Saturday, 30 August 2014

Me and Mine: August

Well August has been and gone in a flurry of holidays, travels, birthdays and organising. We are so blessed that August is always OUR month... a month for the four of us to be together with no work, no school, no schedule and no routine. By the end of the month, I am ready for routine again, but boy do I savour every minute of the freedom of the school holidays!

So here is our little family in August; relaxing and enjoying being together surrounded by our eldest's beloved goats!

dear beautiful

Friday, 29 August 2014

Our Little Food Monster!

From the day this little lady entered the world, she has been a big fan of food. She loves anything and everything, and we've yet to find a food she will turn down... she'll eat it off her plate, or pinch it off your plate, or be found secretly shoveling down the leftovers from the floor. However, she has yet to beat her older sister's breakfast record of 2 weetabix and a slice of toast at 11 months old!

Until last week, that is!

The lovely people at Heinz for Baby sent us a gift pack full of breakfast goodies and we excitedly cracked it open... yummy boxes of muesli, breakfast pots and Breakfast Biscotti... a little more exciting than our normal weetabix and toast, and the girls excitedly tucked into their Strawberry, Raspberry and Blueberry muesli. The muesli is suitable from 10 months, but as its packed full of vitamins and minerals vital to little girl growth, its just as wonderful for my big girl as my little! Ava wolfed her muesli and biscotti down in a matter of minutes, and then was off to play again.

My youngest, however, was not finished!

Holding out her bowl, I heard the familiar cry...


I took her bowl, and refilled it up with another bowl of muesli, adding just a little bit of milk (making it VERY easy in comparison with some of the other baby cereals we have come across with water/milk measurements!) and watched her gobble that down too. Then suddenly...


Now this was a record... I don't think Heidi's every gone for more than two bowls of cereal, so asking for a third told me this Heinz muesli was going down pretty well. I'm sometimes conscious of not wanting to OVERfeed this little lady, but knowing that it counted for one of her five a day, and contained 12 key vitamins and minerals, I didn't feel too bad about pouring out her third helping. I watched, eyes wide, as she devoured her third bowl, before watching, with disbelief, those chubby little hands hold out that bowl to me again!!


Well, I'm sorry folks, but I put a stop to it there... however much I sometimes find it hard to provide the girls with their five a day, however convenient this cereal was to make, however  packed full of goodness this muesli was... three bowls for breakfast struck me as being enough! I wiped my little food-monster down and set her off to play, secure in the knowledge that she was definitely not lacking the most important meal of the day!

This week, we will crack open the Apricot and Peach muesli, and then I'm going to investigate the 11 flavours of other breakfast cereals they have...

* The Heinz Baby Breakfast Range is available in Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Sainbury's and Boots *
* Muesli is suitable for 10+ months and comes in 2 flavours (mentioned above) *
* Muesli has an RRP of £2.15 for 200g *
* Heinz Breakfast Pots can be eaten hot or cold and are suitable from 4 months at £1.19 for 2 pots *
* Heinz Breakfast Biscotti are available for babies age 6+ months at £1.99 for 32 biscuits *

Disclosure: We were sent a gift pack by Heinz for Baby for the purposes of this review. We received no further incentive and all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Project Photo Wall: Get Good Summer Week Nine!

Oh dear... only one week to go! At least this week I have well and truly ticked off one, and almost two of my Get Good Summer goals...

So here's back to the original five...

1. Make a Photo Wall 
Well, this week, this...

has turned to this...

My photos are ready to be printed, and the frames are ready to hang. So this is one goal that should, hopefully, be completely completed by next week's deadline!

2. Make an item of clothing for the girls

Well, the dresses are cut and ready to sew, but I have yet to so them. I'm going to do my VERY best to get them sewn in time, wish me all the best!

3. Organise a 3rd Birthday Safari Party for Ava
We pulled this one of last Friday; I was up til 2am the night before preparing the final touches, but BOY was it worth it. Our little lady had a fabulous time and was thrilled with her Safari Party... I think her friends had a pretty good time too! You can see all the details here!
4. Half an hour exercise every day
OK... so I've had good weeks and bad weeks, and this week has been a bad week... HOWever, I have spent the entire week clearing and scrubbing and sorting... surely that counts as exercise?!

5. Use the library
I've now read four of my seven library book loans. I've loved discovering some new authors, and revisiting some old. Currently I'm enjoying The Little Village School by Gervase Phinn, and its taking me back to my teaching days, and providing a bit of a giggle at the same time.

So there you have it...
By next week, I need to print photos, hang frames, sew a dress and read 3 books... manageable?!

Better get cracking!

How are you all getting on?!

Link up below... next week is the Grand Finale! Eeeeeeek!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Making space...

