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52 weeks of grateful: Showing

Oh lordy, where are the weeks going? It can't be one more sleep to September, it just can't! We've got our 'romantic road trip' happening next week. Yes! OMG, Yes! And a bit no, because I'm not even close to being packed (I haven't even got my passport yet... long story) and I'm even further away from being ready to leave my Tsunamis.

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

284. Showing - one day soon I will show my children what the world is all about, but in the meantime I imagine that we'll be showing them that life goes on without mum and dad and they are secure with and loved by many.

285. Knowing - I know that my children are going to be cared for and happy with my parents. It is this deep knowing that means we can leave at all.

286. Growing - sorry for the daggy rhyming words this week (with the week I've had, all I wanted to do was add 'slowing', but no...), but I'm grateful that my children are growing up enough to allow us to leave them for a couple of weeks without heart palpitations. They are handling it ever-so-well so far.

Gulp, would you be able to leave your bairns for a couple of weeks?

I've had a lovely time this week making 'grateful messages' from many of the images I've featured on my Village Voices posts. I really love them.

We fitted in a spontaneous visit to the zoo on a school day this week... it was whirlwind to say the least!

Oh and don't forget you can join in grateful via Instagram these days. Snap what you're grateful for and tag it wih #52weeksofgrateful... your image comes up on the Grateful post. Too cute!

[Image by Claire at One Claire Day]

Winning the parenting game

My boy-who-loathes-the-dark is suddenly insistent that he has complete darkness at night in order to sleep. Bedside light off, night light off, hall light off - all three used to be mandatory. Not a peep is heard from the darkness, making the frantic screaming that used to start up the minute we threatened to turn off the lights a distant echo from another boy.

Coming home from school yesterday he suddenly said, "I want all the lights out and the door shut tonight."

"Really?" I said skeptically. "The door too?"

"Yes, everything. I need privacy to sleep."

"This is a new boy," I said amazed and deciding to laugh at the 'privacy' joke inwardly later. "But, with the door shut and the lights off, what are we going to threaten you with if you misbehave at bedtime? Am I going to be there saying 'Max, if you don't get into that bed right now I'm turning on the lights and opening the door'?"

Max thought this was the funniest thing he'd ever heard.

Last night, it wasn't so funny. "You're not really going to close my door, are you?" came the little voice from the bed.

"Of course not," I reassured him. "Not until you want it closed."

"But the lights off is okay," he reassured me back.

"That's a big deal, Maxi," I said.

"We're winning, Mum," came the little voice again.

I love you I love you I love you I love you, I furiously thought. And then I realised that whatever else I do with this parenting gig, I've already won. All I ever dreamed of was to raise people whom someone would love with all their might, despite their flaws and maybe just because of them.

It turned out that person was me and I was there all along.

We're winning, yes, we're winning.

What happens at your place: door open or closed? Light on or off?

[Image found on Pinterest - please let me know if it is yours.]

Pin of the Day: Caramel Filled Triple Vanilla Brown Butter Cupcakes

Let's say that once more, but faster. "Caramel Filled Triple Vanilla Brown Butter Cupcakes". Sweet jaysus, just saying it makes your mouth water and look...


It's by Fields of Cake and (thank god) (in a way) there is no recipe. Just a feeling.

Visit Fields of Cake or click on the image to repin the pin!

I can't leave you hanging like that. Here's a link to an awesome Sprinkle Bakes caramel cupcake recipe that looks almost as good as this one.

Is your mouth hunger switched on right about now?


Pin of the Day: Tee Pee

Got nothing much to say about this one. Just that I really, really want one.

This was pinned via the Swedish blog A Year With the Lot or click on image to repin the pin!

Do you / your kids have a cubby house?


The shoeless cobbler

I used to make jokes about the fact that I was like the cobbler's wife who had no shoes. Married to a banker with no budget and no financial plan to speak of.

Now I'm the cobbler I have a new understanding.

Ever since I started my wonderful new job as the editor of Kidspot's Village Voices (do come visit if you haven't already!), I have been blogging here at Maxabella loves less and less. It's not that I don't have words. It's just that when you spend a whole day on the tools you  plain don't fancy putting up the shelves when the working day is done.

