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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What 2013 Meant to Me

In a nutshell:

MyLove

Wishing my dear friends, and the odd reader of this slightly wonky blog all manner of festive wishes. May love and light enter your hearts for 2014.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Sons and Daughters – A Brief Lesson

Such a radical notion but what a challenge ahead – to raise and protect our children but ensure we are raising healthy minds as well as healthy bodies. “Honour” is not something we should impose only on our daughters, it moulds our sons into fine men too.

As it appeared in the Women’s Rights News

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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Joy of Paying Bills?

Years ago I decided to “invest” in a “PAID” stamp. I wasn’t running a high powered enterprise with squillions changing hands – I was earning a modest sum trying to get ahead and chase the illustrious and ever disappearing dream of owning a home. But there was something about that stamp that kept me going.

Sometimes I could only stretch to a certain amount, other times I had even got ahead! When as a couple we both ended up being paid monthly and within 48 hrs of each other the buffer that alternating fortnights we enjoyed for many years was gone. We had to actually budget.

Money is so intangible now that it is all about virtual transactions – it’s not like dividing up your cash into piles across all your bills and heading in to pay them all. A lot of that symbolism has gone and and to me sometimes it feels some of the consciousness around what we spend disappeared with it. My cousin writes down everything she buys. I have never understood it – I am far too reckless. Sometimes I like to just not have to think about it. Perhaps it was all those years of working to put myself through formal study and support myself after leaving home as a teenager that having a decent income rewards me with sometimes not even caring what I spent at a cafe so long as I enjoyed myself and the company of others.

Being back on one income after the arrival of little dragon has required the need for some discipline (gaaah and even after six months I am still not getting it quite right!!) so I wasn’t surprised that as the COO of this household, responsible for all financial and administrative duties I took some pleasure in using this stamp and putting these bills in the filing pile.  Even during our worst struggles when using this stamp was far less frequent it still was the little ‘pat on the back’ I needed to keep going so that we could climb back up again.

I have always felt that as a woman there were two things in life that one should aspire to do:- drive a car (even better own one) and be able to pay your own bills. Why? Because I witnessed and experienced too many women fall victim to abusive relationships where their survival was at the mercy of the perpetrators of the violence. Being able to drive away and pay your own bills could be the key to unlock the door.

So each time I grudgingly deal with those bills, I remind myself I am lucky to be able to pay them. And if you’re in business for yourself you know you enjoy the feeling when you get paid so how about upping the ante and don’t delay on getting your invoices out!?

How do you motivate yourself financially?

Paid

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Making Your Own Wet Wipes at Home

I’m naturally suspicious – doesn’t matter what they tell me on the label is in the baby wipes it just doesn’t seem quite right and when I am not using my fabric wipes, I keep home made “wet wipes” on hand for clean ups that just should not be sitting on fabric waiting for the next laundry load (yes we have started solids!).

There are loads of recipes online but the following is my favourite combo and it is actually pleasant to open the container to these and the clean up efficacy is really good (Mr T likes them alot when he is on diaper duty). With teething upon as well I find this recipe a nice gentle remedy for soon-to-be sore skin on cloth wipes as well.  Works well with disposables and cloth nappies.

Materials

Roll of strong paper towels (you can also use woven wash cloths like “Chux” that you can wash and reuse)
2 cups boiled water
1 chamomile tea bag
1 tblsp sweet almond oil
2 tblsp rosewater
2 tsp soap free baby wash (optional)

Method

Watch TV late at night and tear off each of those sheets and fold in half. This was the most efficient way to get  such a tedious job done without interfering with the rest of your life! Using a container (I used an empty commercial wipes container).

Pour the boiling water into a glass jug with a chamomile tea bag and leave it to cool. At this point I take all my materials to the bathroom and mix in the the other ingredients into the glass bowl. It will have a caramelly colour to it from the chamomile.

Separating the towels into about three piles I place a third into the container and pour enough of the mixture to soak the first few layers then with the palm of my hand press down allowing the bottom layers to soak. I flip the entire pile around and press again. I place the next third on top of this and repeat. Then again with the final third. Do not pour all the liquid at once as the amount of fluid the towels can contain will depend on its absorbency. There should not be excess fluid, and the cloths should not be soaked to the point of disintegration or even if you can wring out the liquid. Pull out lots, turn and press to even out the liquid. You will find that less is more and the towels will soak up the moisture while sitting in the container.

