Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ah, Flowers

I just love flowers.

Especially in my bathroom right now.  I love that they sit against the mirror, with light streaming in through the window.  I get to look at them every time I walk in, or even just when I walk past.


I've come to a realisation recently.  I could live in a house with monotone walls.  I never thought I could, always assuming I'd have a different wall colour for every room.  But I'm realising living here that the textured, off-white walls actually suit me just fine.  Colour comes to my home through couch cushions, duvets, photos, and flowers.  And I like it.  I think it is how light it is, that there are windows with views to the outside and not a single room feels dark, confined, or dreary.  The wallpaper is old.  It's pretty tatty when you look up close, but sitting down in the lounge, or walking up the hallway, it looks really good!  Graceful, beautiful, and light.  I'm visual, and I'm definitely noticing that living somewhere that feels beautiful is calming and uplifting for me.

I love having a bathroom that is bright and airy, light, and inviting.  Our last bathroom was, well, utilitarian.  It wasn't really it's fault.  It was just dark and a bit dingy, with a lean-to outside that blocked a lot of light.

Another thing I've realised lately is WHY I like flowers in my bathroom.  Why don't I have them on the dining table?  Or the kitchen bench, or the china cabinet?  Because they get cluttered.  I don't like looking through flowers to see my husband at dinner, and I don't like worrying that they will get knocked over, so they only tend to stay on the table for special occasions.  Every other place in my house at present gets too much clutter, and the flowers simply get lost in the busyness.  And I don't like that. I want to really SEE them, notice their details, drink in their colour, marvel at the changes each day as they furl open.  For me, flowers are a piece of artwork.  So while some folks have a collection of ornaments on a dresser, I have flowers in my bathroom.  On my bathroom vanity I can see them, view them, enjoy them, just as you would a piece of art.  (Deep sigh of contentment, and a sudden thought that I should go wash my hands downstairs so I can have another peek at my flowers!).  I would buy a hall table for the sole purpose of displaying fresh flowers.  Seriously, I would.  And while flowers take time to maintain, I don't really mind.  For me, they are worth it.  Many of these ones were collected down our walkway, interspersed with hydrangeas and agapanthus from our section.  I usually collect and arrange them in the evening, pottering away to my heart's content.  As an aside, my three and a half year old knows what agapanthus look like.  He keeps pointing them out as we are driving along the road! 


Amy

Thanksgiving - only for Americans?

A really good friend of mine is American.  She's lived here in NZ for years and is definitely Kiwi, but every now and then she shows her American roots.  Like when she makes pumpkin pie (something many Kiwis don't even know the taste of).  Or in late November, when she makes a Thanksgiving dinner for her family.  This year, I was inspired by my friend, together with Kiwi folks in our life group who have adopted Thanksgiving.

We had Thanksgiving too.  I thought, why not.  It's about being grateful, remembering just how plentiful our lives are, just as the early American settlers were thankful for their bounteous first Autumn harvest.

We didn't have a meal. That was way too far beyond my ability and brain space (especially when I only decided a week before that we'd do something!).  But we had a Thankful tree, and an afternoon tea at which some friends joined us in eating ginger crunch and strawberries and writing things we are thankful for on leaves that we then hung on our tree.


I really enjoyed it.

I'm 'into' being grateful. I think we need to be reminded (frequently) that we are very blessed, and that a grateful heart is a softer and more giving heart, and generally also a happier heart.  I really want my son to grow up learning to be grateful.  Remembering to be grateful.  CHOOSING to be grateful.  In fact I believe in it so strongly that his bedtime prayers at present almost always consist of "Thank you God for..."


To make our Thankful tree, I printed some Google Images of leaves in about the right size, and cut others out of coloured paper (as this was my first time I figured we'd try a few different ones!).  I took the handsaw out on a walk (in my backpack so my husband wasn't too embarrassed to be seen with me!) and cut a small branch, stripped it's leaves, and stuck it in a large glass container with sand in the bottom.  A little wobbly but okay. 