The good news is that, hopefully like the carpenter who lacks shelf space, I am loving my day job. I'm writing, I'm planning, I'm engaging with bloggers, I'm Pinning, I'm Facebooking (not my fave, but there I am). Dear god, I'm even Tweeting (as Kidspot, not as me!!). It all feels like the best fit in the world for me, yet every day I marvel at the fact that it's me doing it and doing it well enough to be a keeper.

In essence, after years of thinking that I loved what I did in the grey world, I've finally become one of those lucky ducks who Confucius had in mind when he said "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life". Truth is, that's a bit of a lie at the end of a particularly long day... but... I pinch myself and grin at nothing for no reason whatsoever.

I am happy. I took a chance and took that giant leap into misty cloud and here I am. In a lot of ways, my blog gave me this; made me believe it was possible after all, that anything was, really. So I miss writing it daily and my list of half-written (insightful, ground-breaking, pure-poetry (of course)) posts is ever-growing but, I'm happy.

Shoeless, but happy.

What do you / your man do for a living? 
Does it leave you metaphorically shoeless too?

[Image found via weheartit - please let me know if it is yours]

Pin of the Day: Farm

I draw this one to your attention because I have a few questions. I admire the work of Make, Do & Friend, her blog is a really nice one for ideas for kids and despite her overuse of the word 'playdate', I love her philosophy to bits.

But, you see, at the age when they were into farms and playing with little plastic farm animals, my children would not have been able to handle most of Charlotte's work. This farm construction is an excellent example. See those peas? They would be mixing it with the weeties within five seconds of play. The sand would be all over the lounge room floor in minutes and that poor little piggy would be wondering where all his dirt went before realising that it was down the throat of a child and he was about to follow suit.

So, whilst I'm admiring of these kinds of creative play constructions, I do wonder who gets to do the actual playing... it's the mum building it, isn't it?

Visit Make, Do & Friend or click on the image to repin the pin!

What are your thoughts on 'constructive play'?


Honey jumbled

It's a wet, wet day today. I know that it's physically possible to get out and about on a wet day and, indeed, many families have totally made rainy days their thing. They're off visiting a crowd-free zoo, taking long nature hikes in gumboots and sailing choppy harbour waters with their faces turned up to the rain.

At our place we prefer to stay indoors climbing the walls and staring mournfully at each other all day.

I don't mind the rain. A splash in a puddle after a Summer downpour is a favourite and as far as I know I don't melt when wet, but it's just so difficult when it's wet and cold. You can't have your kids racing about wet and cold. So, despite a myriad of waterproof and warm gear options on sale every September, we remain climbing the wall and staring. Oh, the endless staring.

Today we played Junior Scrabble (The Badoo is like some freaky idiot savant scrabble master - she thrashes us every time, even though she doesn't really know what Junior Scrabble is). And we made Honey Jumbles.

I am assuming they are called Honey Jumbles because after you let the kids make them - including rolling the '2cm round sausage shapes' that are really more like 0.5 - 4cm sausage shapes and 'cutting them into 5 pieces each' with a butter knife - they really are a big jumble. And that's before the pink, stretchy icing gets involved. A big, delicious, messy, pink and gooey jumble.

It was the first time I think I actually enjoyed baking with the kids. Like most mother-child activities, baking with the kids is an activity I enjoy a lot more when the kids aren't involved. There are a lot of activities like that - baking, walking to school, playing Junior Scrabble. My kids have a way of spoiling all my best parenting moments. (And yes, I am sort of joking.)

But Honey Jumbles are meant to be jumbled, right?

Here's the recipe, modified from the AWW Cooking School for kids book; it's a bit complicated, but that just extends the fun. Happy rainy daze to you.

