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This Saturday I'm grateful for... grandparents!

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

I'm writing this post in advance (it's Monday, I'm organised!) as this weekend we are off down the coast to visit Gran and Pops. They only live about 3 hours drive away, but we haven't been down since Anzac Day (and even then G and P were actually off on holiday themselves). So, it's been since Christmas time that we've been at Gran and Pops' place while G and P were actually there. Crazy!

The Tsunamis talk the entire 3 hours drive. Maxi-Taxi, in particular, is fond of a story and will not draw breath the entire journey. I've learnt to tune them out while I drive The Terror along the freeway, but the chattering is still headache inducing and I generally arrive in a somewhat crazed state. But there's nothing like coming back to the home I grew up in and, as ever, when your mum is around you're not the main mum. She lifts the burden of parenting just by being there.  A more experienced mum than yourself, she can be relied on to be the one who knows what needs to be done. Instant relaxation!

So, this Saturday I'm grateful for...

1. Grandparents - in all their loving glory.

2. The excited cry of 'there's a cow, mummy!' from the backseat of The Terror, which, aside from being just plain cute, signals that there will finally be more interesting stuff out the window than strip malls, boring bush or freeway to distract the Tsunamis for the rest of a long journey.

3. Weekend breaks - same shite, different location, I know. But a welcome break from routine all the same.

What's making you happy today?



Things I learned this week including that I wasted years of precious baby time...

It's been a busy week which means that I didn't get time to jot down my learnings like I usually do. Or maybe it was a slow week and I just didn't learn anything? Regardless, I jotted down five and anything else I learned has flown out of my scatterbrain head already. So, enjoy my five for the week that was and I'll try to do better next week!

1. I missed a real opportunity when my babies were tiny. If only they had been better sleepers! Check out what Adele gets up to when Mila is sleeping...

2. How to print on twill tape. Now, I know you're thinking 'why would I need to print on, ah, what's twill tape?' but I'm enamoured by the idea of printing out little message to sew into clothing and things. Pop over to Weekend Vintage to see for yourself.

3. I* can make this fab chicken coop and run courtesy of Costa.

4. Kids don't actually melt when they get wet in the rain. They love it, in fact. And since in this modern age we know that you don't actually catch a cold by being wet and cold, I just went with it and let the Tsunamis and their friends** get wet and mad as we came home from school on Wednesday.

5. You really do say it best when you say nothing at all (thanks Ronan).  During a conference call that I didn't agree with on Thursday, I went into silent mode and said absolutely nothing. After the call I had 3 people phone me back to agree with me. Ah, hello, I didn't say anything!!

Did you learn anything new this week? Scroll, scroll, scroll and click to share your fabulous knowledge!

* Okay, so LOML can make it... or we could potentially pay someone to make it... or we could just think about making it...
** If Sasha or Ben's mums are reading this, Sasha and Ben stayed well and truly under the umbrellas watching the Tsunamis get wet and mad. Promise.

It's FlogYoBlog Friyaaaaay hosted by Lori over at Random Ramblings of a SAHM, thanks Lori...

EDIT: On 1/11 I changed the image that accompanied this post. I had permission from Adele to use her Mila's Daydream image when I posted, but I noticed that she is trying to recall her images so I've taken mine down to respect that. Hope you enjoy the new image if you're late to this post! 

[Image from Desire to Inspire]


Ms Nosybella: have you ever...?

Nosybella's baaaack. Asking all the questions, begging for all the answers.

Today I'm all about life experiences and the many little past yous that add up to a whole today you. So, I'm asking, have you ever (my evers in brackets)...

lived overseas? (Four years in London with LOML in my late twenties. Good times.)

hitch-hiked? (Most of the way around France and parts of Ireland. Remind me to tell you about the time the busker with the manequin picked us up outside Roussilion.)

bought a self-help book? (Dr Phil takes pride of place on my shelf. You can't change what you don't acknowledge, people.)

skinny-dipped? (Many times, but privately. Is that the same?)

tried accupuncture? (Needle-phobic, but so desperate for back-pain relief during pregnancy that I tried it and I liked it.)

had a one night stand? (Seemingly a necessary part of growing up in Sydney in the nineties.)

re-gifted? (Often, a great way to recycle!)

loved somebody so much it makes you cry?  (Having a Brandy moment there... and the answer is I've wept)

Have you ever... shared?



The day my patience died...

For the first time in my life I've given something I wrote to someone else to decide if they liked it. Not including teachers, of course. Or Mum.

I saw a post by Wanderlust a little while ago that mentioned that she'd blogged over at Real Bloggers United (a blogcatalog group). I really loved Kristin's post and the idea that she had submitted it to a blog forum was really cool. I thought "hmmm, wonder if I could do that?" and decided to see if I could.

And I can.

My piece was accepted and I'm over there today with a little tale about torturous sleep-deprivation, the baby who caused it and the friend who stood by me through it all.

Hope you like! I'm a bit nervous because it's more 'creative' than I'm used to writing... nervous and rambling... 'cause I do that... ramble when I'm nervous... see?

Anyway, let me know what you think! I'm open!

[Image by Neil Glasscock]


When child's play just isn't!

As the Tsunamis are getting older, I've realised how tense I used to be on any given day. I was literally locked up in the shoulders with what I thought was worry about their safety and wellbeing, but now I know was actually worry that they would ask me to play with them.


