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Hopeful new year

I'm off for the hols, lovelies. I'm heading down the coast for a couple of weeks of family loving. I won't be able to resist reading your blogs, but I think I'll keep mine post-free for the duration. We all need a bit of a break from my... opinions, I think.

Before I go, let me say thank you for a wonderful year on Maxabella loves.... This community is pure delight to me. Every 'me too', every 'how could you?', every 'but have you thought of this...' and especially every 'thank you for introducing me to...' you write, means so much to me. I hope you feel comfy here to just be yourself and shine a little bit each visit.

Be part of things whenever you can. Please join me on Sunday, 8 January for a very special linky. It's the HAPPY ONE WORD linky... actually, I'm not sure that's what I'm calling it, but I want you to choose one word (just one) that you'll be focusing on in 2012. Blog about (or just leave a comment about) why you chose that word, what it means to you and how you're going to bring it to life throughout the year. How will focusing on your word help you or change you? What will be different?

In 2010 my word was 'zen' and then in 2011 my word was 'health'. Let's just say that the zen word slowed me down beautifully but the health word was pretty much dead on arrival. I'm not sure what my 2012 word will be yet, but I'll let you know on the 8th!

Until then, enjoy Christmas and greet the new year with a wave and a smile. A big, cheery smile and maybe even an even bigger smiley, cheer. Man, it's going to be a good one. Can't you feel it?

I'm back on Saturday, 7 January with a little 'Grateful' surprise... it's Grateful, but not as you know it... stay tuned!

What are you doing for Christmas?
Do you celebrate New Year or clean your house like I do?
Will you join me on the 8th?


Caught in a moment

The world is a whirl of coloured lights, every house lit up with Christmas. Sparking, flashing, brilliant light, brightening my face, my heart, my toes.

And there amongst the sparkle, a young face shines brighter than any light. Joy radiates from every pore, gushing out with such lucid energy that mouths turn to smiles around him. Weary hearts dance a little jig just watching this boy race from house to house, oozing with the wonders around him. ‘He’s so enthusiastic,’ says one. ‘It makes me want to skip.’

So I skip, just a little. Bouncing in his slipstream, marvelling at it all. The world gone madly wonderful when seen through the eyes of this seven year old boy. A boy so powered by the business of living that every moment, every shred, is a reason to celebrate. I close my eyes to the brightness and a wish forms deep within: ‘Always,’ my wish says firmly. ‘Always shine this brightly.’

[Image via Pinterest]



No, I'm not talking about reindeer.

I thought I would see the year out with good cheery posts, but, alas, it may be Christmas, but I am still me.

One of the 'Big' bosses came into the office today and I am still wretching. Not on account of the Big boss, he's actually a really lovely guy, relatively unassuming and unlikely to cause a stir.

No, it was my sycophantic colleagues that made me gag. The way they whirled around him like a maelstrom of large smiles and larger voices. They boomed their utter delight that he was here, how was his FLIGHT? Where is he STAYING? At the HILTON? That's so GREAT! YOU ARE SO CLEVER TO ARRIVE BY PLANE AND BE STAYING IN A HOTEL, BIG BOSS MAN!

Oh they were so darn jolly I almost thought Santa had arrived early.

Why do people do this fake flattery thing and how can people not see straight through it? Back in the day we used to call it sucking-up and it was the scorn of the playground. I can kind of see why. I know it's a part of life and, god knows, I undoubtedly do it myself from time to time, but still. Why do we do it?

Do you sometimes wonder if celebpretties and people high up on the business ladder think people are actually like that with every one? Sort of like when you become 'big' you lose all sense of reality because your crapometer gets broken. What must their perception actually be? The world is a very complimenting and praisey sort of place? Everyone is so enthusiastic and cheerful in this life? So attentive? In many ways it might be sort of nice if we treated everyone like the Big boss, but in so many others I'm glad we reserve our fatuousness for the important people. There are only so many buckets to go around.

Sometimes the super-peppy-cheeriness is so obvious that it's like the Big boss is a curtain in a theatre. The marionettes dance when the curtain goes up and then they go back to hanging limply when it closes. I know that some Big bosses creepily demand the dance, but I suspect that most don't even notice. They probably think that the jolly nice people around them are like that with everyone. So they waltz and jive and yammer away with their happy-go-lucky team while the rest of us cringe inwardly and smile fleetingly. Yep, our smile says, you got on a plane. You're staying at the Hilton. I'll get the confetti.

Do you find yourself sucking up wildly to people sometimes?
Why do you think we do it?