There's something about the drawing near of September. The last couple of days have been rainy and drab, and yesterday I lit my first autumnal candle... in August! It's far too early, but the last couple of days really have felt autumnal!

September for us means back to routine, it means early up, Papa back to work, weekday activities and the arrival of autumn. This year, there will be an added change. Ava is starting in Nursery class. Which means Heidi and I will have long mornings to pass on our own. I know one little girl who is going to miss her big sister dreadfully, and me? I really can't remember what life was like with only one child to look after! I will miss our big girl terribly, but I know she's ready for it, and I know she'll love it. I guess its chapter one in the book that all parents work through called "Gradually letting go"... I'm so glad we're right at the start of that book!

And so the end of the summer holidays is an opportunity for us to get our lives in order before the start of the new term... so far, three stuffed bin bags have gone to the charity shop, a large amount has been thrown out, and we are decluttering our lives.

Something about the country life I experience in Norway, combined with the onset of September and a new term, makes me want to strip back at this time of year. Get back to basics. Clear our heads. Clear our cupboards. Clear our drawers and baskets and hidden corners...

And there is something incredibly rewarding about it. About getting back to basics. About making space in your life, and in your home, to be able to appreciate it better.

So this week has been labelled "Operation Clear Out"... for the past seven days, we have sorted, thrown, organised, decluttered, cleaned and rearranged. And I actually feel like I have space to breathe again. We still have a way to go, but boy does it feel good.

And on that note I'd better head off... I've got another cupboard to clean out! In the meantime, I'm going to hope for at least one more week of summer weather before the autumn hits for real!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

"The happiest days..."

On my birthday, last Tuesday, Dave and I headed out with the girls to one of our local National Trust properties. It was a sunny day, though on the chilly side, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to do a bit of exploring!
We walked around, me armed with my new camera lens and trying to figure out the logistics of it, when little H decided she was so tired she didn't know what to do with herself. And so the crying began... and heightened... little feet stamped and screeching ensued, and so we separated. David walking off with a rather grumpy baby, trying to get her off to sleep, leaving me and my big girl to do some exploring.

And explore we did.

We sought out walking sticks, picked and ate wild blackberries, discovered a den, clambered over tree stumps and sought out a tonne of wildlife.

As we walked, we stumbled across a bench with this quote on it...

When I read it, it made me feel a little sad. At the time, in the world's eyes, Queen Victoria had had it all... as a child, she was wealthy, privileged, educated, powerful, heir to the throne of one of the most powerful countries in the world... and yet clearly her childhood had been unhappy.

I wondered what made her love this particular place... and as I watched my little girl, running around, spotting wildlife, calling me over to show me all her little findings, I realised that what Queen Victoria had so longed for, and so seldom received, was freedom. Freedom to run around as a little girl should, freedom to get muddy and dirty, freedom to enjoy her surroundings, and not be constantly aware of how that appears to others, freedom to be excited and not fear the response of adults around her.

Freedom. It's something we all long for, isn't it? Just like that little girl 150 years ago, we long to not feel the constraints of circumstances, or other people's expectations, or finances.

We long to run free, to be able to savour and enjoy life, to share with loved ones all the wonderful things we find, to be free from all the pain, and hurt and sadness...

I felt so saddened by Robin Williams recent passing. He was my favourite actor, and it was sad to hear that despite all the success and all the praise, and all the world can offer, he never found the freedom he so desired...

And I realised, you can spend your life searching for freedom, and never really find it...

But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
- John 8:36, The Bible -

So very, very thankful for the Gospel...

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ava's Safari Party!

Friday was finally the day for Ava's Safari Party!!
A few weeks back, I asked Ava what kind of birthday party she would like to have. She's a big Lion King fan, so I wasn't overly surprised when a Simba Party was suggested. After a bit of discussion, we managed to settle on a Safari party and I set to work on figuring out how to pull it off...

I'm not gonna lie... I had SO much fun with this one!

After a lot of pinterest scouring, a few sketches in my little notebook and an hour of Amazon surfing for anything and everything animal print, I had a good idea of where I wanted to go with it.

And then it was fun, fun, fun!

So, in case you're ever wanting to plan a Safari Party, here's what we did!

The Invitations
I found this really cute design for invitations on Pinterest, and I basically entirely copied it... I didn't go to the extremes of detail that this Etsy company had done, but instead, wrote my own little poem to go on the inside. After Ava had made her list of who she wanted to invite, the invites were sent out!

The Entrance
It's possibly my time as a primary school teacher creating displays that's done it, but I love using a bit of creativity to capture a child's imagination... I basically wanted the children to feel a little bit excited about entering the Safari, so I had some fun on the entrance! A little bit of green crepe paper and a bit of brown card can go a long way in making an impact!

