Thursday, 31 July 2008

Tea for two? Four actually!

We had arranged for a little friend and his mama to come to play yesterday but unfortunately the mama felt she was coming down with a cold so thought she’d better not come, seeing as Maia’s still ‘in recovery’ (how very grateful I am to thoughtful friends!). What to do to console a little one who was looking forward to a playmate? Baking! So we made some Anzacs and had a very nice afternoon tea.

A few years ago I realised that I had lovely old china crockery but that it was kept shut up in the cupboard for ‘best’. I decided there and then that we should use it more often, and even put it in the dishwasher, because surely it’s better of being used and maybe damaged than being relegated to a stuffy cupboard! And I have to say the tea really did taste better out of these old china teacups. I don’t usually use a tray mat but happened to find this one in the kitchen drawer and again thought I really should use it. Note the use of a gravy jug for the milk – must remember I need a pretty little jug when next at a car boot or jumble sale! It was so good yesterday that we have just repeated the whole process again this afternoon with the remainder of the biscuits.

The recipe for the biscuits comes from Edmonds Illustrated Cookbook. Edmonds is something of an institution in New Zealand so what better way to get into the psyche of my new country than by baking? It’s a book I use a lot and now have it in England with me. The Anzacs recipe is a very easy and quick failsafe recipe for biscuits.

Makes 18 biscuits

½ cup plain flour
½ cup sugar
¾ desiccated coconut
¾ cup rolled oats
75g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
½ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Mix together flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats
Melt butter and golden syrup
Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup
Stir butter mixture into the dry ingredients
Place level tablespoons of mixture onto cold greased trays
Press out with a fork
Bake at 180°C for 12-15 minutes or until golden

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Toddler talk

Conversation number 1 – between me and Maia (almost 4)

M: "What’s that spider doing?"

Me: "I don’t know."

M: "Is he dancing?"

Me: "Yes he’s dancing."

M: "Why’s he dancing?"

Me: "I don’t know – maybe he’s practising for the spider disco!" (Forgetting that sarcasm lost on the children!)

M: "What’s a disco?"

Me: "It’s a place where you go to dance."

M: "Is he going to the spider disco?"

And on and on and on!!!!

Conversation number 2 – between me and Cassia (21months)

Cassia is sitting on the workbench whilst I’m making tea and reaches for a William Wallace figurine (why’s it there?! Well the in-laws had just returned from Edinburgh with this as a present for the girl's dad!)

C: "What Mama?"

Me: "William Wallace."

C: "William Wallace. My William Wallce."

Me: "No, Daddy's William Wallace."

Then she reaches for a medicine spoon which is there since Maia's come out of hospital

C: "Spoon Mama"

Me: "Yes, a spoon for Maia's medicine."

C: "Spoon medicine."


C: "Medicine William Wallace." Whilst doing the action of giving medicine to said William Wallace.

Me: "Yes Cassia. Are you giving medicine to William Wallace?"

C: "Yes Mama."

Now, I don’t know about you but I couldn't have imagined those conversations in a million years before I had children, but now they are just part and parcel of everyday life!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Whew - what a scorcher!!!!!!!!!!!

Summer's well and truly here. To be honest the last few days have been a little too hot (are we ever satisfied?!) - late 20s and scorching sun. Great for lazing the days away but not so good for getting things done. However, when it all gets too much there's always the sprinkler

or the washing up bowl!

My thoughts are with our family and friends in NZ who are being buffeted by a low pressure weather system!!!! Some photos courtesy of The Dominion Post - Weather disrupts travel in Wgtn (+pics) - Wellington - The Dominion Post !!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Handmade by relatives

So since Maia’s been into hospital I haven’t touched the sewing machine – and I’ve really missed it! I was getting lots of things finished off which was very satisfying so come next week I’ll be into it again. Having seen a handmade pledge on Julie’s blog yesterday has made me really think about the things in our house. It’s funny because once an item is finished and in daily use you tend to forget about making it. So I’ve had a good look around and really noticed those items I’ve made previously and also those items handmade for us as gifts.

