Friday, 28 August 2015

The Perfect Fairytale Party Bag!

The Enchanted Woods are slowly coming together, ready for the birthday girl's party on Monday. This party has been in the planning for a couple of months now, and one little lady is still trying to decide who to come as... Goldilocks? Red Riding Hood? Rapunzel?

All will be revealed next week!

Pom Pom apples and gingham napkins are ready to adorn the table; bricks, sticks and straw gather for the building of little pig houses; Three Bears Porridge Cookies and a Fairytale cake are ready to be baked... Plans are underway, and one little girl is extremely excited!

And so, when we returned from Norway, I turned my mind to the favours for one little Princess to share with all her fairytale friends...

And what could be better than each child getting their own little fairytale napsack of goodies??
Nothing could be simpler... A stick, some red gingham material, and we were good to go! I simply cut squares of red gingham material, and pulled the four corners together to tie around the stick. I then secured them with a piece of string! So easy, and yet so effective!

But what to put in them? I hunted around for a few fairytale ideas and also came across the Hawkin's Bazaar stocking filler page... Who says stocking fillers need to be for Christmas?! They had some perfect little gifts for party bag fun!

I won't reveal too much, but needless to say, I'm quite chuffed with the final outcome, and hope we'll have lots of happy little fairytale characters on Monday afternoon!

If you have a party coming up, why not check out Hawkin's Bazaar for some perfect party bag fillers?

 Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Day She Turned Four...

She had been so excited about this day... as an August born myself, I am all too familiar with the suspense leading up to your birthday... when all your friends have turned of age long before you, and you are left waiting and waiting... the last to turn four! But we got there, and boy was it worth the wait!

This was one little Princess who was literally thrilled with every single one of her presents!

Perhaps the favourite of all was her Princess dress... my Mum and Dad, who had joined us on a surprise visit from England for my 30th (still getting over the lovely shock!) had bought her a Rapunzel dress, and I think its fair to say that she has worn it pretty much every day since!

After a birthday breakfast, we all headed off on a walk along the peninsula. It seems even when you're going raspberry picking on your birthday, a Princess dress is the necessary attire...

And it wasn't just the birthday girl who was enjoying them (although Jonas' main method of enjoyment at the moment remains sleep!!)

Ava gathered raspberry after raspberry in her little green tub. Heidi, on the other hand, prefers the "eat as you go" method of raspberry picking...

Yes! Her little tub was still empty by the end of the walk!

We wandered through my in-laws orchards, talking our time, picking (and eating) as we went, and I breathed in that fresh-fjord air, and thought again how fortunate my children are that this gets to be part of their childhood every summer. This freedom, this beauty... I hope they will never take it for granted...

We paused for some family photos - they'll be appearing for "Me and Mine" on Monday, but here's a little sneak preview of our girly shot!

The orchards are beautiful... and nearly ready... by the end of next month, these apples will be fresh for picking and my parents-in-law will pick a good few tonnes and ship them off to be turned into delicious apple juice!

It was so lovely to have my parents with us... to be able to share this special place with them. The girls loved having both sets of grandparents on hand!

And when we reached the bottom of the orchard. We all just paused and were a little bit awestruck by this view...!

In the afternoon, we were joined by the wider family for coffee and birthday cake... cousins, second cousins, cousins once removed, Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents. It was wonderful to see everyone, and Ava was perfectly happy to be the centre of attention!

She was just so thrilled with her birthday cake... thank you Bestemor!

Ava spent the afternoon playing with her cousins and second cousins, and enjoying all her birthday presents... (look at the concentration!)

When she rolled into bed, she wrapped those little arms around my neck and said she'd had a lovely birthday... and when I asked her what had been the best thing, she answered in the typical four-year-old way...

"Getting all my lovely presents!!!"

Monday, 24 August 2015

My 30th Birthday: Surprises, Swims, Books and BBQs

My thirtieth birthday in Norway was always going to be special... The sun, the fjords and the mountains make for a pretty spectacular backdrop. We had made plans for the day, and the weather reporters were promising glorious sunshine all day.

I couldn't have asked for more.

Or so I thought!

We had arranged breakfast up at my in-laws, and so once we had packed the kids into the car, we headed up... I smiled as we entered the kitchen to a loud rendition of "Happy Birthday!" Belted out by Dave's family. And as I stood, with my back to the dining room door, I suddenly realised there were more voices than people. Turning round, I gasped at the realisation that my parents were peering around the door, smiles wide and singing full volume! They had come out to Norway especially for my birthday! (The whole thing was caught on camera and you can take a peek over on the Facebook page!) 