The 'leaves' had holes punched in them, and small pieces of pipe cleaner to tie them to the tree.  The idea came from my life group, where they use those little decorative wooden pegs to hang leaves on a tree.  I just used what we had in the house so it didn't cost us anything extra to do.


I'd like to continue Thanksgiving, but make it more fully 'ours.'  We might get to have the full meal next year with my friend and her family, which would be really special!  I hope to do a tree again, but I'm thinking that as it's not Autumn here I might use silver leaves or spray paint the branches silver and use green leaves. 


If you were writing on a Thankful leaf today, what would you say?

Amy


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lemons A-Plenty

You might be forgiven for thinking that life as a part-time student (which is probably as much as a thirty hour week for me during semester), married to a full-time student, with a three-and-a-half year old son might mean that some weeks only study gets accomplished.  You would be completely correct, so there'd be nothing to forgive!  Some weeks nothing but study and the very basics of life get done.  But I do try to curtail my perfectionistic self from preening essays ad-nauseum.  I try to maintain balance.  Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don't (so I just find it really, really, really hard to hand in something that I don't feel is up to my personal standard, okay!).

But in the midst of it all, I like to keep up with as many things around the house as I can.  That means basic housekeeping, baking, mending, etc.  We are blessed to have a prolific lemon tree in our new rental.  Seriously, it had so many lemons I had to take some off because I was concerned about it's gradual lean towards the lawn.  Now, in my past life, I had decided, very definitely and completely, that when we own a house again I would not include a lemon tree in my top 10 (top ten fruiting must-have plants!).  I didn't really see the point.  The only thing I used lemons for was lemon and honey drinks when I have a cold, and occasionally  making lemon honey (aka lemon curd or lemon butter).  As it is basically fat, sugar, and lemon I figured it was better not to submit my sweet-loving tastebuds to such temptation on a regular basis. Therefore, lemon trees were a bit wasteful, in my mind.

I have repented.  While a lemon tree might not be quite at the very top of my list, it now wouldn't be too far off it.


Lemon trees are wonderful.  Lemon trees are both beautiful and delicious! 

I just love the fragrance of citrus in flower.  So scrummy!  And I've discovered that there are many uses for lemons that I'd not previously considered.  A Spanish infused chickpea dish for instance, or sprinkled with a little olive oil and salt over baked hoki (oh my, that was seriously good fish and SO easy!), my fermented kefir drink (that we are having everyday now the weather is warm), or lemon juice drizzled over a salad as a simple dressing.  That delicious salmon risotto is just nowhere near as good without the half a lemon squeezed in at the end.  But my absolute favourite use?  Hummus, of course!

I have been using lemons like there will never, ever, ever be a lemon shortage.  Currently, it is hard to imagine my tree will ever be bare of them.  But I know differently.  It will.  Sooner than I think and definitely sooner than I want.  Then my heart will crave lemons.  Then I will want warming lemon and honey drinks, and healthy hummus.  But there will be no lemons.  My tree will be carefully creating me some more, and I will have wait patiently for it to turn those tiny, hard little green blips into soft, fragrant lemony yellow lemons.

As I tried buying lemons when we first moved here, when the lemons on my lemon tree were solid green balls, I am not really interested in repeating the experience.  Juiceless, that's what they were.  Juiceless, useless.

I have instead come up with a cunning plan:

Lemon juice freezes really well!


21 lemons later, and I had one and a half cups of lemons.  And a sore hand, because I don't own a juicer.  Next day, I had lots of tablespoon sized lemon ice cubes in nice tidy zip lock bags in my freezer.  And free ice cube trays (aka silicone mini-muffin pans) to do it all over again.


I have sadly run out of room in my freezer.  But I should at least be able to make a few batches of hummus when it's not lemon season. And make a lemon and honey drink or two without having to resort to buying lemons.


What clever ways have you come up with to spread your harvest season or use your surplus?

Amy

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Returning

I am returning, I promise.