You can take out a portion from here to put in a snap lock bag and take with you. They are great on little hands and faces as well.  If you have the hard wipes cases they will fit with only a small amount of excess to fold over.  The oil in this mix helps “preserve” the wipes and makes it very gentle on skin. Another popular ingredient is witch hazel which acts as an astringent.

If you have any mixture left over you can always decant it into a spray bottle to keep in the nappy bag to spritz on reusable cloth wipes or flannels.

HomemadeWipes.jpg

Friday, 7 June 2013

Next Best Kitchen Utensil - Disposable Chinese Soup Spoons

We’re hurtling into baby wrangling at a pace I didn’t think possible (who would have thought doing so little would feel like so much?!).  We’re currently embarking on first foods play and if there are screw ups to be made I have made a selection of them so far (burnt pots…etc etc). Thankfully my wee bundle is loving the experience so her mama has to get on with filling the freezer with options as making fresh each time is a calculated risk with such an active wee thing.

Anyway I am left smiling to myself a little bit as I discovered a handy little helper in of all things – a disposable chinese soup spoon. Spooning pureed fruit into teeny tiny baby food cubes to go in the freezer. The lip of the spoon holds goopy goo in nicely and clears out the pot rather nicely, better than the usual utensils I might use including the fancier kitchen variety!

Chinese_spoon

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Sistahood–Alive and Well

I have a bit of a confession to make – I’m not good at keeping girlfriends. In fact post high school (“college” as I would prefer to say) and the petulance of young women in their early 20s I kind of gave up on female friendships sustaining me through life. I did have male friends though, and could have even been called a “fag hag” (a term I dislike) at a lot of stages in my life (think mixed bridal party) but by in large I think I was just grateful for more masculine aspects of friendship when snags arose. We got angsty with each other of course, moaned about each other’s foibles but we could always get back together and have a few laughs. The angst never lasted.

Coupledom changes things up a bit as well but being a relatively social individual I was satisfied with the assortment of good friends to share fun times with but there are few in this world I could ever call a confidante. Sometimes I would think this was a bad thing and I should want to “hang with my girls” every Friday night and have a few whines over a wine but the idea never really grabbed me and I couldn’t really conjure up the supposed “hole” I had in my life.

But…and there is one or this wouldn’t really be a post. I have changed my view on this somewhat and added a little extra dimension to it. They refer to the three stages women experience in life as maiden, mother and crone. I guess I was a “maiden” for so long I hadn’t transitioned any earlier to the next stage until quite recently. And this is when I truly can say experienced the fortitude of the “sisterhood”. Everyone knows there is no shortage of criticism around for new parents, all parents in fact but I am typing away here now quite humbled and impacted by the positive energy and support women can and do provide each other. When I announced and then became a Mum, out of the woodwork long lost friends and new ones arrived (virtually and across the Tasman). Their baskets were filled with words of encouragement, advice and even beautifully thoughtful gifts for my sweet girl. They have regaled me with funny stories and even the most basic of pointers as I fumble along with strange “baby things” whether they are fandangled contraptions or “WTH” developmental moments.

On the back of all this, it was brought home to me how much I value this support this week. We had our first developmental hiccup you see. In hindsight not a major one, or a set back that won’t resolve itself but one that left me so forlorn as a mum that I couldn’t really stop the tears one day. So I reached out…online. And my sisters came. Even those I had never met before. I don’t need to explain to other Mums how we beat ourselves up, even about things beyond our control. Good Mums only want what’s best for their children and work so very hard at making it happen.   Despite getting no criticism from Mr T or the medical profession, I had been emotionally high jacked and began to fear I had harmed my sweet baby. Nothing could have been further from the truth but it did take a sensible “talking to” from several sources to help me get it all straight again. I was given many words of wisdom, and lots of gentle reminders that I was doing a good job at this lark.
HelpingHands
This made me wonder, do women make better friends, better confidantes, or wiser counsel with age? Or do life changes make this occur?I know I always enjoyed the company of older women but never really questioned whether it was their age or their experiences that set them apart from my own peer group.   I only hope I can offer the same support to those that need it when the time comes and recognise that I am truly grateful for the love that has been given to me. What has been your experience or have you always had a band of girlfriends (and hey I am open to male correspondents on this one too!)?

Friday, 17 May 2013

Remove Tomato Sauce Residue from Plastics–Easy!