The Food
The food was seriously fun. We made a trip to Lidl at the beginning of the week, and then had fun coming up with creative ideas to make sure all the food was Safari themed. I'm a pretty big believer that most food can be transformed to a theme somehow or other! What was sandwiches, cheese straws, wotsits, cheese, frankfurters and grapes became a jungle feast! The children devoured pretty much the entire table - we were left with two sandwiches and a few bananas by the end. A bit of creativity, and you can pretty much get kids to eat anything! I think the adults quite enjoyed their rhino sandwiches too!

The Costume
There is animal print everywhere at the moment. My original plan was to make little outfits for the girls, in the end, I probably did my usual "bite more off that I can chew" and so I just made little tails for the girls in the end. Literally a rectangle of animal print material sewn up the side, stuffed with wadding and then safety pinned to their clothes. It literally took me half an hour to do both tails - and I think my little birthday leopard and my little zebra looked pretty cute!

The Cake
This cake was so easy. It is literally and iced chocolate cake. Some plain icing with a fair amount of yellow food colouring (!!), a chocolate button nose, and then piped chocolate icing was all it took. It was so much easier than any birthday cake I've done before, and I was pretty chuffed with the result. It seemed to go down a treat!
The Craft 
I spent the weeks running up to the party collecting loo rolls, and then spent one evening painting them all black. I had found some animal print duct tape on Amazon, and made a mock-up one for the children to copy. The duct tape cost me £3.50, I had a ball of string in the cupboard, and the loo rolls were free... so basically it was possibly the cheapest craft ever made for 15 children! It was so sweet to see the children running around looking at everything through their homemade zebra binoculars!

The Games
I had a couple of games planned, but in the end, decided that the "Safari Stampede" race I had planned was pretty much asking for trouble, so we stuck to a good old Safari Hunt. The children all got a sheet I had made up with the sillhoettes of siz Safari animals on it, around the room, I had hidden six squares with animal skin prints on them, and the children had to "go on safari" to try and find all the animals on their sheet. It was good fun; the adults all got involved, and the children got the nearest thing to a "real safari" we could conjure up here in Suburban London!

The Favours
To finish up, all the children got a little plastic safari figure to take home with them. I think its always nice to have a little something to remember a party, but party bags can get ridiculously expensive... we got the Safari animals in bags of six, and the kids had fun picking out which one they wanted. Some of the lucky ones got to take home a Safari balloon as well. It was a nice little way to finish the day.

All of us had an amazing time, but it was mainly worth it just to see our little leopard running round the room with her little friends having so much fun. Our big girl! She loved every second of it, and it made handpainting every one of those 40 toilet rolls worthwhile!!!

Now I have another six months before another birthday party needs to be organised!

mummy daddy me

Friday, 22 August 2014

A Letter for our Ava: You are Three!

To our darling Ava, 

You are three! THREE! Where did those three years go?! That first moment I held you in my arms feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once. Neither of us are the people we were then... You are not the frail, helpless little bundle, and I am not quite so naive and clueless as I was. You have taught me, and continue to teach me, every single day.

We have loved watching your personality and character unfold. You have a real sensitive and caring side... You are a wonderful big sister, look after your dolls with great care, and shower affection on any animals you meet! The other day, Papa gave you some penny coins, and after taking a few for yourself, you put the rest of your coins in Heidi's money box... That was such a sweet thing to do. Yesterday, you gave two if your teddies to the charity shop to "help the children who don't have very much". You are generous, and caring, and kind.

You are also a little fun lover, and no-one is able to make you laugh quite like your little sister. When Heidi is being silly, you give me that knowing look as into say, "What a little monkey she is" and then you chuckle. That gorgeous, bubbly chuckle that warms my heart.

Of course, you are a normal three year old and you disobey sometimes, and you find it hard to control your emotions too. That is all learning as well... Learning that we make mistakes, gets things wrong. Ultimately, you are learning that we are sinners and we need a Saviour.

And that is the thing I thank God for, little Ava... That you love to learn about Jesus. You love to hear stories, sing songs, pray and ask questions. So many questions! It brings joy to my heart when you say that you love Jesus and want to follow him. I don't think there is any greater gift you could give to this Mama's heart.

And so, Ava, that is what we will continue to pray for you as we head into this year of school and uniforms and all that it holds... That you would learn, while you are still young, that you are so unbelievably loved by the Saviour that he paid the ultimate price to be your friend, and that he wants so much to be your Saviour and King. 

He is kind, and faithful and steadfast. Turn your little eyes to Him this year my beautiful big girl. I love you so much.

Mama xxx