But to be completely honest, the end of the study year has left me somewhat jaded.

My usual aplomb for words has faded, and my delight in writing has dwindled.  I am a little burnt out.  I also have an end-of-year cold, and am attempting to move not one, not two, but three rooms around in our house.  While my husband studies for exams.  I admit, this is possibly not the brightest move. But I've been waiting for weeks to do it, and the heat upstairs is just insane at the moment, and the mess in our office was driving me up the bend.  There didn't seem much point in sorting that lot out if I was going to spend several hours on it, only to have to move it all in a few weeks. I figured I may as well move it. 

So I did. 

Sort of. 

We are currently in phase one, which means Munchkin moved rooms (mostly) and our office is residing in our garage.  The house is not really any more tidy than it was yesterday.  But I do feel accomplished.  So I guess that's okay.

My temporary workspace, complete with old guinea pig hutch waiting to be sold (among other things)!

Give me a few weeks and I'm hoping my bloggy-brain will return to me.  The ideas are lurking, deep down in the depths of my tired mind.  They just aren't really surfacing into anything inspiring yet.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  It's been a long hard few weeks after a long very fast hard year.

I hope you are all well, dear readers and looking forward to the Christmas season, and summer (for all my NZ/Aussie readers at least).  I'm hoping to do some simple Christmas crafts with Munchkin for the first time this year, so look out for that in the coming weeks.

Amy

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nearly There

I'd hoped to be able to tell you, dear readers, that all my assignments were in.

Sadly, this is not the case.

I am NEARLY there.

One left. 

Three-quarters finished.

I thought it would be done yesterday.

But I hadn't thought about three nights in hospital with one small boy, or thought of vomit in the middle of the night, or thought of one very sleep deprived Mummy, or one boy not at preschool.

I hadn't thought of these things.

But they happened, none the less.  And we have survived.  I'm so, so grateful for a public health system that means we didn't have to take out a loan for my son to be seen by a skilled Osteo surgeon and his team.  I'm very grateful that he didn't have to have surgery, as they thought he might.  I'm very grateful my local doctor has been able to change his antibiotics so there is no more vomit.  And I'm very grateful my boy is getting better!  VERY grateful.  Very thankful.  And very tired.

Tired of his behaviour, which got steadily worse during our sojourn away from home.  My mum's theory, which seems appropriate, is that the more he's had to deal with things done to him/happening to him that are out of his control, the more he's wanted to be in control, and therefore the more attitude we are getting.  Fairly 'normal' pre-schooler behaviour, just a lot more of it than we usually get.  Not a good combination with two tired, stressed, nearly-at-the-end-of-the-study-year parents (seriously, I suspect my behaviour has not been any better than his a few times the past few days).

Tired of trying to get him to have antibiotics which to all accounts taste foul.  FOUR. TIMES. A. DAY.  At least thirty minutes before food and two hours after food! For FOUR weeks.  FOUR. WEEKS.  Oh my, oh my.  Three days and I am over it.  I'll leave you to imagine how the three and a half year old feels.

The antibotics we are stuck with.  Believe me, if I could find another solution, I would.  But he's got a bone infection, and it pays to take these things seriously.

NOTE TO PARENTS/GRANDPARENTS/TEACHERS/ETC:
If a child between 3-8yrs old has a limp and a temperature, head to your GP, or if on the weekend follow our lead and go to the after hours clinic.  Take books.  You will probably be referred to your local hospital.  You might spend six hours in Accident and Emergency.  You may have to hold your poor screaming baby while they poke and prod and try (multiple times) to get a blood sample, then an IV line in.  But it will be worth it. Do it early.  My boy is getting better because we got him in early (and because a huge amount of people prayed with us).  I didn't even know it was a major problem.  I just knew 'something' wasn't right.  Very glad I didn't wait till Monday.  Munchkin is doing okay.  The washing is dry.  I have to remember to pick up antibiotics next Wednesday.  And finish that last report off before Friday.