I absolutely hate the mess tomato-based sauces make to plastic storage containers – even when you don’t heat food in them. It feels like you can’t rid of the oily red slick no matter how much detergent, hot water & scrubbing you employ.

This wee trick just makes it a much smoother exercise:

  1. Rinse food residue out. Shake out water, don't dry;
  2. Sprinkle a layer of baking soda (bicarbonate soda) all over. Go occupy yourself for five minutes (i.e. do the other dishes!);
  3. With your hand lightly rub the soda over all the stained areas. No strenuous effort required. Wear gloves if you have sensitive skin. See how it absorbs the residue?
  4. Shake out contents into the bin and wash as usual (n.b. last image is pre washing).

Grease and odour all taken care of! Now what’s for dessert?

Tomato sauce

Enjoy the weekend folks!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Holy Galactogogue the Lactation Biscuit

Entering the domain of motherhood uncovers a whole other world, a most intriguing place it is. In this realm lives “galactagogues” (I love this word!), which basically refers to substances – herbal or medicinal that increase milk production. I have been introduced to some of these on my journey over the last 15 weeks. The efficacy of which is all open to debate but some are more pleasant than others. These cookies have been a staple in my household since the week before baby arrived, largely due to their popularity with everyone else as well as serving a great bite sized snack for me when baby wrangling proves to be a handful.  The recipe features ingredients that have been recognised as “galactogogues” – oats, linseed meal and brewer’s yeast.

The following recipe is courtesy of Breastmates.co.nz and I have had a lot of fun trying variations.  They are really simple to make and the quantities below makes heaps!  I find it freezes beautifully and the reality with a newborn in the house I have only really been successful with cooking if I can do it in stages as I never get a chance to finish any recipe from start to finish. I also find that these roll and handle beautifully if they have been in the refrigerator.  The following recipe will yield  at least 3 x 24 batches so knock ‘em out, keep them in the fridge/freezer and bake them as you need them.  These have been a tremendous hit with blokes. Mr T is the first person to show up when these come out of the oven!  My BIL also posted a hilarious faux pas on his FB status update by calling them “lactating cookies” which invited an amusing confusion from his friend, the author, Armistead Maupin (followed by some quick explanations from me assuring them the biscuits were not lactating!).

Lactation Biscuits

A tasty little recipe that will also help to improve the quality and supply of breast milk.  Widely used by mothers!  If you have 2-3 smallish ones a day it balances out supply but if you need to boost the supply eat more.

Ingredients :

  • 1 cup butter or marg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons linseed (flaxseed) meal*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups oats, thick cut if you can get them
  • 1 cup or more chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons of brewers yeast* (be generous)

Directions:

Preheat oven at 375 degrees F, 180c. Mix together 2 tablespoons of linseed meal and water, set aside for 3-5 minutes. Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mix well. Stir linseed mixture and add with vanilla to the margarine mix. Beat until blended. Sift together dry ingredients, except oats and chips. Add to margarine mixture. Stir in oats & chips. Scoop onto baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Bake 8-12 minutes, depending on size of cookies.

Serves: 6 dozen cookies (a huge batch)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

*NOTE* IT MUST BE BREWERS YEAST, NO SUBSTITUTIONS. Bakers yeast will NOT do - it must be brewer's yeast.   Flaxseed is just the American name for Linseed.

Variations

CookiesPost

So I have been mixing up this recipe quite a lot with varying results. I have gauged their success  by their popularity at home and with my parents’ group.

My now consistent inclusions for this recipe include:

  • Good quality butter – in our case NZ butter
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Dried cranberries – their tartness with the dark chocolate is fantastic
  • Dried blueberries – same reason as cranberries and also antioxidant properties
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds added to flaxmeal mix
  • 2 cups flour is replaced with 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup almond meal and 3/4 wholemeal self raising (the self raising helps the biscuit spread, you get more out of the batch and it is less dense)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (or in my case “shake shake shake” till I like the aroma)
    Ground allspice (same as above!)
  • Sugar – only use brown and raw sugars – prefer the caramelly nature of those sugars compared to white
  • Roasted coconut chips, slivered almonds or roasted pistachios (whatever I have in the cupboard) 

Variation 1 – No Sugar/ Butter

Using the same biscuit dry ingredients as per the recipe, the sugar and eggs are replaced with 3 mashed bananas or a cup of apple pie filling. Butter is replaced with 1/2 cup of coconut butter. Prepare all dry ingredients separately and add the combined wet ingredients to the mix. This is the more earnest version and low guilt factor. Didn’t have the more-ish factor according to my group of mums and husband.  This might not always be a bad thing!