This beautiful little top was knitted by my sister for Cassia and was a present for her first Christmas. It was so lovely for her to wear because it is the most gorgeous soft baby wool. I had my reservations about 100% wool because I tend to throw everything into the washing machine, but as this was made with so much love I gave hand washing a shot. It was such a little item that it didn’t take a moment and came out like new.

The socks were also knitted by my sister – originally for Maia but when finished they fitted Cassia! I wish I had a pair too.

This little summer dress was made by my niece. It was started last summer and just finished this spring but fits Maia perfectly. I think I will borrow the pattern and make a couple like it.

This cardigan was knitted by my mum for Cassia but when it was finished it was somewhat too big and so Maia is now the proud owner. (There seems to be something of a theme with the sizing of handmade articles!)

The last shot is in just because it's cute! It's of Green Rabbit, the toy Maia took into hospital with her, and this is how he looked after we came out of recovery - thank you nurses!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The amazing power of the body

Well it's Day 4 after Maia's surgery and she hasn't ceased to amaze me. Everything went well in theatre and I was told that once back from recovery most children sleep for an hour or so to get over the anaesthetic. Not my little girl - back from theatre at 9.10am and then up and out of bed by 9.30am! No matter what I said or tried to cajole or bribe her with she wasn't staying in the bed. She did not only amaze me but when the nurses and doctor saw her they couldn't believe it either. And that's how it's been since then. First night home she slept all the way through, apart from waking me up to tell me I had all the blanket! Last night not so good but in the day she's acting like she's not just had an operation. Very humbling in fact because I don't know many adults who'd be coping so well!!!
Cassia has also been amazing throughout this period. I have never been apart from her overnight and I'm still feeding her so I didn't know what would happen. She has a great relationship with her dad so I wasn't too worried, but it was still a relief to get a phone call the evening we were in hospital to say that she was fast asleep, and stayed that way all night. It's like she knew that something serious was going on and was on her best behaviour (considering her behaviour the couple of days before it was a miracle!!!).
So that's it for today. Thank you for all your thoughts and comments it's meant a lot to know that others are thinking about us.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Going into hospital

Maia is going into hospital tomorrow to have her tonsils removed. She sees it as a big adventure and when we went in last week to meet the paediatric nurse and look around she wasn't fazed in the slightest. I think I'm going to have a harder time having never been overnight in hospital - luckily I've never been seriously ill and I had my two girls at home. I've seen books available to help with life changes/big events in children's life and have always wondered whether they are necessary. However, whilst in a charity shop I spotted a book on going into hospital for only 50p so I had to get it.

I'm so glad I did because Maia was really excited when she saw the front of the book and we've now read it every night. Having seen the nurse who told us what would happen, Maia really relates to the story and in fact tells me what's going to happen! She's really looking forward to the porter taking her to theatre on the trolley!

She went with her Dad this morning to pick up her grandparents from the airport, having been to Edinbrugh, for a couple of days, which meant I had time to paint with her sister. Cassia made a beautiful get well card - it took all of a minute before she said "All done".

Along with some books, a DVD, and jelly and ice cream Maia will hopefully not find it too bad - although everyone I talk to remembers it as the most painful thing they've had done (or should I say males say that because they haven't given birth!!!).
So the bags are now packed, the girls are asleep, I've had a beautiful aroma-bath (rose, frankincense and lemon) and now all that's left is for me to get some sleep! We're off first thing in the mornings so wish us luck!

Reading material from New Zealand

We had my in-laws arrive from New Zealand at the beginning of the month. They hadn’t seen the girls for over 12 months so couldn’t believe the change in them, especially Cassia. She was 9 months when we left NZ last year and is now a walking, talking, jumping, singing 21 month old!!! Not only did they bring the girls presents but I had also put in my shopping list before they boarded the plane.

I’d never really read magazines regularly whilst in the UK but whilst resident in NZ I started reading Next and NZ House & Garden. Both of these were warmly welcomed into my home and I set out to read the July 2008 edition of NZ H&G. I don’t normally read the letters pages but did on this occasion and a lot of the letters referred to an article in the May edition. That article was about a New Zealander called Melissa Wastney who was making beautiful items from pre-loved clothing. It whetted my appetite and of course I had to find a copy of the May edition. There’s a shop behind NZ House in London called Kiwifruits The New Zealand Shop and it was only a matter of minutes before I was on the phone to them asking if they happened to have a copy left. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for my bank balance, they did and it duly arrived within a few days. Now not only could I read the article on Melissa Wastney but I had another full magazine to get my teeth into. Melissa has a lovely blog, tiny happy, which has become something of a regular read for me now. Maybe it could inspire you too!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

What excitement!