Oh, and another note to anyone planning (HAHAHAHA!) a visit to hospital:  coming home on Guy Fawkes night is really not the greatest timing.  You will want to sleep.  It will be loud.  Very loud.  Almost loud enough for you to wish you stayed another night in hospital.  But then you will hopefully remember (as I did) the rather firm couch/bed thingy for parents, the not-nearly-dark-enough hospital room, the two-three hourly nurses visits, the non-ability to open windows, the lack of food (kids fed, parents not), and general feeling of stress and anxiety of having a sick child.  And you will tell yourself to grow up and be grateful that you can sleep in your own bed, even if you do have to wait for three hours till 11pm to do so.

Seriously, if you know parents who are with sick kids in hospital, take them a care package.  Lunch, or some biscuits.  Or a nice hot casserole in a ramekin.  They need it.  And chocolate, they probably need a lot of that too!  Someone delicious brought us a chocolate cake today and stayed to play for an hour.  Oh, how I needed that (chocolate and company).  Someone equally amazing made us a beautiful dinner on Tuesday night (the night we got home): bacon and silverbeet pie, carrot sticks, bean salad, little sausages for Munchkin, a nice hot-bread-shop bread, and even some little deserts.  All presented in gorgeous baskets and given with prayers, and a hug.  Amazing.  What a difference it made.  It wasn't just the food.  Don't get me wrong, I am always a grateful recipient of food I didn't have to make, but there's another dimension that I think is even more important.  Someone cared enough about us, and thought enough about what we were going through, to do something thoughtful for us.  Plus, the chocolate cake was a great bribe to get the  pre-schooler to eat at least a little of his dinner!  Grin.  Then there was our Pastor who came and prayed with us, the people who text, the brothers who called, the sister (in law) who chatted on the phone, the friend who came and let my son play games on her phone...plus of course the nurses, doctors, and the amazing parents of other sick kids.  And the playroom.  I love children's wards.  If I ever have to go to hospital myself, I want to be a child.  They have a new activity room in our hospital, and play therapists come and work in it during week days.  SUCH a huge blessing.  They even take toys to children who can't make it to the playroom.  Munchkin, of course, just loved the train track, and the machines books.  And playing with the other kids.  Mummy enjoyed not having to think of something else to do.  The playroom is my second favourite place in the hospital.  The first?  The roof-top garden, discovered when I went in to have Munchkin.  It has fish.  It has paths to follow and seats to sit on.  You can see the road, and watch cars.  You can feel the breeze and listen to the birds.  It is lovely.

I look forward to seeing you all soonish...I've got a humungous pile of photos waiting for blog posts, and hopefully the writing bug will re-emerge to dazzle (or otherwise) you all once more!
Take care,

Amy

Sunday, October 13, 2013

MIA

Just in case you don't hear from me in the next little while...

I am still here.

Just not 'here' you know.  On my computer, yes.  Typing, yes.  Blogging, no.

Doing assignments.  Loads and loads of them.

The current rundown is:
Due in 1 week: Centre Design.  Not started.  Ugh.
Due in 2 weeks: Passionate Creed and Metaphor of Teaching and Learning.  3/4 done.  Priority for tomorrow??!
Due in 3 weeks: Website highlighting one area of technology and it's teaching impacts (I think, haven't looked at brief in awhile - really should get onto that but hoping for some guidance in class this week).
Due in 4 weeks: Leadership Report.  About 1/3 done?  Hard to tell.  Done loads of research/note taking.  Have interview to write transcript of and 2,000 word essay to write.  Deep sigh.

At least I don't have any exams after that!

This is of course on top of the mega garage sale I have a stall in next weekend, which requires the sorting of all Munchkin's past clothing and other assorted baby gear!

Did finish the delux guinea pig hutch this weekend, so there is some space in the garage!