Easy Christmas cheer: hosting without fear

Last Saturday we had a few friends over for a little Christmas cheer. Nothing too much, just a little bit fancy. I think keeping things simple is the only way to ensure you have people over more regularly than once a decade. The less you do the more often you'll do it.

Despite giving it a red hot go with surprising regularity, I am not a natural entertainer. I don't especially like cooking; I forget to top up drinks and we never have any ice. I'm not good with crowds. As a matter of fact, I'm rather anti-social. But I do love to set a pleasing table, I love a good laugh and I especially love not having to go anywhere to get it. Hence, I bring the laugh to me.

Of course, I also love to theme! So I set the scene with a few random hanging Christmas decorations. Those little Italian drink bottles that I use in just about every party in one form or another became little vases that I strung up with some jute and popped water and festive(ish) herbs into. They looked magical when darkness (finally) fell and the herbs smelt wonderful.

As mentioned, food is not my strong point, but I do like to cater a good spread. The secret is choosing things you can make ahead so you're not stuck slaving in the kitchen for the entire party. Nothing worse than missing your own party!

We started with olivey, dippy, bready, antipasty things and we sat down for a throw-it-in-the-oven and glaze and glaze and glaze baked ham with a cranberry and raspberry vinegar glaze (kinda like this one, only cranberry instead of redcurrant jelly and raspberry vinegar instead of balsamic); a marinate-before and then throw it in the oven lemony chicken dish;  a sweet potato salad that I've been making to much fanfare for about 10 years; a lentil, mint and lemon salad (I sprinkled goats cheese rather than haloumi) - this was a the surprise hit of the night and I will be rolling out again on Christmas day; and a potato gratin that was scrummilicious. A menu that basically shouldn't have gone together, but did so well.

I like to feed the kids before we groan ups sit down to enjoy ourselves. I spread out a big picnic blanket (okay, so it was the quilt pulled hastily from Maxi's bed) and they had mini-chicken or beef sausages on freshly baked rolls with a cucumber and tomato salad that went largely uneaten. The huge fruit bowl was devoured, however, so we all felt like they had earned their mini-vanilla ice cream cones with a choice of sprinkles to dip. Hmmm... do put the sprinkle-dip station outside... days later I am still picking up sprinkles from the living room floor, despite two vacuum runs and a sweep. When will I learn?

Hosting without fear means you are not scared to ask your guests to help out with a starter or a dessert. After dinner we enjoyed a delicious fudgey chocolate cake that my friend Jen baked and, my all-time favourite, a sticky date pudding made by my mate Linda. I could have kept eating dessert for hours and hours...

That's pretty much the extent of it at my place. Keep the wine flowing, the beer cold and token bottles of mineral water on the table so you fancy yourself just a little bit sober and you've got yourself the makings of a really easy, really fun night. The real trick is not worrying about the screech and mayhem that is 16 young children let loose while their parents kick back. I like to put the dad's to work pushing swings and kids into pools and making drinks and earthquakes on the trampoline. Despite their best efforts, however, we are still cleaning up the mess... but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Do you have a favourite entertaining meal to share?
I would love the recipe!!!


Through the Instagram: little peek at November

Forgot about November!

These Instagrammy posts are all for me, so don't worry if you're not here to see them (if you know what I mean!?!). Just a snapshot, a keepsake, a little 'we were there'.

Lazy days... and (OMG!) a radical haircut!
Reading in Cappers' classroom with the Badoo.

[Image of kids in the bath removed by Maxabella 10.1.2012... do you know that there 21 perverts out there that downloaded that photo off my blog? Thanks for the 'Download' stat heads up, my anonymous friend!]

Is it wrong to put pictures of your kids in the bath on the internet? Possibly. [10.1.2012 - now I say, yes! Definitely!]

Holidays! Yay!

Oh, this was me getting my makeup done at the Revlon counter at DJs. I won a fab prize of a makeover and a 'night out' (Jersey Boys) at Fat Mum Slim. Waaaaaay too much makeup, don't you think!? Bit scary-tranny.

I went to a 'business breakfast' which started at bloody 7am, so I drove. Regretted it in the afternoon peak hour crawl home!

No doubt you can't remember by now, but did anything exciting happen in your world in November?


Christmas cards sorted

My Christmas cards this year were basically created by Amy Moss at Eat. Drink. Chic.. Oh my, if you haven't discovered the amazebaubleness that is Amy, get yourself over there quick smart. She is so stylish, so talented and so creative that you just want to pack her up and hang her on your Christmas tree to admire.