Variation 2 – Reduced Sugar

By halving the sugar and adding a cup of apple pie filling you can pat yourself on the back a little more.  Add the apple filling just after creaming sugars, vanilla and egg.  This is a more moist mixture and doesn’t keep as long in the fridge before cooking. This is the less earnest version and its healthful benefits can be hidden from consumers!

My next experiment may involve the Queen of Galactogogues, fenugreek, being added to this recipe, however in the meantime I am busy using that in an Indian fudge-style dish instead which takes way too much time but is bloody delicious.

In the meantime fill your freezer with the above recipe and experiments – you can’t go wrong and you can cook up a batch so quickly if you have surprise guests (as have a habit of arriving when there is a newborn). Or be good to a new mum and bake her a batch or give her some dough to use as she needs.

And if you find that quiet moment (this is a bit of a fantasy of mine too!) – sit back and enjoy!

Cookies

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

So a Funny Thing Happened… (Involves a Large Canine)

So up there in the list of peculiar experiences recently had to be the arrival of a late night visitor on our door step. One that left us all a little baffled but heartened by the experience!

Setting the scene – mid week family dinner in honour of mother-in-law visit. Needing to be in bed early for overnight feeds I said “good night” and went off to bed. Around 10.00pm I could vaguely hear farewells at the door. I started to suspect there was something amiss when the whispers had a note of panic in them and an exchange taking place between my guests, husband and mother-in-law. I tried to resist flying down the hallway figuring if there was actual danger someone would raise the alarm (and try to get out of this “panicked mama bear” I seem to so readily adopt these days).

That lasted until I heard a “thud” then slightly louder urgent voices. So that’s when I did fly down the hall, hang a left to get to my front door, and met Exhibit A :

Chopper

Barely restrained by the least resilient of our dog leads and while sitting reaching Mr T’s thighs, this canine made quite the impression as I tried to establish whether I was in fact awake.  Mr T hurriedly filled me in as my shocked expression screamed everything from “what the…?” “is he tame?”, “where’s the baby?”. It went:

  • Found him in the driveway;
  • Guests say they saw him earlier in the evening down the road when they arrived (did he follow them? then how long had he been sitting outside?);
  • When they opened the door he walked right in and sat down in our lounge (!?!?)

Trying to work out what to do a rapid pace I said I better take some photos of him and post them up to see if anyone has listed him missing. I grabbed my phone and approached the dog cautiously and asked him if I could take a few photos. He seemed quite amenable but difficult to restrain on the lead as he was so super strong. As I came up to him to take a better shot in the light he lay down, front paws spreadeagled, and rested his large head on my foot. He seemed exhausted and begging for affection.  We checked him for injuries and agreed he was far too clean, healthy, gentle and appearing loved to have been abandoned and that there must be someone out there desperately looking for him.

Mr T bravely decided to (attempt) to walk him up and down the road to see if anyone was looking for him, not before however the dog decided to have another lie down back in the lounge again!  I quickly started posting pics and tried to locate a vet or animal facility that was willing to take him for the night. In the meantime our dogs are going nuts in the backyard wanting to know what playmate we brought home for them!  While we toyed with keeping him overnight we weren’t 100% sure of his temperament and didn’t want to find out the hard way with two much smaller dogs and an infant in the house to think of.  It was an agonising discussion and despite the mother-in-law’s entirely unhelpful suggestions, Mr T and I were very much on the same page that we would do whatever we could to keep the dog safe overnight.

I contacted the Rockdale City Council Animal rangers who were beyond unbelievably unhelpful – we got told he wasn’t injured so not a priority, they might get there tonight or not and why don’t we “leave him in the front yard in case anyone can make it”!!!  So disgusted that they were so willing to leave him to be injured I decided to ring around for any institution that could safely house him for the night.  The only willing group was the Sydney University Animal Hospital (SAVES) and despite potentially being fined by the Council for taking him in they instructed us to bring him over. 

Mr T returned bleary eyed at 1am and we assured each other that we had done the right thing and the dog would be safe. He was microchipped but they couldn’t get a read on it. So even after I fed baby and turned in for the night we collectively worried about him into the morning!