I cannot stand most of the baby- toddler kids' games. Oh, I could go a few rounds of shake the rattle, ring o ring o rosey and even a jack was quiet down in his box. And I'm an engineering marvel when it comes to designing and implementing complicated train tracks for Thomas et al. But ask me to peek a boo, read Spot Loves His Mum over and over, build a lego tower or even pretend to be tickle monster and I go to pieces. Yes, I think they are adorably cute at this age, but still it was an effort to engage. I used to grit my teeth and get on with it, fake, overly-happy smile plastered all over my terrified face, but I'm sure the Tsunamis could see right through me.

Have I damaged them for life?

These days they are far more interesting*.  We learn letters, we write, we draw, we paint, we read books with an actual storyline, we play hide and seek. A lot of the time we do our own thing 'together' and they love that too.

As a result, I'm much more settled and happy just being with them. And it's made me realise more than ever that 'it's a marathon, not a sprint'. We first started saying this right about the time Maxi-Taxi came home from the hospital and LOML and I would look at this tiny little thing and say 'soooo, when are his parents coming to pick him up again?' And when things were difficult or confusing or torturous, we'd remind ourselves 'it's a marathon, not a sprint' - hoping that even though we were clearly losing the 'sprint', the marathon was ours for the taking.

We're in this parenting thing for the long haul and there will be times in our children's lives when we're not in our element at all. I found I wasn't a natural 'baby - toddler' parent, but I'm loving the 'pre-school+' parenting. Down the track, I might not love the 'pre-puberty' years, but perhaps the teens and I will gel. You see? It's a marathon and sometimes we've got to dig deep, get the head down and plow ourselves on. Other times we'll be looking around, on a high, enjoying the run.

And, oh, what a run it is!

Are you in your element with the baby/ toddler set? Or are you 'growing' your babies into acceptable play mates like I shamefully do?

* The Badoo is not. She is only two. Luckily her older brother and sister are only too happy to accommodate her dear two year old 'Where's Badoo?' play requirements. Unlike her selfish mother...


Hi there! I rewound this post at the Fibro on 29.1.2011


Craft is the new Green?

You know how I'm a little bit crafty? Well, I'm wriggling with envy over some of the fabulously unique blogs out there. And what is just so particularly special is how generous these wonderful people are with their time and experience (have you noticed how many generous souls there are here online? It's heartwarming, isn't it?). There are tutorials galore, patterns, tips and a patient friend to guide you. Even if you're not so crafty yourself, the celebration of all that is aesthetically pleasing will be worth the visit alone.

Warning, you'll die a little inside, but check out these for starters:

Thomson Family Life
Draw! Pilgram
The Lark Blog
Handmade Love
Grand Revival Designs
Mira Narnie

Oh, how I'm loving these clever clogs. And just a little bit loathing, you know? I wish I was half as clever. Actually, I think envy is kraft, not green*.

* Must I go on with these terrible puns?!

[Image by the fabulously crafty group at 3OldHens]


Lunchbox loving | Ravishing raspberry and white choc muffins

Another classic this week. I've been making these babies for a long time from a torn piece of A4 paper with scribbles, but I think the recipe might have been a Nigella that I adapted to reduce the enormous butter quantity (yes, definitely a Nigella!). I do the wholemeal flour option to try to kid myself that I feed my children healthfully, but they are definitely nicer with 100% of the white stuff (don't tell the tsunamis!). I often skip the chocolate and substitute more raspberries and a cup of pureed zucchini. Weird, but it works!

Raspberry and white chocolate muffins

300g plain flour (I use 100g plain white and 200g plain wholemeal)
2 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
225ml milk (or buttermilk)
50g butter
approx. 100g raspberries
approx. 110g white chocolate
1. Pre-heat oven to 200oC. Grease and line a 12 hole muffin tray.

2. Half the raspberries and chop chocolate into large chunks. Keep it chunky as the end result is yummier.

3. Sift flour and baking powder into large bowl.

4. Stir sugar into flour mixture.

5. Melt the butter (I do it in the microwave on half power for about 50 secs)

6. In separate bowl crack the egg, whisk in the vanilla extract, milk and melted butter.

7. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Don't over stir, just bring it all together.

8. Smash the raspberries a fair bit (injects flavour throughout the whole muffin) and then add to the bowl along with the white chocolate.  Fold through.

9. Scoop into muffin tray. I tend to make bigger muffins so I only make 9.

10. Into the oven for approx 30-35 minutes or until muffins start to golden on top.

11.Best enjoyed warm, however careful that the chocolate isn't too hot for little mouths. You can also freeze these little bundles of lunchbox yum.



This Saturday I'm grateful for... Tsunamis

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

This Saturday I'm grateful for...

My beautiful children.



What's making you happy today?



Things I learned this week including the existence of sigh macarons

1. There really is no business like show business. Especially at the circus.

2. The 1,2,3 method of disciplining Tsunamis really, really works. I only just acknowledged this. We've been using the method (1 = reminder 2 = warning 3 = consequences) for over a year and just this week I suddenly realised that these days most of the time I don't get past '1'. A reminder of what good behaviour is all about is all it takes.