Just a very quick post to say how exciting it is to get comments on your blog!!! I guess you all know what it feels like but just wanted to extend a welcome thank you to those who have left such lovely comments for me. Some are ladies from the Green Parent forum I am on but two are from other ladies who have 'found' the blog. Being very new to this whole medium I don't really understand how they found me but I'm sure to learn. Thanks again and please come back and visit!

Quilts, blankets and work in progress

The first blanket I made was a puff patchwork one. It was after the birth of Maia and I was feeling all creative so I started making some puff patchwork pieces with fabric I bought from Spotlight. The store was an hour from where we lived but it was in an amazing town, Rotorua, so it was a great excuse to visit. First port of call was always breakfast, usually at the Fat Dog for french toast with bacon, banana and maple syrup, followed by Spotlight and then maybe another attraction if Maia allowed! I had made lots of the puff pieces but didn't know quite how to put it together so it was lovely that when my Mum and Dad were visiting from UK that Mum and I finished it off together. It was made primarily for Maia but it's now in communal use through the living area.

The blanket at the time became Maia's blanket for reading under, snuggling on and it came on any trips we made as her reimder of home. One day after she was sick all over it I realised that we needed another for when this one was in the wash! I had been lucky enough to inherit a bag of fabric remnants from my mum, which contained loads of fabric from each of our houses which we lived in whilst we were growing up. My mum was very fond of Laura Ashley and so the pieces lent themselves perfectly for a quilt. I had done patchwork as a child but not on the mahcine so having read a gew books from the library I thought I'd start with a simple square pattern. This one has also become a handy addition to our household and when we travelled back to NZ last year I had it in the handluggage so the girls had something nice to play on in transit and I had something to snuggle Cassia up in whilst feeding on the plane. It was good for the soul to have something so pretty on such a long journey.

This last one is a work in progress! I started it before we left NZ (2 years ago) and it was going to be my mum's 70th birthday present. Then we returned to UK and I was actually at her 70th so it didn't seem quite so important to get it finished and so it remains today. I'm having a lot of trouble with the finishing - every time I try to get the backing piece on it all goes out of shape and really hard to machine quilt. I actually just used cotton fabric sold for dressmaking so I don't know if that's something to do with it but I must try to get it finished and in use.

The heart motif at the centre of the quilt:

Maia's magic beans!

Being a first time veggie grower I guess I was a little more strict than necessary when we were sowing out the seeds. We planted a second lot of beans directly into the soil and, of course, Maia wanted to help. Well, not knowing any better I thought I should follow the instructions on the packet so kept having to tell Maia "No, it needs to go here", "No Maia, take that one out and give it to me" etc, etc. Reflecting on this that nighttime I realised that it hadn't been the fun family activity that I had envisaged. I've read about giving a child their own garden space but with very little productive land this didn't seem possible - but why not a pot? So the following day Maia filled up a big pot with compost, Maia got whatever beans out of the packet, Maia planted as many as she like how ever she liked and Maia watered them!!! Much more fun and relaxing for us both. The result:

Think we need to stake them this weekend and then sit back and wait for the harvest!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

1st time veggie grower

Well I am certainly a convert! My veggie adventures began back in March when I started sowing some seeds indoors. Having read some books I was more confused than ever because they all seem to give conflicting advice. So with some help and tips from the ladies on the Green Parent Forum I began sowing. I don’t know if it was beginner’s luck but everything I sowed germinated and grew!!! Not knowing this, I sowed all the courgette seeds in the packet and ended up with 19 courgette seedlings. I thought that was great until I read that when planted out they should have 3ft between them! I subsequently planted 3 in borders, 2 in pots and freecycled the rest.

