Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In which Minty is swaddled and falls for a sea captain...

We're currently working our way through a glut of fresh produce.  Our weekly veggie boxes have been positively bursting with fruit and we've been struggling to get through it all before it becomes overripe.  So I've been stewing plums, freezing grapes and making scores of banana muffins and bread.  I've been trying out lots of different recipes - some more successful than others.  These little beauties are chocolate zucchini muffins (you can find the recipe here).  The batter seemed a little dry to me but they turned out well, if a little dense.  

These zucchini and banana muffins on the other hand were a complete disaster.  The batter was far too wet and even after a lengthy time in the oven the middles were still raw while the outside was overcooked.  I should have trusted my instincts and added more flour.  Oh well, you live and learn.

The kids have been sick this week with some kind of virus.  Minty was up most of the night coughing.  She finally succumbed to sleep at about 4am after I swaddled her tightly like a baby and propped her head up on a few pillows.  It is very funny and oddly endearing that even after all these years she still finds swaddling comforting!  I miss the days of popping a tiny sausage wrapped baby to sleep in a cot.  Nowadays the swaddled shape is somewhat bigger!  This is actually a picture of Turi as a baby (all my pictures of baby Minty are stored on a different hard drive and I couldn't be bothered dragging it out) - you get the idea though!

Understandably the kids are a bit overtired today.  They're currently wrapped up in blankets watching The Sound of Music.  Minty is quite enamoured with Captain VonTrapp.  I think she finds the fact that he is a sea captain alluring.  I have to admit I do find Christopher Plummer pretty dreamy in the film!  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Alphabet magnets...

I've been wanting to get Minty some alphabet magnets for a while now, but the only ones I could find were those ugly plastic ones.  My current rental kitchen is depressing enough without adding anymore tackiness.  I'm not ashamed to say that sometimes aesthetics win out over education in this house.  Plus the little magnets in the plastic letters always seem to drop out and pose a bit of a choking hazard for the smaller members of the household who are still compelled to place random objects in their mouths.

Inspiration struck when I found these fabric letters on pinterest.  I whipped up a set for Minty's birthday.  The fabric is all from my stash - some vintage sheets, a bit of liberty and lots of quilting cottons.  MInty loves them and I don't mind having them cluttering up the fridge.  Pretty and educational - everybody wins!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

House update...

Time for another house update.  I've been a bit slack so these photos are spread across a couple of visits to site (note the outfit changes!).  There has actually been quite a bit of progress since these were taken but I haven't had a chance to go back to site to take more photos.

This first photo gives you a look at the front facade.  At this point the cladding wasn't quite finished.
Here is the back of the house.  Eventually there will be a deck here.  The cladding is shadow clad.  I have to admit that I'm not a massive fan of the look of shadow clad but it is cheap, hardwearing and easy to install so I'm trying to get on board!  I do love the big post that supports the roof here.

This is our front door.  It is a massive 3.6 meters tall.  You can't really tell from these pictures (as it wasn't quite finished yet here) but the surrounding walls are clad with the same timber so the door blends in seamlessly.  That little black box you can see is our electronic lock.  You can either use a pin number or swipe card to unlock the door.  I'm still trying to choose a handle.  

Here are the cows just over our back fence.  Those are our solar panels in the foreground - they are still yet to be mounted on the roof.

This is the front of the house.  The corten steel panels are now up.  These will rust fairly quickly.  You can already begin to see this on the side wall in the next picture.  The cement sheet you can see on the entry wall will be rendered white.  The section of wall above the corten is currently clad in timber but we are debating whether to change this to be rendered white as well.  The jury is still out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Conversations with Minty... and Turi

You've got to love Shrove Tuesday as the tardy man's New Year.  Didn't quite get your act together in January?  Still swearing like a sailor, smoking like a chimney, or downing cheeseburgers like the Hoff in an inebriated frenzy? No worries!  Give it all up for Lent.  Personally I will be attempting to be a little more restrained with my diet.  Note how I didn't tie myself down with any specific dietary goals.  Of course we all had the requisite pancakes for breakfast this morning, so as to 'use up' the eggs and butter, even though none of us have even the slightest intention of giving these up for 40 days.

The day was extra special because Minty finally learnt to swing all by herself!  She's understood the basics for a while but up until now she would always lose her rhythm and momentum fairly quickly.  Now she can swing as high as she wants, for as long as she wants without me having to push at all.  I'm finally free… until Turi wants a swing!

And now for some conversations with Minty and, as a very special treat for you today, Turi's debut conversation on the blog.  Of course I've been having conversations with him for quite some time, but somehow with Minty dominating the verbal landscape around here I haven't gotten around to recording any.

Minty [concerned]: mum, I have a mysterious problem
Me: what's your mysterious problem?
Minty [seriously]: well my underpants keep wanting to go to the toilet every day
Me [chuckling]: why is that a problem?
Minty [frowning]: well I just think that it is.


upon hearing a loud bang emanating from Minty's room after bedtime

Me: are you OK?
Minty [sadly]: the wall just doesn't want me to climb on it
Me [sternly]: that's because it's bedtime and it's sleeping time for everyone
Minty [wide eyed]: is the wall asleep?