Jumbled Honey Jumbles

Jumbly jumbled jumbles
60g butter, chopped
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 eggwhite
1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
A little lemon juice (about 2 teaspoons)
1 drop pink food colouring

Combine butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until butter has melted and all ingredients are smooth. Transfer mixture to a large glass bowl and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Stir in the egg then sift in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, mixed spice and cloves into the wet mixture.  Stir to combine and bring together into a dough. Sprinkle a little flour on your clean kitchen bench; put the ball of dough onto the bench; knead the dough by pressing down on it lightly with the heels of your palms until it's all smooth. Pull into a flat ball, wrap in cling wrap and put it into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. 

Take dough out of the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly. Divide dough into eight portions. Roll each portion into a 2cm thick sausage shape, approx 30cm long and cut into 6 x 5cm-long pieces. Place on prepared trays, leaving room for spreading. Using a wooden spoon, flatten each piece of dough a little.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until light golden. Once golden, take trays out of the oven and leave them to cool.

Make icing: In a small bowl, beat eggwhite lightly with a fork until foaming. Gradually beat in icing sugar and flour a little at a time; stir a little well into the eggwhite before adding more.Add enough lemon juice to make the icing easy to spread. Put half the mixture into another bowl. Tint pink with food colouring. Spread half of the biscuits with pink icing. Spread remaining biscuits with white icing. Set aside for 30 minutes or until set.

Get eating!

Do you enjoy baking with your children?
By yourself?

Pin of the Day: Peg fish

Now I know 'peg fish' doesn't sound very exciting, but just look at that peg fish! I defy anyone to see that peg fish and not want to make one straight away (you are banned from responding to that Toni or Al).

The peg fish featured on Tip Junkie along with 32 other exciting things to make with pegs (again, hush you two!). Be still my beating heart!

Visit the full 33 things or click on the image to repin the pin!

Can you see yourself rustling up a peg fish?


(Never) learning from my mistakes

I burnt my porridge this morning. In any given week I burn my porridge at least two times, sometimes three. Funny, because I only have porridge for breakfast three times a week.

I put the porridge on the stove, I stir it, I pop the lid on to bring it to the boil, I walk away, I get distracted, the porridge boils all over the stove top and forms a strong and lasting bond with the hot plate which then makes a sort of squealing noise that very clearly screams, "for the love of god you moronic woman, you've wrecked breakfast again, who the hell does that, only a crazy person, that's who", I rush madly to the stove, I hurl the burning porridge into the sink, I start cleaning the stove.

I actually have porridge for breakfast one or none times a week.

It got me thinking about the fact that I am not a natural winner. In fact, I may well be the person that Einstein had in mind when he formulated his definition of insanity. I fail, I change nothing, I fail, I change nothing, I fail.

Some of us just seem to have ridiculous thought patterns wired into our brain in such a way that all of life needs to pass through them in order to continue. This makes achieving anything noteworthy very difficult.

Eat the chocolate, get fat, wish I was thinner, eat the chocolate.

Groan that my kids won't sleep, let the child into the bed at night, groan that my kids don't sleep.

Wish the house was painted, don't paint the house, wish the house was painted.

Drink wine and say too much, drink wine, say too much.

It's very, very tough being this way. Either nothing gets done or it gets burnt. There is no middle ground with me.

I suppose if I had my Pollyanna hat on, I could find many positive thought patterns in my head that end in a good way for everyone concerned. I could do that. But for the third morning in a row I am not having any breakfast, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm feeling too cranky with myself to let Pollyanna out to play.

What thought patterns are wrecking your good life?

Pin of the Day: Don't stumble

I am a huge fan of a 'quotable quote' poster. I mean, those old cat on a branch 'Keep Hanging On' posters probably aren't going to grab me, but otherwise, I'm good. I remember the first motivational card I ever received was from Granny Mays (remember Granny Mays?!) by Boynton (remember Boynton?!) - it was an accordion-style card that unfolded to show an elephant covered with turkeys and the saying, "Don't let the turkeys get you down". Still a favourite.

This one created by Kensie Kate is lovely because of the design but also because the words are words we all need to hear, every single day.

Visit Kensie Kate or click on the image to repin the Pin!

What quote would you put on a poster?


Living the iLife

The other morning before school, Maxi was on the computer playing Moshi Monsters, Cappers was drawing on the iPad and The Badoo was having Cinderella read to her by an English gentleman who says 'dunce' rather than 'dance'. I turned to my husband and said, "yep, we're living the 'i' life".