 I was so genuinely shocked and pleased and surprised! 

After getting over the shock, we devoured a delicious Norwegian breakfast, courtesy of my lovely mother-in-law before the present opening began!

I got so many lovely presents, but my favourite of all was a gorgeous Breda watch from Dave. He knows me well!

Of course, I had a little help with the present opening from my girls.

After that, we packed ourselves into the car and headed off to beautiful Fjaerland, Norway's Book Town. It's a stunning little town which contains, a few houses, a couple of hotels, a handful of coffee shops and a lot of book shops! We browsed to our hearts content and came out with a tonne of new books for the girls (including some of my favourite authors - Astrid Lindgren included!)

It was a gorgeous day - glorious weather, a stunning backdrop, and town literally FULL of books, and spent with some of my favourite people. I am so privileged to be part of two wonderful families... Only my brother and sister were missing! (Next time guys!)

These ladies loved this little makeshift car outside the children's bookstore... I was only annoyed at the lorry that refused to get out of the background of my picture!

We returned home, and the day was made perfect by my first swim in the fjord this year. I am normally a huge fan of fjord swimming, and have found it hugely frustrating to need to be careful this year (my c-section scar has taken an eternity to heal this time!) so it was SO nice to finally get into that icey-cold water and swim across to the jetty and back with my sister-in-law. It was the cherry on top of a perfect day. (Can you spot the two little heads bobbing along in the photo above?!)

We finished off the day with a fjordside BBQ... Burgers and hot dogs with my favourite people, including this little man, who still spends an awful lot of time sleeping!


The views don't get much better than this...

It was a perfect day... My best birthday ever! Everything - from the surprise visitors to the book town, to the fjord swimming to grilling by the fjord - was wonderful. I'm so thankful to God for the thirty years he's given me, and the privilege of being part of these two families. I felt truly spoilt rotten, and I won't be forgetting this birthday in a while.

Dave - you did good! :-)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Snapshot Norway: The Fjords and the Mountains...

"I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?"
Psalm 121:1

I don't think there's anything in the world more stunning than these fjords and these mountains, or anything more telling of God's power and creativity... They just leave you marvelłing at them. 

It seems our little girlies feel just the same way...

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Dear Ava... You're 4!!!

Dear Ava... You're 4!!

Can it really be that my little baby girl, the one who made me a Mama is FOUR already?! In so many ways, I find it so hard to believe that we are here already... That people weren't lying when they told you to cherish the little years because THEY REALLY DO FLY BY! But then I look at you and realise you really are growing up.

You are no longer our little baby so needy for everything, no longer our questioning toddler... You are a proper little girl... In every sense of the word! You love dresses, pretty hairstyles, Princesses and playing Mamas and Papas. You are vivacious and enthusiastic... Always up for trying new things, always friendly and welcoming. Confident in your own skin and kind-hearted... Sweet-natured and eager to please. How do I attempt to sum up your character in this short letter? There are so many aspects to your character... 

And I love to spend time with you. Not just because I have to because I'm your Mama... But because genuinely you are just such a great little friend. I love listening to your chatter... Your thoughts on life. I love it that we can have deep and meaningfuls already, and also that we share private jokes. I love the way you catch my eye across the dinner table when Heidi says something funny, and the way you look out for your little brother and sister. They are so fortunate to have you.

Of course, you have typical four-year-old moments too... You have a bit of a stubborn streak (inevitable, given that it's carried by both of your parents!) and are learning self-control when things don't go your way. Oh my Ava... These will be lifelong lessons (take it from someone who knows!!)

But the thing that brings me most delight, Ava, is your softness to the gospel. Your Papa and I love to hear you pray... Such sincere, genuine prayers... And I am always challenged by your simple faith. You pray expectantly, something that I need to grow in. You are open about following Jesus, and unafraid to ask hard questions. Our hope and prayer is that this early faith will grow as you do, and that you will find your hope and strength in Jesus.