Rockdale City Council again affirmed they operate like an amateur theatre production with a generous rate revenue take by the appearance of a churlish ranger banging on my front door at 6.15am (Yes!!). I answered the door with a less than amused expression on my face having just finished breastfeeding and putting my baby down. He continued to behave like an ass and vaguely apologised for the hour. He then had the gall to whine about the inconvenience and blatantly lied about someone having come through the area the night before at midnight (our lights were on remember!). He just looked plain pissed that the dog had gone to SAVES. He clearly needed a new vocation.

After running some errands that day I had to call SAVES to find out if they had any luck at at finding the dog’s owners as we were still worried about him. They couldn’t and the poor dog had gone to Sydney Cats and Dogs Home. The lady at SAVES mentioned that again Rockdale City Council could not be bothered coming to get him until they were pressured (getting the picture?). With this playing on my mind when I got home I was over the moon excited to find a flyer in the mail box for who turned out to be “Chopper”. I made an excited phone call to the owner who was unsurprisingly relieved. After an exchange of messages to let me know Chopper was safe and was coming home we had an SMS conversation – turns out Chopper was originally rehomed after having been abandoned by owners in Woollongong. He had only recently moved in the area and got quite lost not knowing where to go. He had been missing since 3pm which explained why he was just happy to go to sleep in our living room for a while!

I don’t know how he found us or knew that we would look after him, or even how long had he waited outside our house but we’re glad that he was back in a loving home because he is one sweet (but massive!) dog!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Woods Deli & Cafe – A Suburban Secret

I became all too painfully aware when venturing beyond Sydney’s inner western suburbs that decent cafes were one of the first sacrifices to be made so it was such a relief to hear that the Earlwood border with Clemton Park was now home to quite a pleasant offering.

The Woods opened in 2011 and is the labour of love of chef Emma Woods (hence the name and the convenient tie in to earlWOOD!). With names like Rockpool, Billy Kwong, Rick Stein Restaurant, The Swell and the Light Brigade Hotel under her belt, the dishes were never going to be boring or woefully common.

TheWoods.jpg

I have visited there now an embarrassingly number of times but the fact that I have been fortunate enough to get a table, fast and friendly service and delicious meals more times than not has had me returning time and time and again.  The menu is well thought out and packed with fresh flavours – you do not leave hungry but your eyes wickedly entice you try something sweet from the counter.  Serving Stazione Espresso coffee they have become a popular stop for the afterschool pickup crowd and you will encounter many young things quite expert in ordering their carer’s favourite brew.  Bread comes from Infinity Bakery in Darlinghurst.  Also available are a selection of homemade jams and relishes and all food is prepared on the premises.  They are also offering dinners on the last Saturday of the month which hopefully when we find a babysitter we might be able to go along to!

The menu has evolved from the website listings taking into account available produce. The staples on the breakfast menu (delightfully available till 3pm) are consistently good and the a la carte menu features some lovely pasta dishes, grills etc so that you can have a “special occasion” meal with friends & family without feeling like you have battled the rest of Sydney to get there.

Some of my favourite dishes (and ones regularly on the menu):

  • White chocolate croissant cake – yes a mega slice of this delicious almost pudding like cake will knock yWoodsCroissant.jpgou flat on your a…s. A stretchy waistband is required. Layers of fluffy croissant encased in white chocolate will have you heading for the diet confessional in no time!;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Chorizo omelette – packed with chorizo, feta and spinach, every mouthful will have you declining every boring eggy omelette mess from anyone else forever! In fact you could call it a “Nom-lette”;

WoodsNomlette

  • Fried eggs on a bed of herby salad greens, chickpeas, oyster sauce, pumpkin, topped with fried shallots is a moreish taste sensation. Almost a dish of “Here a few of my favourite things. I would also see myself consuming it as a hangover cure by justifying that it was healthy.WoodsEggs.jpg

 

 

The Woods Cafe & Deli
160 William Street
Earlwood

http://www.thewoodscafe.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Monday, 8 April 2013

Postage Stamps & Caffeine

The realities of stepping away from a full time and full on corporate gig to be at home with a newborn are starting to hit home on the financial stakes. The costs of raising a child in an urban centre like Sydney is a challenge and I have taken all the advice I can of other families that have endured it and come out richer for it thanks to their creativity and ability to seek out pastimes that whet the appetite.

Sleepless nights, bedraggled appearance and neverending list of things that need to be done has meant that I have to find pleasure in little things that can give me short bursts or daily doses of bliss during “me time”.  Even though my daughter’s delicious giggles and smiles are immeasurable on the “bliss” stakes.