We have strict 'screen' times during the week (I posted about how we work that over at Live4 this week) mostly needed for Maxi who is sadly addicted to the internet at the ripe old age of eight. Even though the Tsunamis are well aware that there are only certain times set aside to watch tv, go on the computer, play on the Wii or PSP, go on the iPod, iPhone or iPad... well, now that I write that down, no wonder they constantly try to push the boundaries. Who the hell can fit that lot into 6 slots a week?!

So, I'm changing this post from one about allocated screen times to a discussion on setting ourselves up to fail. Are you with me?

Here I am whinging about my kids whinging about screens and I'm the one that has managed to load them up with eight different screens to choose from. If I don't like them spending too much time electronically, why oh why are we that darn connected?

Part of me thinks it's a 'sign of the times'. Every generation has a sign and ours just happens to say, "kids need to be outside, get them off the screens". I totally agree with that statement, but even I am at a loss to explain why after they've had a good run around outside, playing on a computer game is any worse for them than reading a book. It's not like the book reader is getting all kinds of exercise.

Don't get me wrong, my kids are all big readers (even The Badoo who 'reads' books to you that have amazing plots not even contemplated by the book's actual author). But when it's wet outside and we've exhausted our tolerance for board games and gentle chit chat around the piano, isn't a little go on the iSomething okay? Think of all those computer-type skills they're learning... not to mention the fact that Maxi and Cappers break out in a good healthy sweat playing each other in tennis on the Wii.

So, I'm not entirely sure what this post is about and I'm hoping you can help me with that, but I reckon our generation is at a crossroads between the nostalgia for the childhoods we all had and this new childhood dreamed up by computer geeks. Personally I think a balance is okay, which is why I won't be throwing the lot into the bin, but I will also be maintaining our 'screen time' rules for now. But maybe an extra half an hour a week won't be such a bad thing...

Are you living the iLife too?
What rules are in place at your place?
And what was this post about anyway?


52 weeks of grateful: hindsight

Hindsight is a love / hate relationships for me. In some ways, I would like to banish it permanently as it's not really any help to anyone, is it? Sure, we might learn things from hindsight, but along the way we pick up an excess of guilt, a load of paranoia and a great big wallop of regret.

But then.

We might learn things from hindsight.

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

281. Hindsight - looking back, I know hindsight is probably a very useful tool indeed.

282. Little connections - all the little connections in life that make it worthwhile - a hug, a sigh, a pat, a squeeze, a hold... I'm here and I'm listening.

283. Chips - my little Badoo loves her Nonno very much but I'm not sure our drop off would go quite so well on Thursday mornings if he didn't have a little bag of chips waiting for her. It's their ritual and chips for breakfast one day a week can only be a good thing, right?

Would you let your babes have chips for breakfast?

Two really awesome things happened to me this week and I'm calling it 'man kindness'. 
Visit me at Village Voices to see why I'm grateful for man kindness and link up your grateful post or #52weeksofgrateful Instagram snap.

[Image found here. Please let me know if it is yours.]


On the same page as Tim Ross

The NRMA have launched a snazzy new site to go with their 'Live4' road trip thingy (I actually don't know much about whatever it is they are doing!) and I'm in! I'm writing about children's entertainment, mostly. DVDs, pros and cons of various things, keeping the kids occupied, that sort of stuff. They have other cooler writing for them like Tim Ross - I may or may not have taken a screen shot of my blog near his blog on the home page...

Okay, I did, I'm such a wally.

Anyway, my first post up is about missing the characters who are part of our children's younger years... or something like that. It's really a love song to Peppa Pig now that I think about it.

Can you come and join in? I don't want Tim to think I'm a dud.



52 weeks of grateful: Beautiful images

As I mentioned on my Village Voices post, I've had a rough week. It is nothing too major, but it still makes me sad to think about it too much. Needless to say - life ain't all roses all the time.