The first harvest we had was naturally cress. Maia was amazed by this and both girls would actually pull it out of the containers and eat handfuls of it at a time. It was also a really lovely gift to give family members at Easter. Going through the germinating stage was amazing – in fact I could very easily be accused of becoming evangelical about it. Seeing all the different types of seeds, the length of germination, the type of first leaves to come through – it really was like magic. Every morning Maia would run in and lift the lids to see what had happened in the night – you could almost see them growing as you watched. I have to admit I was as excited as Maia.

At that time we were having the back of our house excavated so I couldn’t really imagine where any of these seedlings were going to go. Diggers, mud, bobcats, mud, workmen and yet more mud!!!!!

However, after a few very hard weeks work we had something approximating a garden. Luckily we had a guy working with us who’s interested in self-sufficiency and very handy and green fingered. He gave us loads of great advice, lent me some great books (including John Seymour’s bible to self-sufficiency, and a great recipe for damson/stout liqueur – will be looking forward to that later in the year if my mum’s damson tree produces this year!). So finally I was ready to make my veggie bed – not big enough I realise now but we all have to start somewhere. And here it is today:

With all the wet weather we’ve been having, and the in-laws staying with us, I’ve not been out in the garden much for the last couple of weeks. Heading out the last couple of days I’ve been delighted to see that everything is producing!!! Broad beans pods, runner bean pods, radishes, lettuces and I even found a tiny green tomato which along with the basil that’s just come through may make a lovely late summer lunch.

The lettuce and nasturtiums have featured heavily in our diet the last few weeks- and as you can see the slugs too! The girls think it’s great that they can just go outside and pick things to eat, although that has also resulted in us having no red strawberries because Cassia picked and ate them all green – yuk!

Here’s to lots of summer sun to ripen all the produce and make for a great harvest.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The grass is always greener!!!

We had a visit today by a friend from New Zealand. She’s a English girl who met a kiwi over here (in fact best mates with my husband) but has lived in NZ for the last 9 years. She moved to the area that we were living in shortly before we returned to the UK. The visit was bittersweet. It was, of course, lovely to see her and catch up but also brought back all the memories I have of living in ‘the Bay’. Maia was born in Tauranga and so it holds great memories for me – the birth of our first child and the subsequent journey and adventure of parenting. With no family close by, and no friends to begin with (we moved when I was 6 months pregnant) we became very reliant on each other and once Maia was born the three of us had the most amazing babymoon and her dad was around constantly for the first 4 months of her life. The bond between them was wonderful and still is and if ill, upset or scared she calls equally for her dad as she does for me. However, life wasn’t a bed of roses. I really missed the UK. It was no surprise to me that I would miss my family but I actually missed the country itself and things you can do here (oh and of course some of the shopping!).

Since returning I have, of course, loved seeing family and friends and watching my two little girls get to know their English family. What I haven’t done though is most of the things I found myself missing in NZ! I think this is a combination of the fact that life’s that much busier with 2 and I have changed since becoming a parent. Certain things no longer hold importance for me. The fact is now that the children and their wellbeing is our priority (of course not to the detriment of their mum and dad!). I also realise how much of a Kiwi I had become in my 3 years there – I still can’t get used to the pace of life here or the population! And I miss my friends. Before children I didn’t really have that many girl friends – I found boys/guys much easier to be around and much less complicated. Having a baby changed that for me and I realise what an invaluable support girl friends are, especially ones going through the same life stages as you. Cassia was born over here shortly after returning and we knew no-one but my family, who have older children, in the area. I have never felt so isolated and this was after supposedly returning ‘home’. It didn’t help that we weren’t settled and, for a variety of reasons, moved a lot in those first few months (by the time Cassia was 7 months she had lived in 7 different houses – but that’s a whole different story!). I find myself yearning for those very things that weren’t ‘right’ when we were in NZ. I must be the only Brit capable of moaning about a climate where there’s brilliant sunshine almost year round, winter temperatures rarely drop into single figures and where you don’t have to own a winter coat, gloves or scarf – but I did! I longed for grey skies - well I got my fair share of them this winter and plenty of use out of all the winter clothes – but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought.

Like the title of this says the grass is always greener but I realise now that we need to live fully in the present and owe it to ourselves to find the place/work/lifestyle that’s going to work for our immediate family and work towards getting it.

Maia on the beach in summer - she's the dot in the middle!

