lives) I hope to give you an insight into my role as Wife to 1, Mother to 4, Teacher to many and friend to lucky few (lol). My hobbies and passions include my family, my pets, my home, my career, scrapbooking, project life, shopping, cooking and generally keeping myself busy with decorating my home, organising my life and trying to inject calmness into what would otherwise be a crazy busy existance. Blogging is one such way that I am able to do this, I love to share my ideas with others and look forward to making this blog a special reflection of this. So welcome, one and all! Please feel free to 'follow' my blog, although I cannot gaurantee it, I will try my hardest not to dissapoint!