The power of gratitude is enough to lift me, though. I don't mean that to sound like I'm some OTT Anthony Robbins type (aka the modern cult leader). I guess sometimes I do - constantly banging on about the way gratitude can change your life . Hell, even I'm sick of the word 'grateful' a lot of the time.

But listen up. It works.

This week, I'm grateful for...

278. Beautiful images - we went into 'instagram' on Grateful today. Lovelies from all over have been snapping something they are grateful for today and tagging it with #52weeksofgrateful. Just looking at those pictures has really, truly lifted my spirits.

279. Chatter - Can older people really actually chatter? Surely that run-off-at-the-mouth, babbling, chatter-chat-chat that children do is what chatter is really all about. I love it (just not in the car!!!)

280. Reminders - some people are so good at the 'gentle reminder'. A reminder is so needed sometimes. I'm reminding myself to eat well this week. It's gotta be better than chastising myself for not!

And read my depressing woe-is-me post! Woot!

Do pictures lift you up too?

[Image by the magical Marie Flore]


Eating life

I served up some of my Pea and Ham soup with crusty bread rolls for lunch on the weekend. All lovingly handmade by me, much to my deep dissatisfaction.

10 minutes flat and it was all gone. Did we enjoy it any more than a tin of Cream of Chicken and a loaf of sliced wholemeal? Maybe. But that's still only 10 minutes of enjoyment for about an hour and 10's worth of work.

I know other people find cooking for their family infinitely more fulfilling than I do, but it occurred to me today that the rituals of life have changed such that what was once a satisfying thing to do now seems so utterly pointless. It's not just that we can buy an inferior version at the shops and save ourselves the time. It's more than that.

When we were younger, LOML and I had the good fortune of spending a month at his Zio and Zia's olive grove in Benevento, just outside Naples in Italy. The family produced the raw olives that went to a local manufacturer to be turned into olive oil. All day they worked in the grove, picking the olives, sorting the olives and packing the olives. They worked just as hard preparing a hearty lunch - insalata, pasta, meats and cheeses. The pasta sauce would be bubbling away on the stove all morning and eaten with relish by hungry workers come lunch time.

But this wasn't a meal shoved hastily down before the business of the day resumed. This was a meal that was looked forward to; beckoning and lingered over. Everyone stopped work, sat back and enjoyed each other's company. What was still left to do that day was not talked about (at least, I don't think it was, rudimentary as my Italian is!), but rather life was the subject of discussion and there was no rush to the meal whatsoever.

All meals were eaten in this same lingering fashion. Meals were not something to hurry through on your way to something else. Regardless of how busy the day was, the meal and conversation took absolute priority. Indeed, it was the very reason for working so hard in the first place. Life in this fashion is humble, noticed and ultimately satisfying.

I compare that to the way my family eats today and I am not surprised that cooking gives me so little satisfaction. My children eat by themselves throughout the week and weekends are generally rushed enough that a meal is a mere fueling stop in the day or tacked onto the end as an after-thought. There are no loving rituals and, while the food in enjoyed and appreciated, there is no lingering or true 'breaking of bread'.

The Tsunamis are young yet. There is time to train ourselves to slow down and linger a little over lunch and dinner. Maybe even breakfast if I can totally get my act together. I think it's important. I think it's as important as... life.

How do you eat your meals?

[Image by Kelly Hornberger]


How to make a Princess Party in 48 hours flat

I know you probably won't believe me when I tell you this was a very low-key party... but it was. The cardboard princess castle is very deceptive! It makes it look like I went to a whole lot of trouble when actually this was a very simple party to put together (apart from the #@$#% cardboard princess castle, of course!) By the time this princess party finally rolled around, I was well and truly over it already. So much so that I did absolutely nothing to prepare for it until Thursday last week - yep, a whole two days before guests were due to arrive - when I suddenly panicked and stopped hitting the 'Snooze' button.

The Badoo had five little friends and then the cousins and a Cappers' friend rounded us up to 13 party goers. Thirteen is small for me - I'm the fool who made 25 monster softies as a 'thank you for coming' not so long ago. With this party, I just made easy-peasy lolly bags. I made the princess castle printable to fold and clip on the top with pegs that were part of a $2 shop Christmas card hanger thingy I picked up last Christmas.