IMG_20120825_133112My weekly budget these days extends to coffees (other than what I consume at home). Coffee dates these days aren’t as much about dining out as seeking out adult company and different scenery to occupy an active baby.

 

 

Stamps-001

 

The second item is postage stamps. Odd as it sounds in this day and age, I am experiencing considerable joy penning a note to loved ones whether it is a birthday, condolence or a simple ‘thank you’. In a few short weeks (11 to be exact) I have sent more mail than I would have in probably 2 years! And it has given me so much joy which I hope in turn it brings a fraction of that to the recipients.  I wear a smile on my face every time I seal an envelope and affix a stamp. I get the same buzz when I put them in the mail box or drop them at the post office.

I was inspired to take this up thanks to this beautiful TED talk which I still think is a marvellous gesture but it made me question “why not love letters to those you love?”.  While I am not exactly sending love letters, they are symbolic of “I remember you and honour you”. 

Please watch the talk, your heart might thank you for it.

What simple act brings you a daily dose of bliss? Especially when you have had a life change?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Baby Bouquets– Make a Gorgeous Gift

Given I recently shared what I gave as a baby gift (Cupcake Onesies) I thought I would have a couple of posts for things that I received quite recently for my new arrival. Basically items that I have loved, found really useful or unique that you might like for gift ideas.
One commercial baby gift specialist makes these gorgeous “baby bouquets” in lovely gift sets. Perfect for corporate gifts etc. I was so intrigued by the “bouquet” itself that I was curious to work out how to do it myself and thought I would share it with you. The photos amuse me largely because they were taken in ‘reverse’ order  - the unwrapping, which I found just as useful to learn how to do it!
This is the gorgeous gender neutral gift box that also featured a little bouquet of singlets and socks.
2012-12-17 14.05.16
What you Need:
  • Selection of newborn clothing – singlets, socks, bibs, onesies
  • Floral wire
  • Artificial foliage – flat leaves
  • Floral tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Tissues
  • Coloured tissue paper or wrapping paper
Fold the item of clothing into a narrow flat rectangle by folding in all sides.
Take approx 30 cm length of floral wire, and fold in half.
Take the wire (folded end) and place at one end of the rectangle fabric. Take the rectangle - start by folding down a corner to form a point at the end over the wire then start rolling around this point to form a rosebud shape.
Hold in place with a rubber band
Wind folded tissue tightly around the base of the bud, leaving enough fabric above the tissue to resemble a flower and enough to tissue at the bottom to elongate the bud and form the head of the stalk.
Tightly wrap sticky tape around the tissue paper & garment.
Spread 2-3 artificial leaves around the base of the bud and squeeze the metal stalks down the base of the bud so there are no protrusions. Sticky tape around the bud tightly.

Taking floral tape, wind from the tissue line all the way to the base, making sure as little of the base is visible at all.  Keep winding all the way down the base of the bud and down the length of the floral wire to create a uniform green layer and form your stalk. Might not be achieveable with the single length of tape but try to give it a go, the tape wraps itself nicely and you can add a piece without it being noticeable. Wrap the tape up and over the end of the wire as well to cover up the end. That should be your first bud complete.
Repeat for as many flowers you desire having in the bouquet and whatever clothing items you wish to display this way.
Once completed place all buds in a tight bunch, making sure the head of each bud will sit nicely in a bouquet. Then wind all the stalks very tightly around each other in one direction to form one thicker stalk. Tape the bud heads tightly together with sticky tape. Wrap the flowers with coloured tissue paper or wrapping paper.  Admire your work before preparing it for giving!
Thankfully all these items are fairly forgiving and there is no permanent damage to the materials if you make a mistake so practice to your heart’s desire!

The author is unaware of any intellectual property rights to either the method these items are made or the idea itself and does intend to harm the commercial interests of the businesses that trade in this product.

*Updated assembly instructions 9/4/2013

Monday, 1 April 2013

Cupcake Onesies – Easy Presentation Idea for a Cute Baby Gift

A friend of mine was expecting a baby a few weeks before mine and I had been crocheting a pram blanket for her and wanted to add a little something to make it extra special. I came across a great little presentation idea that turned simple little onesies and socks into gorgeous little “cupcakes”.

Detailed instructions and assembly pictures can be found here. These folks enjoyed making these as much as I did and I really like the idea of presenting them in cupcake boxes – very cute. Next time!