See you all on the other side!
Amy

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Green Floor Cleaning

I have been very happily using natural based cleaning and homecare products for at least the past 7 years.  Maybe a bit longer.  In the past few years I've been privileged to share them with friends and a couple of women's groups.  But I don't know if I've written much about them on my blog.  My delightful sister-in-law recently decided to investigate some green cleaning self-made products, so this one is for you, Elizabeth!

Materials:
Bucket
Mop (or cloth if you prefer to get down on hands and knees)
White Vinegar
Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)
Eucalyptus Essential Oil


Method:
Put 1/4 c baking soda in bucket.
Add 1/4 c white vinegar (and wait a moment to watch it fizz - your kids should love that part!).
Add 1/2 t eucalyptus oil (or if you're like me - a dash!).
Half fill with hot water (the hotter the better!).

MOP.
Yup, you still have to do some hard work folks!


Baking soda is a scourer, and vinegar a disinfectant.  They work well apart, but even better together.  In fact, baking soda and vinegar form the basis for most of my cleaning.  They are very gentle on our waterways, don't hurt animals, don't sting my eyes or affect my breathing. And they are super cheap.  Our vinegar is $3.49 for 2litres (Homebrand from Countdown).  That's about 1.5c per 1/4c.  Baking soda is around $3.50/kg at Bin Inn in bulk.  Eucalyptus oil can be found at PakNSave or New World for about $4 a bottle (MedCo brand).

You don't need the eucalyptus oil, but it's a good disinfectant and also leaves things with a really 'clean' smell. (adding it to your washing apparently helps kill of dust mites too!).  The smell of vinegar does dissipate once it dries, but if you don't like it, try adding some essential oil (lavender or orange are other lovely clean smelling fragrances).  I have even cleaned floors with just hot water and eucalyptus oil.  That's how I first came across it - on request by a cleaning client.  Works just fine.  I did however, sneak a little baking soda in to help lift dried food and mud from time to time.

A special secret to a squeaky clean, shiny floor:
Dry with an old towel straight away - this stops any streaks drying, although it is of course completely unnecessary in terms of hygiene provided you're happy to blockade your nicely cleaned floor from people in muddy boots!



Happy cleaning!  I hope you are inspired to try some green cleaning.  It's easy, good for you, the environment, and your wallet!  Let me know how you get on.

Amy




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Last One at Last

The final blanket square is done (for my yearly contribution to Operation Cover Up)!
Or rather, the final strip.

Time to pose!


Or not?!



And of course, time to play...

A spider web!


A road!


Some bandages for hurt arms and legs!  Mummy and Daddy also had bandages at various times later in the day, but no photos to prove it.


Look who went shopping with us one morning, all wrapped up in a blanket!  I wish I'd got a photo of Munchkin sitting in the trolley with red bear tucked in beside him!



Now I only need to crochet the last two strips (one either side) onto the blanket and whip round the edge.

It's been a bit of a marathon effort.  They always are, but this one in particular seems to have been hard work to get finished.  Not that I dislike the hard work!  I do love to just sit and knit row after row of bright colours.  But I also dearly love to feel like I've accomplished things, reached my goals, finished.

I have (of course) started a new square for a new blanket.  I had a few days off.  And I'm really enjoying using some of my new colours, as I always do with each new blanket!  Isn't it funny how something that you love at first can become almost an object of loathing if you spend a lot of time with it? So glad to have changed colours.

What have you been creating lately?

Amy

A Little Bit of Imagination

We have a sandpit on our back deck.
It was Munchkin's third birthday present, carefully built by me in the garage (which is currently housing an almost-but-not-quite-there delux guinea pig hutch!).

It's pretty much square, about 25cm deep, filled with grey sand.
But this folks, is no ordinary sandpit.

Some days, it's a racing track.  Other days, there are tunnels.

Sometimes big machines are hard at work.  Come summer, I'm sure there will be ponds.

This past week, we had a bridge.  Cars were getting tired, so a rest area was added.  It has a shelter, and a picnic table, and some trees.


Some cars liked it so much, they had really long rests!