Amy created a set of lovely freebie typographic gift tags and photographed them for her blog. I loved the photo of the Joyeux Noel gift tag on the yellow pattern so much that I asked her if I could use it on the front of my Chrissy cards this year. I didn't hear back from her so... don't kill me, I went ahead and did it anyway. Well, it's not like I'm Hallmark, is it? And Amy did create the actual tag as a freebie printable... she often does. In fact, she makes all kinds of things available to less-talented people like me and I love her for it.

So, I folded 60 sheets of A4 kraft card, snipped 120 corners with my little punch, cut out 120 pretty rectangles, pasted them inside and out, wrote on them and stuck them inside 60 bright yellow envelopes with matching snipped corners... and made 60 cards for friends and fam. And, theoretically, that's the end of that.

Except now that I've blogged about it... I've had second thoughts about 'imitation being the most lazy form of flattery' (or however it goes).

I just don't know if I need to lock myself away for this crime or not... It doesn't feel like I blatantly ripped off Amy's work, but you might think differently. What's the rules for using someone else's creativity and work to spark your own? The reindeer noses were an idea and then I created my own version. Amy's image, though... probably a different story. I'm not really in that space so I don't know if what I did was a heinous crime or a bit whateves... it's all a bit eggshelly, isn't it!?

Merry Blissmas, but the way. I'm all decked, reindeered and now carded out.

Does the internety-publishy world of blogging change the rules?
What are the new rules for 'personal use' of another's work?

-- ♥ --

PS -  Reindeer Noses post - now with added link! If you're keen you can now download and print the label pdf for you to make your own...

[Image used on card by Amy Moss at Eat. Drink. Chic. Card design all my own (but that's hardly the point, is it?)]


This week I'm grateful for... your basic joy to the world

This will be my last grateful linky thingy for 2011. I'll be back in the new year (with ample warning as to when!)... so... take the time to look for the joy this Christmas and be really, really happy when you find some, yeah? Joy is easily one of my all-time favourite words. Joy, joy, joy to you!

This week I'm grateful for...

205. Joy - It catches your breath and holds it ransom until it feels you shine like a star for just a little moment.

206.  Effort - I know I could make things a lot easier for myself by not insisting on making stuff all the time. But putting in a little bit of effort is just so rewarding. Creating something just because I can is one of the most satisfying ways to spend my time (that and de-cluttering, oh how I love de-cluttering) (oh, and.. um... other stuff) (I'm fun, really I am).

207. Exhaustion - so there's way too much on at this time of year and we're all about to break. But, you know what, aren't we bloody lucky?!

So, what's making you smile today? Add your post to the list below (and please, we love you, but it really does matter that your post is a Grateful one and not just a random) and pretty-please add a link back to this linky. Then pop over to visit other bloggers who are spreading a little sunshine.

[Image by Metin Demiralay]


Marathon running plus other stuff

Last weekend our friend swam, biked and ran for 13.44 hours straight.

Yes, you read that right.

He swam for 3.8 kms, then jumped on his bike and rode 180 kms and then he got off his bike and ran a full marathon.

Who does that?

Let's not discuss how superfit this guy is; or how nuts he is. Or how much time he must spend training - just running and swimming and riding and riding and riding. As LOML and I like to say when we see someone out riding their bike in the middle of nowhere, "yep, look at him... nothing better to do". Oh, and when we see people out jogging we say, "yeah, you'd better run".

But I digress.

If you ask someone like Roger why he does what he does he talks a lot about how it feels when he finishes. The actual doing of the Ironman event is gruelling, exhausting, painful - your basic fucking nightmare. Pushing through enormous physical and mental barriers again and again and again. Ignoring the aching limbs, the blistered feet, the thudding heart, the sheer loneliness. Breaking through your fear and riding the pain all the way to the finishing line is the biggest high (apparently) you could ever (supposedly) climb to (I am told). It's success and achievement and satisfaction and 27,000 'you rocks' all wrapped up in a very sweaty gift.

Life's a bit like that. Sweaty. Plus the sheer gruelling drudgery of life is enough to make you want to run the 100 metres in the opposite direction. But we're all signed up for the Ironman and we've got to just keep on plodding.

How are we going to last?

By focusing on the finish line, the whole reason why we're here doing what we're doing. Plodding along towards our notion of what success looks like; the thing or things that makes it all worthwhile. Trouble is, I'm not entirely sure I know what that end goal is. Trouble indeed. How am I going to finish this bloody marathon if I don't know what it is I'm running towards? What's going to help me push through the pain?

So, in prep for next year, I'm having one of my Big Thinks and I'm writing down those big, big goals. Why am I swimming and biking and running and running and running? What does the finish line look like to me? And how will I know when I get there? As usual, my Big Think might take me a while to think*, but I know it's one of those really important ones that I've just got to get to the bottom of. I've just got to know.