Sourcing onesies – without a doubt we’re still paying too much for baby clothes in Australia and individual onesies are still fairly pricey. As you need a few to make up a set of these(4-6 ideally)  I ended up sourcing them from Amazon, as I was also after lots of plain white ones for painting at my baby shower (that never eventuated but I did end up with plenty of handy white onesies to put under rompers and dresses etc). You can get decent US brands like Carters, Oshkosh etc and I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cotton in the Disney onesies I bought.   Amazon had a selection of ‘bulk’ options and sets and now that we’re on a budget facing a single income in Sydney, even with paying a premium on freight meant it was cheaper sourcing them this way. I also grabbed the socks from there and now wish I had bought more for my own girl.

If you’re even the occasional baker I am sure you have cupcake wrappers/sleeves in the pantry. You will need to secure the “cupcake” in order for it to hold its shape with the standard fan variety of wrappers. I used the deeper cup style as they are much firmer and as you will see below I didn’t need to fasten any aspect of the “cupcake” to make it sit.

For convenience I prewashed everything (and popped a little note in the gift letting Mum know) so if she wished she could go ahead and start using them straight away.  I did a bit of a ‘mod’ and avoided using tape to brace the onesie – instead I used the ankle of the sock to fold up and over itself and the suit to hold everything in place in the “cupcake”.  You may see in one of the photos below that I allowed the edge of one to come up a little higher to add a layered effect to the top of the “cupcake”. It fit snugly into the wrapper that way. Because the gift was being posted I couldn’t really trust that heat from sorting machinery wouldn’t cause the tape to leave residue on the clothes.

The “cupcakes” accompanied a pram blanket I had crocheted in a cotton blend (summer baby) and I thought it made for a lovely gift to welcome a new baby (she had a gorgeous wee girl!).

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Mother’s Little Helper: OSIM uCozy Neck and Shoulder Massager

My “baby moon” trip to Singapore was a great opportunity for me to get out and about walking everywhere post the first trimester roller coaster. With the humidity, heat and wavering energy levels I found a haven in the OSIM chain of stores in one of the many malls that line Orchard Road. They specialise in therapeutic devices such as massagers, chairs, and the really wild and wonderful eye massager goggles! This store had an entire lounge room set up for their high end chairs where customers were booked into to try them out in a tranquil spa-like set up. I stared enviously and made do with amusing myself with what was on display.

I have owned those hideous ‘shiatsu’ machines in the past – the kind that knead you into a more painful knot than what you had to begin with so I was a little sceptical when I tried uCozy Neck and Shoulder massager but the level of relief it provided for tired muscles without the hideous punitive infliction of more pain. I rated its performance “ZOMG” (my own classification system, feel free to borrow). It was great on the legs after walking many kms in a day and sore shoulders & neck. It turned the lovely lounge recliner in our hotel room into a mini spa!Osim massager 11-03-2013

It is has the option to use with or without heat – the rolling motion is gentle without hard edges (it has nice smoothly tapered edges) and the heating is delicious when the temperature starts to cool.

Now that dragon is in my arms all the time, lots of rocking, changing, lifting etc I am finding this wee contraption my greatest source of relief as without any babysitters to call on, a one hour massage for this tired body is one luxury I will have to put on hold for a bit longer.

I didn’t realise until writing this post that a store had been opened here in Sydney, at Westfield Parramatta. I may just have to call into this store for 5 mins of rest too one day!

What other indulgences have you invested in as tired new parents? Which ones were the best or most overrated??

Where to find : OSIM Australia WebShop

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Friday, 15 March 2013

A Cheeky & Sustainable Solution to Baby Wipes

Child rearing in the western world seems like the most resource intense and wasteful pastime much of it courtesy of big name brands that have been the sole educators for new mums with direct access to them via even the maternity wards (ever wondered where we get our knowledge of menstruation as well? sorry that may have been a bit much right off the bat right but think about it?!). I had been warned in the past by experienced Mums that commercial wipes were notorious for aggravating nappy rash so I was interested in finding an alternative.

I had resolved to buy bamboo viscose, cut to size and serge the edges however my little sewing machine was not going to create the joyful tidy little cloths that I wanted that an overlocker would achieve. As I researched online for what solutions parents were using and how I stumbled across this product Cheeky Wipes, based in the UK.