3. When 1,2,3 fails, there is always 'putting on my cranky pants'. If you're at your wits end and the kids are mental, putting on the cranky pants ("I'm putting them on right now", "no, not the cranky pants", "yes, those cranky pants are coming out of the cupboard and my leg is going...", "nooooo don't put on the cranky pants, Mum!") is a great way to diffuse a mess into humour and it actually really works. Of course, when the cranky pants do go on, mum has to be really, really cranky to make the whole thing work. Those pants are the biz.

4. The number one reason why people are unhappy in their job and don't feel empowered* is because they don't feel heard. Listening and showing that you understand a grievance is all it takes to make people feel better about their jobs, even if you can't fix the actual grievance. I think this is something we can bring to the home front too... Talk to me, I'm here for you and I'm really interested in what you have to say...

5. Macarons are everywhere. Everyone is talking about them, eating them and making wedding cake towers out of them. I had never even heard of a macaron until this week (although, are they the same as the Italian macaroon of which I have eaten ample?) I fear for my 20 year diet...

6. There are some emailing lists out there that you join for life. No matter how many times you hit 'unsubscribe', their little email shows up right on time. Are you listening, BandT magazine???

7. Just-turned-two year olds can leap from the top of a bed onto the floor and land neatly like a gymnast. Thank god.

8. Many people out there really do want to just wallow in their misery. I'm not talking about depression, I'm talking about whinge, whinge, whinge and nothing done to change their situation. Makes me frustrated and heart-broken.

9. It's National Tree Day in Australia on 25 July.

10. Tumblelogging is superfast blogging, a cross between twitter and traditional blogs. Check it out at tumblr**.

Tell me, what did you learn this week??

* I actually hate this word with all my heart and soul and I'm sorry I used it.
** Although, should you choose to do so I will not be by your side. My life is far too slow for tumblr. I am already struggling with the pace of twitter. They are like trying to have a conversation at a party.

Oh and don't forget to join in The July Chronicles: What's on your fridge? Linky open until 31 July.

Flog Yo Blog Friday with RRSAHM...

The baton has changed hands, but the sentiment is still there. Lori's hosting FYBF! It's fun to hop from blog to blog, seeing what everyone's up to and maybe finding a new gem to follow.


The July Chronicles: What's on your fridge?

The June Chronicles was a spectacular success with a whole entry received.

LJ at With My Own Two Hands was kind enough to complete the linky but she counts as only 1/2 an entry as she did not in actual fact do any sort of post on the happenings on her fridge. 

And sadly, as I am related to MultipleMum at And then there were four, her beautifully written, dare we say unputdownable fridge chronicle can really only counts as 1/2 an entry as well. 

So, an entry, all totalled.

But, proof of how hard it is to keep a brilliant idea down, I'm dusting myself off, picking myself up and merrily presenting... 

The July Chronicles

Here is the birthday invitation to Cappers' best (possibly only) friend in the world's birthday party later this month. It is true that she is not a child inundated with party invites. Why, just last week one of the Preschool Mum Brigade bemoaned the fact that her little girl had 27 parties to go to all in one morning.  There is not a lot of bemoaning going on around here. Needless to say, we await the big event with pride.

Here is a photo of a photo of The Badoo at daycare with her 'gloves' on. Ever since this picture hit the fridge, she's insisted on wearing a pair of latex gloves that were, you know, just lying around. I have tried to tell her that the photo is of her very self, not in gloves but finger painting. But she's two and she wants the gloves.

You will notice that little Kingston, our 27 year old sponsor child from Malawi (for details, see The June Chronicles) has been covered up by a "Nuture your Friendships" card. This was accidental, but entirely symbollic. When, oh when, will we ever write back to the letter he sent us in 2004?

Here is a picture Maxi-Taxi drew for his mum of "siamese fighting fish and a scuba diver with a big knife." You will notice that the scuba diver has a speech bubble saying "I luv you mum". Maxi-Taxi produced this all on his own and every time I see it on the fridge I get a little tear. I don't know if this is because I am so proud of my boy or whether I am gripped by fear due to the love and the knife being in the same artwork. Either way, he's mine.

You can't see this on the larger picture above as it's lower than the camera captured, but Cappers stuck together a fairy for the fridge and as she managed the sticky tape all on her own, I thought it was worthy of a mention.

That's my fridge for July... so join the linky and share what's on yours. Linky open until the end of the month. Let's double last month's figures, people!

Loving Cocoon Couture

You may or may not have noticed that I've got a bit of a children's bedroom fetish. I just love the beautiful things they produce for children these days and I never restrict myself to just the kids' rooms with this stuff. I'd be happy to have it all over the house.

 I've always wanted to buy this gorgeous Cocoon Couture shelf stand, but every time I'm about to hit 'buy' I ask myself "what exactly do you do with a shelf stand?" I mean, really. I get that it's ornamental, but still... shelf stand. Eighty-nine bucks of stand it on the shelf. You know.

Regardless, Cocoon Culture deserves a spot on Maxabella loves... simply because I love it. And they have other gorgeous lust-haves too.

Fab name, fab stuff.

PS - Stand by... tomorrow is the launch of The July Chronicles: What's on your fridge? Get ready to join in the fun by taking a few happy snaps of what's on your fridge right now. If you don't have a magnetic fridge, share your noticeboard!


Circus Bizircus

Two little Tsunamis rolled up when the The Great Moscow Circus was in town on Saturday.  I'm not entirely sure what they were doing in these photos, but I thought they looked a little Agent 99 and 86.