I thank God every day for you my darling girl. I know we both have our moments... But we are learning together... You are learning how to grow up into a kind, caring, responsible grown-up, and I am learning how to be a kind, caring, responsible Mama. You are our forerunner. Everything is new with you... And we won't always get it right. The adventure of "first times" is one of the advantages of being the eldest, but also one of the challenges. Mama and Papa don't have the wisdom of experience yet... You are giving it to us, and that means we will mess it up sometimes. It isn't always easy, but this year's been a good one, and as we've moved out of those trying twos, it's been fun to see your character and personality unfold.

You are my precious big girl, my little friend, my eager helper; my eldest daughter.

I couldn't love you more if I tried.

Happy Birthday Ava M


Mama xxx

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Hello Thirty!

It's one of those milestone birthdays... One that you supposedly see approaching and are filled with a feeling of dread. Thirty is definitely an adult... A decade of responsibility. But in all honesty, I can't say I've really been that phased as its approached. I guess I've just been so wrapped up in busyness since Jonas' birth, that really turning 30 hasn't even crossed my radar.

Yet suddenly we're here.

And I'm kind of excited about it.

My twenties have been a decade of adventures, milestones and big life events. Somehow, in my twenties, I seem to have had the opportunity to pack in a whole lifetimes worth of amazing experiences! I've lived abroad, directed and produced two children's theatre musicals, graduated from university, spent a year working for the church, got married, done a PGCE, taught in a fabulous school in a job that I loved, bought our first house, had three children, started this blog and set up my own little business. Just reading that makes me feel exhausted!

It's been fabulous, and I've loved every second of it... But I'm ready for a decade of a little more calm I think! 

And somehow, as my thirties stretch before me, I'm excited for a decade of embedding. If my twenties were all about new adventures, my thirties will hopefully be about entrenching in them. Investing in my marriage, raising these children of ours, learning how to be a better housewife and Mama, establishing my little business, and seeing where this blog will take me. I don't know what this next decade holds, but whereas many may think of the prospect of a more "settled" decade with dread, I'm more than up for it!

                                                         Living in Austria, aged 20...

Because my twenties haven't just been about exciting experiences, they've held huge life lessons for me too. I am not the person I was when I was twenty... Of course I'm still the same old optimistic, over-enthusiast who finds it really hard to say no, but I think (hope!) I'm more levelled than I was. The Lord has allowed us some tough side-roads that have moulded and changed us. He's taught me a lot about myself, a lot about our marriage, a lot about what matters in life, and most importantly, a lot about himself.

On my twentieth birthday, I knew that God held my life in his hands. I knew he had a plan for me. I knew it because of the faithful teaching of my parents, my church and many wonderful friends and youth leaders. I knew it in my head...

But my twenties has taken me and my little family down some dark roads, and I've had to watch others who I love wander even darker paths... And I've known... REALLY known him carefully leading us through those dark valleys. Not just in my head, but in my heart, in my tears and in my inmost being.

With a newborn Ava in 2011

This decade has taught me that life is wonderful... That this world is a beautiful place with so much to offer... But it is broken, scarred, and ultimately incapable of bringing me peace and satisfaction in the core of my being. 

Only God can, and does, do that.

So I don't really know what my thirties will hold... Perhaps they will end up being even more adventurous than my twenties (oh help!!)... But I do know that I can enter them with complete peace and dependence upon the one who holds ALL my decades in his hands.

Thank you Father for thirty years of life. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Snapshot Norway: My Little Cherry Pickers

For generations, Dave's family have farmed fruit on this little peninsula. It is fertile soil, fed by the fjord and perfect for growing every fruit imaginable. These days, it is mostly apples and pears, with a few other fruits thrown in, but back in the day the farms were rich with row upon row of fruit trees and bushes. It's a legacy that the family is proud of...

My in-laws farm apples and pears, but just outside their house are two cherry trees. Each summer, when we come back, they are ripe for picking, and there are two little girls who love nothing more than to stuff their little faces with fresh cherries (leaving their clothes stained bright red... We've learnt from experience! This year we pick and THEN eat!)

It's a little mini picture of what their grandparents spend weeks doing in the early autumn. Picking and gathering in a year's worth of work... Pruning and checking and testing until they are ready!

And let me tell you, there is nothing that tastes so good as a ripe red cherry, picked straight from the tree!

 This little wild and windy cherry picker will vouch for that!


In other news, we've heard that our own apple tree was ripe for picking last weekend, and my lovely parents spent Saturday harvesting our little crop!

Alł ready for autumnal apple baking...

I can't wait!