Me: would you like to eat your dinner at the table or outside in the cubby?
Turi: in the cupboard please
Me [carrying the dinner outside]: there you go
Turi [cheerily]: Lovely, thank you!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to make ribbon wands...

Today I'm going to show you how I made the ribbon wands for Minty's birthday.  I made these in lieu of lolly bags since some of our guests had food allergies.   In any case I'm sure all the kids were already pretty hopped up on sugar after their cake and ice-cream!  These were a fun party favour since the kids could enjoy playing with them at the party, as well as being something they could take home to keep.  

You will need:

- dowel cut into 31cm lengths
- 10mm screw eyes
- brass barrel swivels (size 6) - you can get these at a fishing tackle supply store.
- small pliers
- ribbon

Let's talk ribbons.  Much like men and chocolate, not all ribbons are created equal.  For a ribbon wand you need something that is going to give you a lovely rippling effect as you wave the wand.  Silk ribbon is ideal but if you can't get your hands on any or are finding the cost prohibitive you can just buy a synthetic satin ribbon, as long as it is double faced.  There is no point buying cheap satin craft ribbon, as it won't give you the twirling effect you are looking for.  For my wands I mostly used ribbon that was 1 inch thick (the purple ribbon was 1 3/8 inch thick).  

On most commercial ribbon wands I looked at the ribbon was around 2.4m long.  Personally I think this is way too long for kids aged 4 and under.  They tend to end up getting tangled up or the kids trip over them.  After a few trials I decided the best length for the ribbon was 1.6m.  This is still long enough to get some good twirling action happening but not so long as to cause catastrophic tangling accidents!  Obviously you need to be guided by the age and dexterity of the kids you are making these for.

Assembling the wands is fairly straight forward.  Cut your dowel into 31cm lengths.  Sand the ends to ensure there are no splinters.  Screw a hook into the end of each dowel.  Use the pliers to open up the hook a little and allow you to slip the swivel in place.  Close it back up with the pliers.  Stop your ribbon from fraying by holding the ends under a flame for a couple of seconds or by using a couple of drops of fray check.  The fray check will leave a dark line where it dries so I prefer to melt the ends as it looks a lot neater.  Next, thread the ribbon through the swivel and tie a knot to secure it.  Now the wand is finished take it out for a twirl!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Duck, duck...

I know I was supposed to be doing a 'how to' post for the ribbon wands today but I'm a little busy trying to choose a front door pull for our new house.  Instead, here a few quick pics of the kids getting ready for their swimming lesson today.  Is there anything cuter than a kid in a duck robe?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A party for Minty...

I just have to preface this post by saying that I'm absolutely terrible at taking photos at a party I'm hosting.  I'm always a bit burned out from all the pre-party organising and just want to relax and enjoy myself.  At one point I handed the camera across to my sister-in-law Nat to get a few shots so some of these pictures are hers.  I basically only had the camera out at cake cutting time, so you're just going to have to imagine the rest!!

This is the first year that Minty has been involved in her birthday plans.  Up until now she has been highly suggestible.  Frankly I think I could have served her a slab of tofu with a candle in it and made her think this 'cake' was her own awesome idea.  But this year she was adamant.  I tried to suggest that we invite one friend and go to visit to the zoo.  She turned to me and frowned and said, 'maybe we could clean up all this mess,' as she gestured with her hand around the room, 'and I could invite me friends over for a party'.  It's a little worrying when the children are beginning to think the house is a mess!!  So I compromised and suggested we have a party at the park.  She wasn't completely convinced but conceded saying, 'alright mum' in the kind of bored, conciliatory tone I'd expect from a 16-year-old, not my little baby girl.

So we had the party at a local park.  I decorated the rotunda with some pretty bunting and a vintage sheet for a table cloth.  We had a BBQ lunch and the kids had a great time playing on the equipment and chasing each other in and out of the trees.  It was a bit of a windy day so after lunch we did a spot of kite flying.

The cake was a devils food chocolate cake covered with pink swiss meringue buttercream ruffles.  Minty had seen a picture of a similar cake a few months ago and decided this was what she wanted.  And then of course the week before the party she changed her mind and decided she wanted a rubbish truck cake.  By this stage I didn't care anymore and just forged ahead with the original plan!!  I think she was happy in the end!  For those who are interested you can find the cake recipe here, and a video tutorial for how to pipe ruffles here.  I made two 6 inch cakes (one was a backup in case there was a disaster when I transported them!!).  I used wilton #125 petal piping tip which was a little too big but was all I could get my hands on.

I also made four flavours of ice-cream: Philadelphia style vanilla made with AAA Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans; watermelon sorbet; chocolate and raspberry; and strawberry sorbet.  These were served in mini waffle cones with plenty of sprinkles and chocolate chips.

For party favours I made the kids ribbon wands - I have a bit of a 'how to' post planned for these tomorrow.

All in all, I think everyone had a great day.  All of Minty's friends are such sweet little kids, with lovely parents to boot, so I'm really glad Minty forced me to make an effort and get everyone together!