After the circus they were too busy doing elaborate acrobatic moves to stand still for a photo. The verdict on the show was that the bendy girls weren't real (which is comforting for if they were real they were super scary). They both agreed that they too would like to try climbing a 'curtain' and dead-falling at lightening speed until they were about 5cm off the ground. 'But, when we're grown ups", reassured Cappers.

Maxi-Taxi, who at 6 is just 'so over' forced joviality and was 'so booooooored' the whole way through, admitted that he 'nearly lost it*' when 4 motorbike riders came on and rode 80km an hour inside 'the cage of death' which was about the size of our bathroom.

Along went I expecting to be horrified by the awful carnyness of it all. But it was a very professional, outstanding show with amazing lighting and a ripper soundtrack. Even the clown was tolerable, helped along by the fact that he was mute, had a black nose and his outfit was all neutral shades of brown. Sort of a clown homage to Nirvana.** The only low point (and it was admittedly pretty low) was that the amazing magician guy who made a girl turn into a dove seemingly before my very eyes, sold us a lemonade at half time. I didn't quite know where to look. I mean, did we take the opportunity to congratulate him on his outstanding performance in the ring while he counted out our change? Bit carny that.

* I don't exactly know when the child started speaking like a 16 year old American teenager, but I suspect Ben 10 has a lot to answer for.
** But he still wasn't funny.


Brown paper packages, tied up with string

What did we do with Maxi-Taxi throughout the winter school holidays? Neither LOML or I could get time off work, so we prepared for lots of Holiday Care and WMG. Not so. We hadn't factored in the generosity of the Kinder Mum Brigade. Maxi-Taxi spent only 2 days out of 10 at Holiday Care, 2 with me, 1 with LOML and the rest in a variety of homes, all linked by kindness.

We made extra-special choc chip cookies (they have 3 types of choc bit plus mini-M&Ms) and took them along as a little thank you for having me.

It's amazing the difference in the way people live. One Thursday we drove up through the 'lawns' and parked in front of the 'staff quarters'. A horse wandered by. It was like walking onto the set of one of the house-porn shoots. To make matters worse, they're a really lovely family. I liked them so much before I saw their house.

The next home had a note on the front door 'I'm in my pjs, let yourselves in!' Place was a wreck. A child ate breakfast sitting on top of the table. Another child was in underpants only and promptly hid in the pantry never to be seen again. A motley dog wandered by.

No prizes for guessing which home I was more comfortable in.

Regardless of how or where or even what you live, we love you Kinder Mum Brigade. Thank you.

PS - This post is part of ♥Much Love♥'s [made it myself] week...


Maxabellaland: population 101

I know it's so totally not cool it's burning, but I was so excited to reach 100 followers I just had to do a little happy dance. I don't know what the blogosphere etiquette is for being joyful that interest in your blog is growing, but I'm pretty sure that public happy dancing doesn't come into it. But, I'm dancing anyway!

My blogging journey has been an interesting one. Maybe you've been there, maybe you haven't. It goes a little like this:

Maxabella's two sisters start blogging, Maxabella scoffs. Doesn't get it.

Gets hooked on sisters' blogs.

Makes first online comment on sister C's blog.

Starts looking at other blogs. Becomes Queen of the Comments due to opinionated, talkative nature.

Starts own 'journal' (a 'record just for me', you know).

Shares 'journal' web address with sisters.

Sister A shares web address with everyone she knows.

Journal swiftly becomes 'blog'.

Gets first comment from non-family member (thanks Annie!)... It's like that first cigarette.

Adds 'Followers' button. Hides it on bottom of page. Feels like a weirdo trying to start a cult.

Discusses tragedy of only having 7 followers with Sister A and they agree that she is far too needy to be a blogger.

Moves 'Followers' button to top of page.

Joins Flog Yo Blog Friday (thanks Brenda!)

Enjoys the wonderful bloggy world and makes friends all over etherspace.

Reaches 100 followers and does an embarrassingly public happy dance...

My blog has become my sometime creative outlet, unique community and my trusty little friend.  I feel like I'm on a long and satisfying journey, but funnily enough, one of the very first posts I wrote is still my favourite.

I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I enjoy creating it. Oh, and thanks for following!


Treats | Self-saucy puds

I promised this indulgent, easy recipe on Friday... try it if you daaaaaare. Do not, I repeat, do not get your weight watchers points book out for this one.

Bill Granger's Chocolate self-saucing puddings

For the pudding

1 cup plain flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup milk
90g unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping
1 cup soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water

Make the pudding
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).

Sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract and mix with beaters until combined. Pour into four 1-cup greased pudding molds.

Make the topping
Stir the brown sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl to combine, then sprinkle it over the pudding batter. Pour boiling water carefully over the puddings, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with thick cream (lite of course!)



This Saturday I'm grateful for... the humble pea.

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

This Saturday, I'm grateful for...

1. Peas. The ever-ready vegetable.

2. Sunshine breaking through the clouds. A little breeze sweeping away the grey. Happy weather.

3. Friends who take your children to the animal-free circus ('cos you're really just not that into clowns).

What's making you happy today?

[Image by the divine Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim]


Things I learnt this week including how to make a pinwheel

The weather has been grey this week and my mind has gone grey with it (fortunately my hair has not followed suit). Along with the fabulous weather that broke through on Wednesday, here are a few bright sparks from the week that was.

1. Guinea pigs do not like zucchini. At least, the GPs who are currently holidaying with us won't touch the stuff.

2. A pregnant guinea pig looks exactly the same as an unpregnant one. We know this because we started the week babysitting 2 guinea pigs and now we are babysitting 3 guinea pigs.

3. Even a dedicated, super-experienced chocolate devourer like myself found it tough to get through an entire Bill Granger self-saucing chocolate pudding (but don't worry, I punched through to a brilliant ramekin-licking finish). I'll post the recipe on Easy Sunday so you can give it a go yourself... dare you.

4. The brilliant Old Spice - The Man Your Man Could Smell like commercial was shot in one take. Plus that's a CGI fake hand with the Old Spice rising up out of it like a Phoenix... Of course it is! Even the man my man could smell like couldn't produce a can of Old Spice out of thin air. Or could he?

5.  My new gardener (I just love saying that!), tells me that the reason most people don't garden is really because they don't like getting their clothes dirty. He reckons if you just had specific gardening clothes to change into, getting into the garden would be a breeze (I'm sure there was no pun intended). He's right, don't you think? To motivate yourself in all things, you just need the right stuff.

6.  Draw! Pilgrim taught me how to make a pinwheel, which I think is essential knowledge for any mother of youngsters.

7. If you have bed wetters and you're not acquainted with Brolly Sheets, let me introduce you to your new best friend. Now, technically this isn't something I learned this week as we've been using Brolly Sheets for over a year. BUT, at 3am on Monday this week when the pull-up dam was busted, I learned just how much they truly mean to me.

8. Epstein-Barr virus is the virus responsible for glandular fever, but it’s not the actual virus that causes the symptoms of glandular fever, it’s how the immune system responds that makes people sick. If people are exposed to EBV early in life, their immune system doesn't react. It's those of us (I had GF in 1993-1994) who are exposed later in life that suffer. And you can get reactivations, too.

9. We are all creative beings, but convention often strips us of our ability to think, to feel, to be our true self. So often our instinct is to 'correct' our children, when really we should nurture our instinct to 'respect'. Allow your children the freedom to express themselves in the way that feels right to them. If the sky is green in their world and the grass is blue, then that's a rather marvellous world, don't you think?

10. The chicken is the closest living relative of the Tyrannosaurus-Rex. Really.

Did you learn anything new this week?


It's FlogYoBlogFriyaaaaaaaay!

Thanks to Brenda at Mummy-Time, we all get to hang out a bit together on Fridays. Thanks Aunty Brenda!


Ms Nosybella: How did you... break bad habits?

Ms Nosybella is back, asking all the questions I ever wanted to know about other people but wasn't drunk enough to ask.

This week I'm wondering if you've successfully stopped doing something that you used to love doing or want to stop doing something that you do right now. Habits. Erksome things.

Three habits I've broken and how:

1. Smoking. See, I wasn't always the clean-living, virtuous type you see before you now. Pack a day of Peter Styvies and during my wanky uni days I even rolled my own Port Royals. Nice. I stopped for a year when I went overseas. A whole year and then, wham, back in Ciggieville. Let's face it, Europe is a hard place for ex-smokers.  Only 50 people on the whole continent are non-smokers . 

The next time I seriously tried to stop (as opposed to giving up for about 2 hours here and there or foregoing lighting up at 8am for a week or two) was when I was pregnant with my first baby. That was seven years ago and I've had about 10 cigarettes in all those years. I just don't want to be a smoking mum.

2. Never exercising. For years I told myself that running around chasing a busy, busy life was plenty of exercise. And cleaning the house is a workout, right? But one day I just left my house and went for a run. Well, a shuffle more like. I don't know why I did it but I do know that it felt really good. Go on, puff yourself out a little and make your muscles burn a little a few times a week and I promise you're going to feel good about yourself. It's a mental thing.

3. Diet Coke. I'm two weeks clean after chugging down 1 or 2 or sometimes 3 cans of diet coke every day. Somehow drinking that much of the black stuff seems even dirtier than the smoking. I am drinking copious cups of green tea in exchange. So far, so good. But I really, really miss it so it's going to be a bumpy ride.

And a habit that I would love to break but am so far unsuccessful:

Overeating fats and sugars. My colleague at work, who is a personal trainer and Fitness First instructor in his spare time (annoyingly healthy and one of the reasons I fake liking Gaga) is helping me with this one. "Don't eat your feelings, Maxabella!" he calls whenever I express a desire to clean out Darrell Lea. I kinda want to slap him senseless when he does it, but I'm sort of grateful too. I'm the Miss Universe of Self-Delusion when it comes to training my eating habits. I mean, I can eat half a block of Whittakers watching The Biggest Loser. I just mustn't want it enough... I've actually started a sister blog to Maxabella to try and explore these issues.

Your turn now... any habits you've squashed or would like to?

I really, really want to know...


Loving Craft Schmaft's Owl Mobile

Anything that hangs from the ceiling or walls is fab in my books. And this owl mobile from Craft Schamft is on my wish list. The love heart beaks are particularly sweet. Along with my garland fetish, I'm also a little bit in love with birds. They have been flying into my home for some time now (covertly lest my sisters mock me for ornament collecting). I think I'm just going to have to let these little owls join their birdy friends...


Don't you hate it when you...

...mop yourself out of the house and the phone rings?

Wash a tissue along with your black velvet leggings?

Hang out two loads of washing and it rains and is sunny at the same time?

Tip over the mixing bowl with all the dry ingredients in it?

Click send on an email and suddenly realise you've sent it to the very person you were bitching about?

Change a honky nappy and the contents don't stay in the nappy?

Yesterday I did all these things. What a day.

[I chose this image because I chose to believe that there's a rainbow trapped in every storm cloud]


The loving links in my support chain

I'll apologise in advance for the loooong post, but there's a lot to say today.

About a week ago, as she returned to work after 18 months maternity leave, MulitpleMum wrote a fantastic post about being a working mother. It inspired to me think through what helps me manage the business of combining children and career.

Aside from being the reigning Mrs Organised Universe (read my previous post on getting three young children out of the house if you dare!) there is an even more important thing that relieves the strain of being a working mum. It's a mantra that working mums need to hear and believe at all times.

It takes a village, people.

If you're going to do the mum and career thing, you need a strong support chain either paid or friended. In a way, you need a support chain that can pick up the 'mumming' bit for you when you're at work or the 'worky' thing for you when you're being a mum. It's no good not asking for or finding the help you need. It's the support chain that gets you through thinking 'I'm lucky, grateful and managing' rather than 'I'm exhausted, worried and stressed'.
Our paid support chain is linked by nanny Annabelle, preschool, daycare, school and after school care (ASC). It's backed up with the loving 'friended' help from the children's paternal grandparents and uncle and our neighbours.

Annabelle does Monday and Tuesday pick ups from after school care and preschool / daycare. She works from about 4.15pm until 6.45pm and she's the reason I'm not tearing my hair out trying to collect children from three different places before 6pm. She brings them home and heats up the dinner I've left in the fridge. After dinner she starts baths which is generally about the time either myself or LOML gets home. So easy and worth every penny for the amount of stress she relieves on these two days. She's been with us for over a year and has seen The Badoo grow from a babe in arms to the cheeky little monkey she is today.

Preschool and daycare are obviously two other links in the support chain. I am fortunate that they are in the same lovely complex about 10 minutes drive from home. Cappers goes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to the preschool area and The Badoo is in the daycare on Mondays and Tuesdays only.  It is such a nuturing, peaceful place (yes, it's actually peaceful at a daycare!) and they both absolutely love it.

Maxi-Taxi goes to ASC in a dedicated classroom and area at his school on Mondays and Tuesdays until 4.30pm as Annabelle isn't available to collect him at 3pm. He goes with his neighbour and friend, Sasha, and Annabelle picks up both of them and drops Sasha home on her way. Maxi-Taxi loves having an extra place at school to call his own and I enjoy knowing that the fantastic girls who run the centre are always there for him, anytime. They run a school holiday programme which Maxi-Taxi attends once a week in the holidays.

Most mornings before school, Maxi-Taxi goes to Sasha's place and Andrea, Sasha's mum, drops him at school for me. In exchange, I take Sasha to school and soccer training on Wednesdays, my home day.  You can proably guess by now that Andrea and her family are like an extension of our own family. We're so lucky we live in the same street (there's a sweet story about how we met which I'll post one day soon).

Another very important link in my support chain is LOML's family. My beautiful, family-is-everything Italian in-laws look after the children on Thursdays and Fridays. They've done this since the children were babies. Nonno collects Maxi-Taxi and Cappers from school and daycare on Thursdays and Maxi-Taxi from school on Fridays. On Friday Cappers and The Badoo are with Nonna and Nonno all day. On Thursdays when Nonna is at work (she's the much loved cook in a daycare centre four days a week)  it's just Nonno and The Badoo, gardening and cleaning together like two little peas. LOML's much younger brother, Guis, is Nonno's back up and he often steps in to do the pick ups.

The final link in my support chain is my work. I treat 'em mean, but I'm always grateful for the flexibility they offer me. Family really does come first. I don't work on Wednesdays and I work from home every other Friday (when I try to stack in all my conference call meetings so I can clean my house while I'm on mute!) I generally leave the office at a reasonable time and keep up from my Blackberry, which is a godsend. Plus I have two adorable "work husbands" (well, my gay work husband calls himself the mistress) who will step in occasionally to keep the work ship floating when the captain is offshore.

There you have it. Another complicated arrangement, I know, but it works for us as the beat of our week. And it's a rhythm that we are all happy to dance to.

Do you rely on a support chain? Have you ever found yourself with broken links that make your stress levels rise? What else do you do to manage?

[Sweet heart chain by Little Jane Street]


Afternoon tea | Beyond-beautiful banana bread

I don't know when the baking thing snuck up on me. I used to admire my clever sister who could whip up friands and brownies at a moment's notice and think "I could never do that". Packet cakes I could manage, anything "from scratch" I thought was beyond me.

Which is why I was surprised that my answer to Capper's question of "What's your 3 favourite things to do besides play with me?" was "writing and gardening... and baking". Baking, really? Well... yes!  I've been a happy little baker for well over a year now. There's this thing called a recipe, you see. And if you follow it religiously (and then get to know the particular foibles of your oven...), out come the baked goods, yum, yum, yum. I love trying out different recipes for classics, finding my very favourite and sticking with it (hence my previous postings for the ultimate apple teacake, ultimate scones and ultimate muesli bars...)