The cake... well, now... that looks like it was trouble, right? But no, not for me. For my SIL it was probably a whole lot of trouble, but then she is the world's greatest aunty (and surely you can no longer suggest that there could possibly be a greater one). How amazing is this cake!?

She also made the fabulous crown biscuits and the cute little heart-cut fairy breads. In fact, she made all of the cool looking food and I made the easy food. Food is not my thing.

I made Happy Cow cream cheese triangles - with a little olive nose, black icing eyes, mortadella ears and a sliced sour licorice strip for a tail. They look so cute, but can you imagine what they tasted like?

Watermelon and rockmelon cut out with biscuit cutters and stuck on a cake pop stick. I knew I'd find a use for all those cake pop sticks!

Breadsticks dipped in white chocolate, rolled in sprinkles and called princess wands. And the drinks: my usual little milk bottles and a castle printable I ran off the printer. The straws were from the $2 shop (I know! Score!). Incidentally, the little bottles I use are just the Yoga Peach Nectar juice bottles with the drink drunk and the labels removed (to make room for printed party labels!).

And my new thing: cake push pops. You can buy the push pop tubes from Something for Cake. Then it's just a matter of baking a cake (I made a raspberry cake), but instead of baking it in a standard 20cm tin, I baked it on a biscuit sheet (one with small sides) for 20 mins instead of 40 mins. Then I cut out circles of cake using the top of the push pop tube, dolloped in a bit of butter icing, cut another cake circle, dolloped and spread another icing layer, popped on a lolly raspberry, snapped on the top and... yuuuuum. These are really, really yummy. You can put all sorts of things in them - lollies, jelly, fruit and cream. I'm going to put a surprise something in the lunchboxes on Friday.

The wind was howling outside. See the flags fluttering madly in the driveway? They were made at 2.37 am when I suddenly decided we needed to create an 'immediate sense of occasion' on entrance. LOML disagreed that this was a necessary party element for the under 5 set and promptly went to bed.

They are made out of $0.75 per metre (Lincraft sale!) skirt lining material, the same stuff I used as the backdrop hanging behind the castle. It's all hanging up on jute string that we thumb tacked to the walls using a thumb tack either side and one 'holder' in the ceiling. I am very surprised it stayed up for the duration.

As it was also raining off and on, we kept the games indoors and simple - my usual musical cushions / musical statues combo and a craft activity. I've actually decided that musical statues is too hard because you have to 'judge' the kids statue-like capabilities. At least with the cushions they are either on one or they're not.

Other than the musical dancing games and the craft activity - created, directed and hosted by Cappers - they pretty much just ran around outside and had a ball.


We also had a hair /makeup/nails makeover table because, let's face it, it was the Badoo's party.

And then there were the decorations.

Throne hastily put together when the Badoo walked in, eyed the magnificent castle, the delicious food, the pretty balloons and said, "where's my throne?" Dear god, I can't stand children. Anyway, because I am an unfit mother, I panicked and produced this throne.

I made all the little bunting out of leftover party streamers from Cappers' rainbow party. Cut, glue, fold and cut into little flags. Very simple, but I think it looks terrific.

The castle really was magnificent. It is now doing duty as the girls' cubby house and they are personalising with textas and crayons (Badoo lives on the left, Cappers on the right). I made it out of fridge boxes - just cut it up with a scalpel and scissors, strung it together with zip cable ties and stuck bits of cardboard on it with Liquid Nails. Painted the lot with leftover paint. It cost me exactly nothing except my sanity. I would show you the fabulous castle made by a proper crafty-clogs wearer that gave me the inspiration, but I would be too embarrassed.


So, there you have it. The long-awaited Princess Party is finally done. I'm so glad I'm off-duty until Cappers' slumber party in October. I need a break!

Have you ever made something out of cardboard boxes?

You can see the princess party invitations here.
And other parties I've foolishly (it's a love-hate relationship) pulled together here.
And a guides for getting a party together here.

If you're keen, here are some other parties I've gone mental over: