Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A face lift for me and some blogs for you.

My blog has had a facelift. Not a whole new look, but a freshen up, new side bars, some font changes and design stuff. Many of you wont even know what the old one looked like as you read in either email or RSS reader form, so pop over and take a look.

Lots are also new to my blog and some new to reading blogs altogether.

New blog readers often ask me which other blogs I read. The answer is stacks. I rarely check my google reader (which is like an online filing system or 'in tray' of all the latest posts on the blogs I follow) without there being over 100 new posts to read.

Yes, I do read nearly all of them. I scan many. Lots are just photos, some I see the posts are long and I just skip past them, others I never miss.

The never miss ones fascinate me, for one simple reason, they live a life I don't. They live just like me, but they do/are/be something more. They tell me about their lives and entertain me as they do.

I know my readers don't like too many links so here are just four blogs that you may find worth a look.


 4 Kids, 20 suitcases, and a beagle
Kirsty writes this blog, and as the heading tells you she has 4 kids, she also lives an expat life, but the countries keep changing. The four kids have all been born in different countries. The stories of their travels as a family are always entertaining, informative and all so new to me. Kirsty is also an actual writer so she can whip up a pretty good story. I learn stuff. I am hooked. The ex pat life sometimes seems so glam, other times, not so much!

Veggie Mama
I am not a vegetarian. Whenever we have vegetarian meals Mr H wears his grumpy face while it is being served. Regardless of his face, I like the menu ideas, the new options, seeing the foods that a real vegetarian eats (not the ones that say "I am vegetarian, but I do like shaved ham and cheese and bacon rolls still) Veggie Mama has Veggie baby, who has recently started solids so has a whole new area of blog posts to share too.

And then there were four.
Can you guess? Yep, four kids. But more than that. The writer of this blog is called Multiple Mum, she blogs about the family but also about her ways to try and live a more sustainable life. But not about compost and disposable nappies. I was most interested in her posts about 'Buy nothing for a year' a challenge she has just completed. Really, that is quite an effort. She also inspired me to at least think about the six items or less challenge - 6 items of clothing, 10 days - tough one!

And then I have

BabyMac
Mainly because she has a friggin fab house and I like to pinch her decorating ideas - not that I actually do, but in my head I think, yeah, that looks great, I could do that. Her yellow side table is still one of my favourites. She can also cook up a storm in the blink of an eye and I just like the eye candy of the food. She shares recipes if you are a baker. She also has two girls of similar age to me and sometimes I think she has been in my head when she writes about them. Her photography is also a bit of alright.


Go forth and click.






Saturday, January 28, 2012

What tips would you give someone about to be a school Mum?


I am about to be a school Mum.

Needing to be up and on time every weekday morning.

I have never had to make lunches. Using a creche arrangement for all preschool, a chef came with the deal. I had to place an empty lunch box in to the kitchen and that's it.

I could drop and pick up at my convenience.

We now shall have to ensure the green and yellow hair ribbons are handy in the morning and school shoes, not this weeks favourite sparkly pink numbers, are placed somewhere we can find them.

There are so many things I have no idea about right now.

I am not too worried, in that, 'you dont know what you don't know' way.

Then I started tweeting with some school Mums tonight, (thanks stuffwiththing and traceyb65 ) and I realized that a handbook for new school Mums, written entirely by other Mums was needed.

I don't have the book, so I am asking you, my knowledgable readers, what do you wish you knew about being a school mum? What advice can you give me to get me there on time, little stress, and not in my jimjams.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Domestic Goddess Failure Case Study 2: Hotdog Mummies.

I did quite a bit of planning for the Witches Ball party.


It was months in the planning because I had to buy everything around Halloween. I waited until it was over and got everything half price, so of course I purchased way too much.

I also printed out a large number of recipes for 'spooky' food. The Americans really do this in a big way so there are lots of things to find.

These Mummy Hotdogs looked perfect.

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I thought I would give them a practice run before the big day and let the kids have them for lunch.


I just couldn't get them right.



Mine looked a little like Murdered Hotdogs.








To be honest, I don't know how I can stuff these things up.



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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

So you want to be a car blogger. Here are my tips.

I am not sure how many cars it takes before you can call yourself a car blogger, but I have decided that 3.5 cars it is.


Car blogging is just not the glam job that you think it is, just like top models discuss the behind the scenes aspects of modelling are not rosy, so too can car blogging be a tough gig, so to help out any future car bloggers here are my tips to help you drive through your car blogging moments.

Start by asking the car company if the car will actually suit you. If the car can’t fit car seats and you have four kids in boosters, than you are not going to be driving this car too much, alternatively it is not handy to be given a ute if you are a family of seven.

Read a page or two of the manual before you drive off. This will prevent you playing with knobs and dials and turning the seat warmers up to high when it is 42 degrees outside. You will also know where the lights are and not get confused between the fog lights, dimmers, auto lights and high beam (sorry to all those cars I blinded). If you have the Holden Captiva it will also tell you how to get into the car without having to climb in through the boot.

Reading the manual is tricky if someone has flogged it before you like they did in my Ford Focus Sedan.

Returning the vehicle has proven to go badly for me 50% of the time. I returned the Holden SV6 and left the pram in it and I still have the headrests from the backseat of the Ford Focus, after putting them safely where they would not be wrecked.

You should prepare mentally for the minor depression that occurs when you get back into your old filthy car that is full of lolly pop wrappers and kids meal toys. Especially if you have fallen in love with the car.

Expect your partner, friends and family that visit to want to take a test-drive, sometimes for so long that you need to refill with petrol.

Do not return to a car park and search for your usual car. You will not find it.

Do not think you can undo the bolts of a brand new car to get the booster seats in by yourself. If your husband is gallivanting around Europe you will have to ask the old man next door to assist you, he will also struggle to remove these machine tightened bolts.

If possible, ask if you can have the car for a longer period or make sure it is when you have time to actually drive it. Most cars come for a week, this can be limiting, depending what you are up to, having the Focus over Christmas really allowed us to get used to the car and like it more and more. The Captiva I have not formally reviewed because it was not my car to review, I hijacked it on our way to Walhalla and while I really enjoyed driving it (heaps and heaps) it was only for the weekend and I was kid free so I may have enjoyed driving a 1970s Valiant under such circumstances.

Would reviewing a car be something you would do, or are you so happy in your own current wheels that it is not that exciting for you to do?

  


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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Decorating: The Sticker Way.


There has been fighting amongst the ranks that has been going on for weeks.

Who is going to get the new bed?

We knew we couldn't decorate like this, as we had a budget to stick to. Mr H allowed for about $7.85 to cover everything.

The new bed is really the old bed. The bed that we had in the mouse house to try and make a little play space for Popps which we shoved under the spare bed in the new place when we got here 18 months ago. This means we stick within the budget.

Immy was bursting out of her little happy toddler bed and didn't want to move, so to encourage her, she got to pick which bed she wanted.

Popps' dollhouse bed, or the semi bunk bed option.

She chose the dollhouse which meant we had to make them change rooms too.

This actually worked out perfectly (if you remove from your mind the part where Mr H and I worked together to get the Ikea Bunk back together, minus the instructions) because the tree we wanted to stick up looks great on the green wall and the flower dimmer light that is wired in to the wall looks ok.



We culled 'treasures' from Popps' drawers, found a stash of lollies she had hidden behind some boxes and sneezed through the dust behind beds.

We now have two happy (indoor) campers.


One room, sparse with a smattering of favourite toys and prints, for a little girl still happy to play with what ever she comes across, with the best stickers to brighten it up ever.





The next room, we gave the big girl some power to decorate. I got the bunting in, she did the rest.




She did manage to put together a reading corner for herself though.




A little nook for a desk also managed to sneak in.










Thanks to Bright Star Kids for the tree stickers, they were really easy to do and certainly gave an excellent finish. I am looking at some for our room now too - Can you have too many wall stickers?






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Friday, January 20, 2012

Marketing Case Study Time: Customer Service - The Quick and the Ugly


Every now and then I like to share my views on brands and products that have 'got it' or that haven't.


The Quick:

Safe N Sound

I never hide our issues of over protecting the Little Hueys. We see no reason not to protect them from injury when we can.

Our preferred car seat of choice has always been safe n sound and even more so the Maxi Rider AHR.

Imogen is currently in the AHR (Active Head Restraint) Maxi Rider and will be in this for at least another four years.

She started complaining a lot about her seat before Christmas, asking for us not to do the buckle up, that it scratched her leg and hurt her. Upon closer inspection there was a tiny little pinhead size section of the webbing that had a pointy end on it, the section where they seal it so that the webbing won’t fray.  I decided to call and ask Safe N Sound what they suggested for this, could I just fix it some way.


The iGeneration



They answered the phone instantly.

The person who answered could fix the problem.

The next day the new part arrived in the mail and was placed into the seat.

In less than 24 hours my problem was solved, all at no cost to me.

Immy was very happy to be buckled in again.


The Ugly:

I don't name the Ugly ones.

I recently got all nostalgic about a toy. Do you remember this tree from the 70s?





As soon as I saw it I knew it was going to be under the tree for Christmas.

I ordered it on an infant website and paid the not so small price for it, plus postage.

When it arrived at its destination it was looking so shabby that I was asked if I got it second hand from ebay!

Australia Post had clearly tried to assist the package by taping it up some more with orange tape and stickers that say Australia Post has been here. Thankfully all the pieces where there but the box was not going to cut it as a gift for Christmas.

I contacted the company I bought it from to tell them that while I would be keeping the product, the state it arrived in meant it was lucky it arrived at all.

That was a month ago. Expect I wont be hearing from them anytime soon. Nor buying anything from them again, in case it got the same treatment.

On top of that, the actual product is pretty shabby. Cheap plastic that doesn’t really fit together properly, the little people fall into the bottom of the tree under the lift and you need to get the screw driver from the mess that is the third drawer down, unscrew the whole thing, get them out and put it back together again.  I don’t recall it being so cheap looking back in my day. Not the companies fault who I purchased from I know, but just in case you were thinking of getting one - try ebay first.


Have you had some good/bad customer service lately?







Other case study posts include






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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This post talks about poo and wee, but maybe it will help some Mums.



Image Source

Sometimes this is a Mummy blog more than others. Today is one of those days.

I am going to share my knowledge and wisdom regarding toilet training your little ankle biter to hopefully make things just so much easier for you.

Having only two children means I am no more an expert than most other Mums that have been through this, however as one of my children had a bowel issue that took us to the Royal Children’s Hospital outpatients and a specialist Paediatrian (Dr Poo) on a regular basis for a few years I can share with you the expert advice we got.

We paid hundreds of dollars for this pretty simple advice. Today, for you, it is all free! You’re very welcome.

So what is the magic secret to toilet training?

Well, Dr Poo, strongly believes that toilet ‘training’ is actually wrong. Dr Poo has built his practice dealing with the issues and health problems that occur from mothers who have pushed toilet training on their children.

Toileting is a complex task.
  •  A child needs to start by recognising the feeling that they have means that they need to wee or poo.
  • They have to acknowledge that when this feeling comes, the wee or poo comes out.
  • They have to remember that they need to make it to a designated area, be that the toilet or a potty (let’s hope it is usually in the same area, move that potty around and you are making it harder).
  • The child, once making it to the toilet needs to remove all the items of clothing, buttons or zips that are tricky for little fingers
  • Then climb up/on to the designated area, (remembering to hold on to that wee or poo that wants to come out).
  • This is all to be done while the child most likely wants to be back in the sand pit, trampoline, bean bag etc.
  • The follow up wiping, washing, redressing just adds to the tasks going through the little minds.


So what is a mother to do?

Not much actually.

Dr Poo believes that most mothers watch and pick up the cues of when a child is naturally ready to be moved out of nappies, without even realising they are doing it.

You know your child pretty well and can generally tell when they are anxious, happy, tired, hungry, nervous. You know if they are comfortable with something or ready for new challenges. You will generally start to get signs that your child is ready for big kid undies.

Dr Poo discussed that when a Mum says “I did this and it worked” that was really only because Mum had picked up that the child was ready. Try the same tactic with a child who is not developmentally ready and you will not succeed. Sure, you may have noticed it a couple of months ago and waited til Summer to make it an easier transition, or you may have had a goal of getting this under control before another baby arrived, or preschool started, but if the child can’t process the above dot points in a matter of twenty seconds, you will be washing up clothes and cleaning up puddles for awhile still.

What about the age of a child?

Not a problem either says Dr Poo. Just as with everything else, some kids will show signs very very early, others will not show signs until much later. Some will master the art of weeing on the throne quickly but are not interested in plopping a poo in the bowl. Some are great for day time and hopeless at night while others just drop nappies night and day in a flash.


Big Kids and Poo:

For kids that seem pretty capable, but who just refuse to poo on a toilet, this can be really really annoying for parents. Seriously, changing baby nappies is one thing, changing the poo of a four year old is another altogether. Relax, don’t stress. Place the pull ups into the toilet area. Put the child in charge. When they need to poo they go to the toilet area, put the pull ups on themselves and do their business in that area.  Yes, may take months, but it is worth it. Causing constipation by inflicting your toilet training measures on the child will make things worse. If you are huffing and puffing (begging) the child to poo on the toilet they are just going to get stressed. Withholding the nappies is not a nice idea.  Bring out your rewards charts if you and your child work well with them, they are not for me, but Dr Poo was not against the idea for a child who was able to understand the concept, if the chart is encouraging and rewards are not too difficult to achieve. Don’t make it five poos to get a toy if one poo is not even likely. Start with a poo in a nappy in the toilet area.

I promise, if you have an otherwise healthy functioning child, you shall not have wipes and a spare nappy in your bag at the child’s 21st birthday.

Your child WILL get over the fear of the flush, the big deep hole that is a toilet, the confined space, the fear of pushing a poo, whatever it is that is holding them back from making this step.


My Summary:
You may think you had excellent toilet training techniques and that is why your baby was night and day trained before they could walk, but it was likely not you, it was your baby, who did this. Alternatively if your kinder kid is still struggling with toileting issues, let it be for a while. They will get the hang of it and learn the ropes of this task – even though it may not feel like it right now.




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Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Witches Ball Party


Months ago Popps returned from Kinder and asked me to download the Justine Clarke song "The Witches Ball".

I did, and from that moment on she has wanted to turn six with a Witches Ball Party.

The excellent, very talented Park Eden whipped up the invitations for me and the party preparations began.

I spent a few hours on Pinterest and cooking sites to see what I could come up with that I (the domestic goddess failure) would be able to handle on the day. I was rather stressed and sent many tweets to people for encouragement -- thank you all, you know who you are.

Popps chose the cake. It was actually pretty easy, but I say that after previously making the trampoline and the swimming pool and well, you know the echidna by now.





We decorated the house with basic streamers but put them in a spider web pattern and at Halloween time I stocked up on lots of little extra things to add to the house.

I pulled out the vases I got from the op shop for my eighties dinner party and sent Mr H and kids to the park to get some arrangements for them, they worked perfectly on the spooky food table. The front hallway was cleaned of the usual junk hats and creche bags to make way for spare costumes.



The easy food



Veggie Skeleton Man (and he was totally eaten).

Custom made cupcake holders for cakes with Chocolate Bat toppers


Ghostly Meringues

Spooky Cheese, suffocating under the gladdy.

For those that have not been to our house, we don't usually allow the cobwebs to get this bad. But we had this stuff all over the place to give a spooky feel.



Pass the spooky parcel, I found a beautiful picture book called The Ghost of Annabel Spoon, it was the perfect prize for this game.
Musical Statues turned into just dancing on the lawn, which actually started to look like a group of pint sized goths once the hats and brooms had been ditched in the hall.


I had also pre printed out some witchy colouring in pictures, some children had a turn at these, but mostly they were interested in getting their faces painted and their arms tattooed with gory, spooky images from a pack I picked up at Halloween. 

My niece has started her own business and is offering face painting services to kids parties, at $15 a party I was thrilled with her rates and hired her instantly.

It all came together and most importantly Popps was thrilled with the results. And stay tuned, the next domestic goddess failure case study will be posted this week...the food that didn't make it to the party.






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Friday, January 13, 2012

A Food Focus

Twitter was listening amongst my woe is cars week and Ford came to my pity party driving a brand new Focus. We all know how I loved this one, so I said, give me a try of the sedan.



With nearly three weeks for us to get to know each other I was very keen to become BFFs again.

Festive Drinkies.
 Hot nights and outside bars are so very hip.


Sadly, Mr H stole my friend, it happens, but I moved on and became a very happy third wheel on this adventure. We decided to make the Focus our family car for the festive food season and we had many feasts in many different homes and lots of towns.

Myrtleford: Old Butter Factory. The butter is amazing. The food devine. The service lovely. The wait for food is long. Very long. So long that complimentary ice cream was delivered to the little ones.


The Focus got packed to the hilt, two car seats, presents for 15 people, bags packed for a weeks travel, Peppa the dog and food for Christmas cooking all made it in and away we went. I would have taken a photo of how we got it all in, but this was one of the only times I got to drive (and you should not use your phone and drive at the same time).

We ate at the Bright Berry Farm too. Beside this poster, so you can imagine how much fun that farm is. Good ice cream though


The Focus took us all over Victoria, to towns you may never have been to. To Seymour, over to Marnoo, than Stuart Mill, back to Melbourne, off to Milawa, Porepunkah and Bright. Had a few trips to Riddells Creek and then dinner in Kensington – I really should have taken a picture of the sugar free cheese cake lovingly made for me there. Totally indulgent. 


Deer Farm - Bright, except this is a goat, and we didn't eat it.

We stopped for cheese, for wine, for berries and honey, in Stuart Mill we went yabbying (don’t worry Fordie people, we took Grandpa’s ute around the paddocks not the Focus)

Sorry Mr Yabby, this was your last moment before landing in a bowl of vinegar and my tummy.


Quick Girls, grab morning tea. (Milawa Cheese Factory)

The Focus took us to secret swimming holes in Bright and cruised the city for carparks on New Years Eve. The road was bumpy and gravel but the thing I liked most about the Focus is the quiet, this may be because I am used to driving noisy vehicles, but I really liked it. It is smooth and refined, kind of like a nice red wine.











In Bright I wanted a place that was less touristy.

I tweeted to see if the locals could help and was given directions to a secret spot. It was fantastic, we set up camp for the day and stayed for hours, shallow sections for Immy to splash about in and rapids that were perfect for Popps to float down in her swimming tube, with the odd deep hole for those that can brave the icy deep of the river, which is not me.

Thanks to @workingwomenaus for all the help around that area.  There is much to see and many lovely drives to take so we did a few of those too, it was really hot, so getting in to the cool car was nice and often become the time that Immy slept, after not sleeping well in the heat at night.


Mr H became so friendly with the Focus that I could see him run to the car to be the driver every time.

Pretending to want to strap Immy in but really getting to the drivers side first.


Is it different to the Hatch – yes, this version was not as smart on the inside, no seat warmers that I could find. However they may be there, someone else had stolen the car manual before we got it, I am wondering if perhaps they wanted a souvenir of their time with the car? For us, a pantry of jam, mustard and honey will be souvenir just fine.


But I have just noticed some head rests under my bed. Opps, better ring Ford and let them know that I have the head rests from the back seats, which you need to remove to put the kids car seats in.

Room enough for two kids in the back seat ...
Minus the head rests, which are still under my bed so that the kids didn't touch them.

If you want to get picky about things with this car that you might not like, there is this: Where the kids car seats buckle is, there is a hole in the seats, a DS stylus thing can easily be dropped in there and takes some time to get back out, especially if you are parked on the side of a road with a crying child that thinks her Santa present is ruined and will never ever be used again.

Lastly, we all had favourite things about our time with the Focus, for me it was the rear sensors for reversing, Mr H seemed to like the auto wipers, Popps loves the voice recognition and likes to play games with the lady trying to guess what she is saying from the back seat. Immy likes the ipod connectivity as that allowed us to be able to listen to The Fairies Music over and over...(which could be a reason not to buy!)  


Disclaimer: 
Ford contacted me and asked if I would like to take this car over Christmas. I was not paid to write this review and Ford have not requested anything from me. All thoughts about this car are my own, and I wish the car was too. Sadly it isn't, and other than the headrests it is back in the land of Ford.







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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Keep your eyes open for an argument…Divorce City.


Do you know the jingle – maybe only my Victorian readers will, for others let me paint a quick picture – Car City is highly advertised as the best place to go and grab yourself a new car. Thousands of cars, best deal blah blah blah. (If you really need to hear the jingle, they have it on the website for you.)

With 'Woe is Cars' being the catch phrase around here lately we got dragged over the other side of town with the promise of a play centre for the kids and the best place to just buy another car and be done with it.

But when we left there two hours later I think all four of us were crying.

Popps was beside herself when the grubby box of toys was shown as the ‘playcentre’. Immy just wanted out of the pram and to climb into every open car and Mr H and I couldn’t agree on whom the new car was even for. Surely with the kids I need the best car to drive around, but then he decided he is sick of driving the crap mobile about and wants the new one. The budget started at a place where we wouldn’t need to get a car loan and finished at a place where we would need a second mortgage.

Shocking car dealers all “telling us the truth” and providing deals that we just cant walk away from (no, but I can run sunshine).

We left with no new car and no closer to getting a new car. The Renault Scenic that I fell in love with will apparently be too expensive to service and repair, the Holden Whatever Car that he wants is just so man car I couldn’t sit in it.  Popps wants a seven seater so she can sit in the back away from everyone and Immy would prefer either a pink or orange one.

Along the way Mr H decided that the car should also be able to tow a caravan and carry a two seater kayak on the roof racks. I kindly and very calmly reminded him, in my best soothing voice, that we do NOT have a caravan and neither of us has a kayak or a canoe, so this is NOT to be included in the car requirements.

I think he nearly spat at the Peugot 307 I started asking about.

By the time we got home from woop woop, new car less, hungry and no dinner being cooked we could barely communicate to each other.

A few weeks later and we still have not returned to a car dealership.

To top it off, the next day I was still so traumatised by the ordeal and when an extremely large gust of wind blew at the wrong time, it swung our gate right into the ‘good’ car as I was driving in the drive way.  Mr H was not impressed, he seems to think that a gate that is chained to the fence can not do this and my lack of driving skills highlight the fact that he should be behind the wheel in the new wheels.

The polite discussion continues.

Any tips on keeping your marriage in place while car buying are much appreciated.






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Monday, January 9, 2012

Popp Comments






The things your children say usually make you laugh.

Like when Popps tells me she has really grated her knee and her elbow is totally grated. Nothing gets grazed anymore.

Over Christmas she asked why we had to have that real tree, couldn’t we save up our money like normal people and get a plastic one? (never!)

What I don’t like hearing is this:

"I have been using your phone Mum, and looking at the photos. I had to delete lots of the ones of me, because my face looked too fat." 

She is still five.

And a tiny piece of me shrivelled up and died inside.


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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wishing you a golden 2012



Last night we went into the city and celebrated the new year with my parents and about one hundred thousand other families.


The theme for the city party was Gold.



The theme worked. We had a sparkly time.






May 2012 be a very golden year for all of you.


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