What are you running for?
And what's waiting for you at the finish line?

* Anyone still waiting hopefully for me to discover what I believe in? Me too.

[Image via weheartit]


Party on down: Tables

The table decorating part of party hosting is outta sight fab if you ask me. Beautiful images created from beautiful food on beautifully set tables - what's not to love? Do bear in mind that out of all the party elements, the 'party table' is all about the parents and not really about the children. I don't honestly think they even notice that you've lined your topper-topped cupcakes up just so on their matchy tray.

That said, it's so easy to get the 'parental wow factor' with your fancy table full of your clever food... but I'm a bit forgetful. I focus mostly on the games and the theme and the general merriment and then panic right at photo time because my tables don't look good compared to all those stylist-party-blogger sites. To be honest, I'm far too slap-dash, impatient and whatevs to ever be able to do one of those tables. But a little effort is acceptable.

To give good table, you've got to have a basic concept in your mind so you can work a few accessories. It's all about trial and error. Use things you already have at your place to pull it altogether, purchasing only when strictly necessary and limiting yourself to things you will definitely use again in the future. Make sure you leave yourself lots of time to move things around and add bits here and there.

Don't be scared, my party tables don't look anything like the party table above either. Mine are generally fairly cobbled-together jobs so I've started with a couple of mine and then branched into tables created by far less lazy people. Enjoy!

The Badoo's pink party

It goes without saying that Amy Atlas is the Queen of the Party Table! [Source]

I am barely wiping the surface of the amazing tables that are out there in blogland. More on my Pinterest board.

Do you think the party table is sometimes all about the table and not enough about the party?

Next time: Decorations

[Main image sourced via pinterest]


That Every Kid In the Class thing: part 2

So, last year I was stunned to discover a series of crumpled Christmas cards at the bottom of Maxi's school bag. "Oh no! They're doing a card for every kid in the class?!" I panicked. I then went a bit crazy to make up for not being the first one out with the Christmas cards. As you do.

Which of course means that my panicked reaction has set the bar and this year the little faces were saying "what are we giving to every kid in the class this year, Oh Mum Who Should Know Better?"

So I stole this idea from Zoe at A Personal Touch via Pinterest and on the weekend we took breaks from decking the halls to fill bags with reindeer noses. As you do. We were like a little conveyor belt, churning out reindeer noses. Putting the kids to work was immensely satisfying.

There is a little personal Christmas message on the back of each label for each child. I started delicately clipping love heart holes and gently tying each label on with ribbon, but I was totally over that $%#@# fiddly job by about bag 12 so out came the stapler, snap, snap, snap. Is it wrong to, um, choose the kids who would get the special-ribbon noses?

Regardless, to say these little bags of festive cheer were a hit with the kids would be an understatement.

What are you doing for every kid in the class this year?*

* Please, please say "a card" or "what are you, crazy, you stupid woman, I'm doing absolutely nothing. NOTHING."


If you want to make your own reindeer labels, you can download the ones I made here. And I ordered my bags here. Have fun!


Documenting our lives

Look at that. Are you melting? This idea is so adorable and it's on my list of 'things to do immediately'. It's such a great way to snapshot our children's year - what they looked like, what they liked, what they did. I can see a little 21 page book being presented to each of them on their 21st birthday... if books still exist then, of course.

It's got me thinking, though. Most things get me thinking one way or another, right?

Well, this is what I'm thinking now... 

Too much? 

This incessant need we parents have to document our child's every move? To photograph and write it down and sometimes to wrap it all up in a professionally bound book and present it to them on their 21st birthday. Is it too much?

It's not natural, that's for sure. I don't think we were born to know the exact minute that we first smiled or walked or pooed in a toilet and it's definitely not natural that someone videotaped it. I'm pretty sure that all this parental documentary making means our children won't get to have the same sense of nostalgia about their lives that we are blessed with. Those magical family talks where you're all trying to agree what really happened on the 1982 road trip. Or was it 1983?

Not our kids. We're basically recording their every move, but it's our own version of their childhood that we're producing. We style them and pose them a little bit but not too much and then we take their picture. We're not recording their thoughts or feelings or flit-in-flit-out dreams or any of the other important bits that shape a memory, a life. The thread that weaves all that reality and a sense of self together in a person's own mind.

The sense of self we are giving to our children is perhaps a little inflated, don't you think? 20,000 photographs all starring... you, you, all you! Videos, booklets, wall art, blogs, journals, coffee cups... you, you, all you!