Try this one from delicious. magazine on for size...

Beyond beautiful banana bread

1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/3 cup (80ml) sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, mashed  (if your children are anything like the Tsunamis and detest 'bits' you'll want to spend a fair bit of time going over the banana with a fork...)
65g pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped

• Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base of a 900ml loaf pan (test the size by filling the pan with water and then pouring it into a measuring jug.)

• Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, oil and vanilla.

• Add to the dry ingredients with banana and pecan and fold until just combined - do not overmix.

• Place into the loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove, and slice thickly. Serve spread with butter and drizzled with honey.

[Image by Mark Roper]


This Saturday I'm grateful for... bike couriers.

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

This Saturday I'm grateful for...

1. Trumpet-blowing bike couriers in Martin Place. Whoever you are, I love the way you lean your bike against the tree, remove your trumpet from your courier bag and serenade the city with haunting solos every Monday morning. It makes me suddenly happy to be in the middle of the grey hustly bustle.

2. Heavenly Spa gift vouchers. Thank you LOML, I'm heading off in five minutes!

3. Bus drivers. The traffic's terrible, the people are nuts and the day is long. Thank you for safely bringing me home to my family every evening.



Things I learnt this week including how to ruffle up a skirt

This week I did a four-hour conflict management course at work (these things are entirely necessary when you work for a large corporate).  I started the course thinking that I shied away from conflict, retreating due to my pathological need to please and be liked. That plus my enbarrassing tendency to bawl my eyes out when someone raises their voice at me. But, by the end of the course I realised that I experience "conflict" on an almost daily basis, but I manage it so well that it doesn't feel like conflict. Snaps for me. Here's what else I learnt this week...

1. It is indeed possible to instinctively dislike a child and want to be a little bit mean to them. You will feel bad about yourself, but not as bad as you feel about said child.

2. Sometimes having a night out on a "school night" is the best thing for you even though it's the last thing you feel like doing.

3. There's a tutorial to step you through the lovely summer ruffles skirt pictured here over at Grand Revival Designs.  It's such a detailed tutorial that I actually think I can manage. Now, if I could just figure out how to bring my sewing machine back to life (too many Monster Softies, it seems)...

4. I can indeed limp through the day without diet coke.

5. It's claimed that the Brazilian wax was named for a letter written by Pedro Álvares Cabral on seeing a native Brazilian tribe during his voyage to Brazil in 1500 AD. He said "their private parts were so exposed, so healthy and so hairless, that looking upon them we felt no shame." I am curious as to his knowledge of the 'health' of the 'exposed' private parts he 'looked upon'... Regardless, Brazilian waxes are still waaaay too painful, unnecessary and, gasp, itchy for this gal to make them a regular thing.

6. Orchids are notoriously difficult to grow. I didn't know this because there are three stunning examples of orchids overgrowing in pots in my garden and I've never done a thing to them in almost 3 years.

7. There are over 50,000 white paints and choosing the wrong one could instantly ruin the vibe of your entire home, if not your life. Do you want a neutral, blue, yellow or pink white? Warm or cool? Gloss or semi? Blah or blah? It all makes me want to skip the white, fandango.

8. Etaoin Shrdlu, pronounced "eh-tay-oh-in shird-loo" is believed to be the twelve most common letters in English, in order of most frequently used to least frequently used. I'm not sure why we need to know this.

9. If your child is scared before sleep or during the night, it's comforting for them to know that you'll be popping in to "check" on them. But rather than tell them "Don't worry, I'll come and check on you in five minutes" (instantly setting the spark of "you said there was nothing to worry about so why do you need to check to make sure I'm okay?" in their little heads) tell them "I'll come in every now and then just to remind you that there's nothing to worry about." This has worked really well with the Tsunamis.

10. In all things, to thine own self be true.

What did you learn this week?

It's FlogYoBlog Friday time!

Thanks to Brenda at Mummy-Time, we get to all meet up for a coffee on Fridays...


Ms Nosybella: How often do you... clean?

I'm curious to know how often others do the things we all need to do. I'm not sure why, but there's a yearning in me to ask and I just have to get it out.

So, how often do you (my frequency in brackets)...

  • Clean the shower (most weeks)
  • Clean the toilet (every other day)
  • Change the towels (weekly if I can get them dry between goes)
  • Vacuum (once a week / twice a week if the Tsunamis have been particularly forceful)
  • Clean the fridge inside (fortnightly)
  • Change the bed linen (about every fortnight - mostly, god sometimes it can be weeks... shocker! - or daily for bed wetters... sigh)
  • Wash the floors (weeklyish)
  • Clean the oven (gosh, hardly ever... but I do line with alfoil and change that, well, hardly ever!) 
What are your 3 least favourite household chores? Mine are:

  • Putting away folded clothes
  • Ironing (I just don't)
  • Changing the bed linen (see above)
And household chores you secretly don't mind doing?

  • Scrubbing the bathroom
  • Vacuuming
  • Pegging out the clothes
Please share. Ms Nosybella really, really wants to know.


Loving My Sweet Prints

Now that the June buying ban has been lifted, I'm off and shopping again. But care is being taken. I'm only buying stuff I absolutely adore and even then I'm waiting a week between sighting and purchasing. Let's see how that goes, shall we?

Having dissed the world-dominating bus scrolls in an earlier post, I rushed right out and bought this cute take on them by My Sweet Prints. Join the revolution, I say.

We also have a My Sweet Prints bird print newly gracing our living room wall. Looks like this one, but with mushroom coloured birds and poncy "La Famiglia Maxabella" instead of "The Jones Family". Keeping up indeed.

Plus how charming is this world map? Haven't purchased yet as am waiting the required week.

Sweet prints indeed!


Wasabi Horsekicks

There's a reason Wasabi is a horseraddish. When you eat too much it's like getting kicked in the head by a horse. What a rush and entirely legal!

I love everything about sushi and sashimi*. The bite size pieces (bite size presumably if you have a mouth like Julia Roberts.) The care needed to create each bite. The colour and order and general asethetics. The almost vom-worthy idea of eating raw fish but you eat it anyway.

I've never been to Japan and I'm fairly certain they don't serve all their food on little trains. But how good is that! You walk in, you start eating immediately. Or, if you're Cappers, you walk in, you watch the little dishes going around and around and around and around and eventually the authentic Japanese crumbed calamari makes its way around so you knock over 2 soy sauce bowls, 48 wasabi packets and three plates of inari to get to it, you start eating immediately. Your mother grabs the plate off the train before you start circling the restaurant.

I'd eat sushi/sashimi for lunch everyday if it wasn't so darn expensive. And strangely unfilling. You eat and eat and eat and suddenly the $3.50 per plate doesn't seem such a bargain afterall. That'll be $78, m'am, says the cute-in-the-way-that-all-Japanese-girls/women-are-cute waitress. 78 what, dollars or yen? you reply in witty disbelief. Cute waitress rolls her eyes, looks pointedly at your gigantic figure. You hand over the cash. Darn you, sushi / sashimi.  Darn you for making me love you and exposing just why Australian women often get old and fat.

* Covering myself here. No idea which is which. Think sushi is the rice one and sashimi is the fish-only one. Too lazy to google it.


I added this post to Life in a Pink Fibro's Weekend Rewind on 4.12.10


The Maxabellaland Morning Routine for Working ParentsTM

Prepare to be dazzled by the Maxabellaland Morning Routine for Working ParentsTM (MMRWP). It is a modern miracle of engineering. The MMRWP has been tested on a prototype family group consisting of 1 adult male, 1 adult female, 1 schoolchild, 1 preschooler and 1 toddler.  Sadly it has yet to work on the Preschooler prototype who likes to sleep in, refuses all breakfast temptations and runs screaming at the sight of a hair brush (this is genetic).

The key to a successful MMRWP is that most of the action takes place the night before at The Launch Pad.TM  The Launch Pad is a plain, brown leather with milk-smears and stale popcorn decorated couch in the family living room. Don't be fooled by its ordinary somewhat drab appearance. It is Ground Control for the MMRWP.

The night before Launch, Adult Male and Adult Female consult The ChartTM and lay out every item of clothing to be worn or carried by the family group the next day. This includes clothing, handbags, hair accessories, shoes, school bags, stethoscope, library books, sports equipment, handcuffs, computer bags, phones, keys, letters to post, the lot. The Launch Pad has an annexe - The Fridge Shelf TM. Lunches needed for the morning are made the night before and kept fresh and ready in a basket on The Fridge Shelf.

So, if it's leaving Maxabellaland tomorrow, it's at The Launch Pad or The Fridge Shelf tonight.

On the Morning of Launch it's critical that everyone just gets on with the job and doesn't deviate from the important business of Getting Out The Door. When the children were smaller, it used to be fun to pretend to be rockets and get ready to whizz, whizz, whizz out the door. This suggestion would now be met with derision and cause mass panic and chaos. Lives could be lost. We keep it straight.

Adult Male wakes early and gets the Toddler her beloved 'bottiglia' (Adult Male is of Italian background so it's not quite as pretentious as it sounds.) School Child soon joins them and eats the standard breakfast of all young Aussie children, Weetbix and Milk. Adult Female drags herself down the stairs looking like a broken-down hag after a night on the turps. She promptly disappears into the bathroom to do things unknown and generally emerges looking not much better.

Whole family takes it in turns to try to rouse Preschooler from her slumber. Adult Male wants to spray her with water (a technique picked up from a nazi-mum on Wife Swap USA) but Adult Female resists. School Child wants to pummel her senseless but Adult Female resists. Toddler gets her nappy changed on top of the bed with much squealing, kicking and hysterical nappy throwing, but the Preschooler slumbers on. Under threats of being left behind to fend for herself and, dear god, tie her own shoelaces, the Preschooler eventually rumples herself out of bed and everyone takes it in turns to try to get her to eat breakfast. She consents to a mandarin, a nutritious, wholesome start to any child's day.

Family hits The Launch Pad and here the miracle MMRWP is realised. The Launch Pad focuses everyone and helps get them sorted. 10, 9, 8... Adult Male and Adult Female take turns assisting the prototype children to get dressed. 7, 6, 5... The Toddler insists on changing her shoes three times, four times, for the love of god just keep the damn shoes on, five times, not Adult Female's shoes your shoes, your own shoes, six times... 4, 3... clothes are on, shoes are tied, bags are hefted... 2,1... and before too long they are all ready and whizz, whizz, whizzing out the door. Just like little rockets... blast, I forgot to change out of my slippers!