The wood's just bits left over from past chook and guinea pig hutches, tucked away in a bag in the garage.  The 'trees' were simply pieces of bracken from around our place (seriously, we have a TON of bracken fern!).

Munchkin liked it so much we did it again a few days later.  This time we added some flower gardens too though.  Loads of white daisies in our lawn between mows at present.  Loads of fun.


All it takes is a little bit of imagination.  I'm amazed at all the different things we do with a simple sandpit.  It's not like we have heaps of other materials, just the important ones (CARS and DIGGING MACHINES!).
What have your little ones been enjoying using their imagination for lately?

Amy

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bone, Egg

We were playing with playdough.

A LOT!

Munchkin had found his huge stash of dough cutters.  Seriously, it is HUGE!  I bought it for the alphabet and letters, but it also has hats, cats, trees, candy canes, fish, ducks, stars, and sundry other items (some of which are easily recognisable, others that are ah, somewhat obscure!).

Every last bit of playdough got used, several days in a row, to make shapes.  He cut out butterflies, and cows.  He cut out trains and cars (the all time favourite shapes, of course).  They went all the way round the big dining table one morning when I emerged after an hour finishing an assignment.  Boyo was the enlisted help that time.

This particular play time though, we had bones and eggs, among other things.

I thought we could do a pattern.

"Look, Munchkin.  Bone, egg, bone, egg, bone...what do you think should come next if we want to make a pattern, make it the same?"

"EGG!"
YES!  He totally got the concept of a basic repeating pattern. I think this is the first time I've ever seen Munchkin take in patterns.  But there he was, pointing away, "Bone, egg, bone, egg, bone, egg."  Over and over and over again!

Ah, the great life lessons that can be found in a ball of playdough.

Amy

Friday, October 4, 2013

Boxes

We took a little trip this week, over to Storage King near Polytech.

Munchkin had a special delivery to make...



He insisted on holding a box all the way there.  And managed not to open it! (photo taken while waiting for seatbelt assistance!)

Six lovely boxes full of cute, useful, colourful gifts organised by myself and my mum.

The production line on my dining table last weekend!

Finished boxes!  I'm always slightly disappointed that it takes so little time to fill them all up!
There were teddies.
There were marbles, and skipping ropes, and plastic animals.

I like to fill my boxes well, but cheaply - three packets of marbles ($9 total?) and two of animals ($4-6 total) equaled enough toys for six boxes!  I already had skipping ropes in two, so the two lots here in the bowls got packaged up as 'spares' for other boxes (bowls included)!
There was stationery (LOTS and LOTS of stationery - pencils, erasers, rulers, sharpeners, notebooks, exercise books).
There were tshirts and shorts.
There were toothbrushes, flannels (facecloths), soap and even plastic soap containers.

Aren't these the CUTEST soft toys??
And there were draw string bags.  Made by me. I am rather proud of the achievement - I made them all by myself.  I did, sadly, forget that the drawstring would need room to tighten, and didn't leave enough space at the top, so they don't fit the exercise books I'd originally made them for, but they DO still fit lots of other things.  I'm sure they will be enjoyed.  And I will remember next year.





Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes are due into local drop off points around New Zealand by Sunday 20th of October.

You've got two and a bit weeks, people!  Head on down to your local Dollar Value store and get shopping!  Why not go as a family?  Turn it into a tradition.  We wrap and start packing our boxes every year at Christmas.  This year Munchkin helped me deliver them, like last year.  Next year I think I'll get him to fill a box himself, take him shopping with real money, get him to choose things, and put them in himself.

What to put in:


What to leave out:


A little something extra that made it's way into our boxes this year:

Cards given to me, printed image of our family with "love from..." written underneath.
Why not head out and fill a shoebox this weekend!  It's a fabulous lesson in generosity that makes a world of difference to a child who has so very little.

Amy

ps - and in case you're wondering how to fit an exercise book in a narrow shoebox:



Make sure to hold your tongue in the right position!


Squish!

Get the rubber band on fast!
One happy little girl in a few months' time!