At the park the other day I saw a mother taking photos of her daughter at play. Miss 4 paused and posed and played and paused and posed and played. My first thought was "the only time that kid smiles is when the camera is in her face"... no, actually, my first thought was "does that mum blog?", but my second thought was much more important. The only time she smiled was when the camera was in her face.

Too much?

[Image by Lisa Lucky]

A little missing-you shout out

I haven't had a lot of time for visiting some of my favourite bloggers lately. Sob. I'm popping in, but popping is not the same as staying for dinner. We all know that.

Just then I felt a huge rush of Missing. I genuinely feel like I'm grounded and I'm not allowed out to see my friends as much as I want to.

So, quite apart from the 'big blogs' that I love - the design blogs, the stylists, the homewares, the philosophers, the general time-suckers - just thought I'd say that I'm missing my blogging buddies:

Kymmie at A Day In the Life Of Us
Brenda at Mira Narnie
Gil and Nic at Alice Becomes (and I haven't even dipped a proper toe into your new ventures!)
Sarah at Ah! The Possibilities
Steph at Mon Petit Poppet
Toni at Chick-Chat
Corinne at The Daze of My Life
Shelley at My Shoebox Life
Jane at Life on Planet Baby
Beth at BabyMac
Tim at Tim Coulson
Lucy at Diminishing Lucy
Flick at Gifts of Serendipity (I don't think she likes it when I call her that!)
Megan at The Byron Life
Karen at The Rhythm Method
Kate at Fox's Lane (missing bits of your trip! Eek!)
Eden at Edenland
Bianca at BigWords
Emma at Frog, Goose and Bear (but, of course, I caught the party posts!)
Em at The Beetle Shack
Cherie at A Baby Called Max
Cate at Keep Cate Busy (although I don't think you're blogging anyway!?)
Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim (did I miss the wedding????)
Woogilicious at Woogsworld (did you clock Max and Jack.. spooky!)
Bern at So Now What?
Glen at Glen's Life
Zoey at GoodGoogs
Kellie at 1000 Homes of Happiness
Jodi at Che and Fidel
Tessa at Down that Little Lane

And so many, many more... anyone in my blog roll and lots of new ones that I've noticed too... and, yuck, just realised that lists are dangeous things. Sorry if I left you out. I didn't mean to but I have to wrap this post up because it's taken longer to write this quick little shout out than a proper post.

How about we all make a pact to just blog every now and then in the new year? That might give us all a bit of time to read the blogs we love. Hmmm... didn't think that would fly.

How can we possibly ever keep up with all the blogs we really love????

[Somewhat random but cute image via weheartit]


Decking those halls

My halls are decked, baby! Oh how I love this time of year.

Welcome, welcome. Yep, same front door as last year. Despite my love of festivities, I'm not one to do a whole new thing every year. I prefer to build on what I have so it just gets better and better every year. Plus, what do you do with the stuff that doesn't suit the new style? Seems wasteful.

Knock, knock. Do come in...

We've been very busy inside as well. Up went the Christmas tree.


There's a little bit of everything on that tree.... including a random frog.

It was Badoo's year to place the star. We rotate each year or there are fights. Who am I kidding, there are fights anyway so I have to produce photographic evidence of who did it the year before...


You could land a 747 by the power of our 2011 Christmas tree lights. We couldn't get the old ones to work (what is it about Christmas tree lights?) so we used our 300 light outdoor LED set. It looks ridiculous.

Because I'm slightly mad when it comes to festivities, each Tsunami decorated their own mini tree to have by their bed, complete with battery-operated lights. The Badoo's keeps falling over as she insists on hanging all of her (pink) baubles on the front.
Up went the freshly-made garlands. $4 ivy sprigs from Lincraft that I wrapped around some heavy wire and secured in about 20 places with fuse wire. They could certainly do with a bit more ivy (Lincraft ran out!), but I like. The little 'joy', 'peace', 'hope' (hope is elsewhere in the house, it seems) signs were on special at Spotlight for $1 each. I think you're supposed to use them as the basis for much creative painting, but I liked them just the way they are.

Noel joins them from the other living room. I took down all my regular photos and pictures and put up the Christmas photos from over the years.

My sisters are going to kill me... but, seriously, how cute are we? Al is left, then me, then MultipleMum. Send help if I don't blog tomorrow...

That wraps up Christmas for now - wraps up, geddit? Are you also over advertisers saying 'It's time to wrap up Christmas...' Such a booooring, overused pun... anyway.... Here's Cappers in a box.

Are you decked?


I'm featured on the Decorator's Forum this week. It's a really special honour and I am very grateful. Welcome  to anyone who is visiting for the first time. x