While I contemplated getting it from them I was relieved to learn that the founders had partnered up to bring the product to Australia and had started the company for the very reasons I was looking for their product (it would have been really helpful if the UK site referenced the Australian business).

I decided to opt for the “All in One” starter kit and though I thought it was priced at the high end ($59.95) the practicality and convenience of the solution was enough to convince me that a tired new parent didn’t need to overcomplicate matters! In hindsight, best decision I made for my household. I also got extra wipes, which I am really glad I did because even with a warm Sydney summer,  I have reduced the pressure to do frequent washes just to have enough wipes on hand. I find the cost of extra wipes OTT – bamboo ones are more than $1 per unit so the margins are fairly steep. The terry cotton wipes pose better value for money but I am still not that keen to be throwing money towards someone sewing on all the little tags!

The kit includes the containers (“mucky” and “fresh”), wipes and essential oils to start you off. The practicality of a wash bag inside the “mucky” container that you can throw in the wash. You also get a great little travel system that means you can take your fresh wipes with you in your nappy bag and a “mucky” bag that has a zip out wash bag as well. The essential oils will keep things nice and fresh smelling, and the colour coding will prevent contaminating clean cloths. Simple, functional.

I was really appreciative of how easy it was to set up and get going. The colour coding also meant I could get grandma and papa up to speed and using the system in no time and most importantly even with my having antibiotics, both of us vaccinated, the annoying stifling humidity and any number of things that dictate the “explosiveness” of things my little dragon has only suffered the most minor nappy rash which is usually cleared after a single application of balm.

I would recommend this as a great gift for new parents, or just a new arrival. The solution does make it easier to make the choice to move away from disposable, chemical laced wipes and the versatility for use in home and out and about means I may be using these for a few years to come. The outlay is a little steep in my opinion but the convenience has outweighed the cost and it would easily pay for itself in the first six months.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Breaking A Long Absence

I took an unplanned break from documenting life a little recently – didn’t stop living it mind you, just found myself particularly short on “me” time to capture it in writing. The facebooks, twitters, burpples and instagrams of this world continued to chronicle my activity in bite sized chunks but having time to reflect in words was not on the cards.   Here’s why.

2012 was a bountiful year – “bountiful” because there were events that punctuated change, learning and loss. We kicked off the year with the nuptials of two beloved family members in New Zealand and in Melbourne. We snuck in a trip to Adelaide (a first and I will share my visit to Maggie Beer’s farm one day) then returned to life in corporate Australia thinking all the ‘hyper’-activity would settle down for the remainder of what we thought would be an uneventful year.

It wasn’t to be – the passing of a six year old family member and the mourning that followed left an indelible mark. To add to the sadness, while I sat in their family home assisting with funeral arrangements the media were parked outside my corporate office broadcasting the imminent large scale job cuts. A moment that proved an opportunity to question priorities.

It wasn’t surprising that in the melee that I was somewhat neglectful of my own health. I’m  normally am pretty good (thanks to a chronic condition) at picking up whether I need to change what I am doing. I had to fit in another trip to Melbourne for more family occasions but I had a nagging feeling something was off base but kept pushing it aside. Whatever magic the Universe planned for us it was sending some strong signals –  while we grieved the passing of one child we discovered we were expecting one of our own.  A surprise blessing quite unlike any other.

So there I was facing potential job loss with precious cargo on board! Self preservation kicked in and my focus switched to staying health and enjoying the pregnancy. I did fit in a trip to Singapore (‘baby moon’) and enjoyed some great food (not as varied as I would have liked but the return visit shall be different!). I survived the first cull at my employment, then the second, then as the year closed for Christmas I farewelled my colleagues and prepared for the toughest gig I would likely ever face and new job title. I was about to become a “baby momma”.

So here I am 7 weeks since becoming a mum to a gorgeous healthy little girl and revisiting this neglected outlet. There are plenty of posts waiting to be uploaded and as time permits these will make an appearance. Things have changed of course and while fancy restaurants, cooking experiments and food experiences are now limited, I will be sharing what I am learning on this journey, so be warned there may be many parent-related discoveries a long the way and probably some more crafting as finances dictate my source of recreation (theatre we enjoyed a 20 yr relationship but I am on a short break for now!). Hopefully those that have enjoyed my posts in the past can appreciate the transition and as with all things life moves on and a new phase has started for me! This blog will too evolve as I make this often difficult transition.

Thanks for hanging in there and if you have just recently dropped in – look forward to sharing with you in the future!

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