Sheep on the beach - the water is literally just several yards to the left!

Collecting shells before we headed back to the UK

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Clothes from pre-loved fabric

Since returning to UK I have joined the local Freecycle group, which I think is just amazing! Having returned with just a suitcase, a toddler and a 30 week bump it was a lifesaver in terms of being able to get things we needed until the shipping arrived and then once we had unpacked we could offer all those things we had duplicated or realised we didn’t really need anymore. When we moved into our new house last year the previous owners just walked out and so there was loads of things left – again Freecycle was great – I offered the items on the Friday afternoon and by Sunday everything had gone.

One thing I’m always on the lookout for is fabric, either dress fabric, curtains, bedlinen, in fact any! A couple of months ago some curtains were offered and when I collected them I was delighted to see that they were made from old Laura Ashley material (in fact the same as we had in one of our houses!). Once taken apart, washed and ironed, I then had to decide what to make with them. I plumped for a trouser and top set for my little daughter, however I now tend to think they look a bit like pyjamas! Wonder what you think?! I think I’ll need to make another pair of trousers and top in plain fabric to balance them out – work in progress!

Another find was this green and daisy fabric this time at a local charity shop. Again it had been made into curtains but I thought it was ideal for a little summer dress.

The other night I also wanted a ‘pretty’ summer dress and so decided to mess around with some fabric and see what I could come up with. I didn’t know if it would come to anything so I thought I had better use up a sheet to practice on. However, when it was finished I liked the look of it, and so did Maia, so I thought I would add to it: buttons from Freecycle, green trim of a dress which was in a bag of material bits received from Freecycle. The brown ribbon I bought along with the elastic for the chest area. In all it cost 80p – not a bad effort I thought!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

I really am a mother!

Today I had one of those moments when you realise you really are a mother – I made Maia her first fancy dress costume for sports day!! There was an animal theme and since I had just been to my mum’s and come home with a long piece of black ‘fur’ it seemed appropriate to make a cat costume. So she went as Slinky Malinki (from the book by Lynley Dodd) and seemed very put out when other people called her ‘little pussy cat’! “Don’t they know my name is Slinky Malinki?”

The final article!

A camera shy Slinky Malinki

Slinky Malinki is a kiwi creation so it's only fitting to do the haka!

Although she’s nearly 4, I still get those times when it strikes me that I am now a mother and always will be. It happened the other day aswell. Her little sister was deliberately annoying her by singing loudly (I didn’t realise that toddlers could be so aware of their actions – the more Maia protested the more and louder Cassia sang J ) and I turned to Maia and said “Just ignore her”. I couldn’t believe that I had said it. I vividly remember my mum saying it to me when my older brother was annoying me and thought “How on earth can I ignore that?!”

Monday, 14 July 2008

Hello and welcome!

Having never read a blog and not really known what they were until a few weeks ago it comes as something of a surprise to be doing one of my own. Having read a few that were recommended on The Green Parent Forum and realising what a lovely medium it would be for recording our life with the girls I have now taken the plunge. I tend to be someone who wants to wait until everything is 'just right' before starting something, but since children have come along I realise that the wait could be forever. So please bear with me as I learn how to do this as I go along and of course it goes without saying that I would love to hear your comments and thoughts!

We are an English/Irish girl, a Kiwi/Dutch boy, a kiwi born little girl (nearly 4) and a pommie born little girl (21 months), and with a bit of Scottish thrown in on one side we’re somewhat of a mix! We’re currently living in the heart of England but mis
sing the coast of NZ a lot.

I had forgotten the fun of jumping in puddles until recently when, after yet another wet day, Maia and I booted up and headed outside. I thought only Maia would get wet but when I saw the look on her face whilst she was splashing and jumping in the puddles I wondered why shouldn't grown ups do it too? It was really good fun and we both had lots of laughs and huge smiles on our faces (as did the neighbours who saw us, although admittedly they were somewhat wry!).

We have the girls' grandparents visiting from New Zealand at the moment and this morning they all headed down to the newsagent to get the paper. Not only did this give me a little me time but when they returned Maia passed her hat to me and I was surprised to find a posy of flowers (and feathers!) she had picked for me. Oh the joy of being a mother!