Thursday, December 30, 2010

in which I get tipsy and we eat a polar bear's jacket...

This post is a bit long winded and changes tack a few times so brace yourselves. I'm trying to catch up with all the backlog of things I haven't mentioned yet so that we can all start off the new year fresh.

These first pics are from my bro-in-law's wedding a couple of days before Christmas. It was such a lovely wedding - just the immediate family at the old treasury building, with a feast to follow. There is going to be a big reception in about a weeks time so hopefully I'll actually manage to take more than three photos during part 2! Note Turi's liberty bow tie. I swear that liberty fabric has been like the magic pudding - I've made so many things out of it and I still have some left! I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to whip up another pair of trousers for Turi for the reception because these ones I made are seriously tight… and getting a bit short in the length - he really does need to stop growing so I can bottle up the cuteness!

Onto Christmas itself…

We spent Christmas Eve at my sister's for an amazing lunch. Strangely despite taking my camera along I didn't take even a single photo (too much wine perhaps?). So you'll have to just take my word for it - it was like stepping into the pages of a food magazine… delicious and beautiful - there were even raspberry stars on individual puddings for dessert… yum!

It's difficult with an extended family who all adore christmas to swing a gig as hostess for the big event. We're in those strange transition years where our parents are still young enough to want to carry on the traditions they all established when we were growing up (and don't get me wrong I love this) but we're old and crusty adults ourselves now, some of us with kids of our own and I guess it's only natural that we'll want to start doing things our way. I guess this year I've just been starting to think about which parts of Christmas I want to focus on for the kids, the things I want to become Christmas traditions at our house and which parts don't fit quite as well. So since both our extended families were having an 'off year' (with my family celebrating 'faux' and my husband's family celebrating on boxing day) it was nice to be able to spend Christmas morning in our own home.

We started the day off with santa stockings, which we kept very low key. Turi got a few balloons, a tiny toy plane, some chocolate money and, strangely the highlight, a banana! Minty's highlights were some bubble mix (her only request from Santa), and some fancy coloured pipe cleaners for her 'heart' work. I finally finished Minty's quilt which was her gift from 'mum and dad'. Turi missed out on a 'mum and dad' gift this year because I kinda ran out of steam after working on the quilt and he's one and frankly didn't notice the difference (case in point he was most thrilled by the banana!) I'm well aware that next year the 'less is more' approach to gift giving probably won't cut it but for now at least I think it's nice to try and instil some sense in the children that Christmas isn't all about the presents. Before anyone gets concerned about the children missing out, remember this is all in the context of extremely extravagant gift giving from the extended family.

the quilt in situ

We spent a quiet morning in the garden blowing bubbles, and followed this up with lunch just the four of us. I made the two Christmas foods I couldn't possibly live without - roast potatoes (Jamie Oliver style) and chestnut stuffing (thanks Nigella). I didn't make any meat because having meat from a bird bread to a point that it can't even naturally reproduce or from an animal with the intelligence of a four year old child (however humanely raised) staring up at me from the table doesn't scream 'Merry Christmas' to me. But because I am all about the contradictions I then put bacon in the stuffing (it just wouldn't taste right without it!).

After eating far too much we then visited the inlaws for a second lunch… enter the 'polar bear's jacket'. My husband's brother's girlfriend (that's a mouthful) joined us for Christmas for the first time this year. She is originally from the Ukraine and shared with us some spectacular Russian dishes. The 'polar bear's jacket' is a salad (though I guess I'm using the term salad loosely here) - the top layer is egg, then beetroot with salmon below. I love how shockingly evocative the name is - slicing through the thick white polar bear pelt to the blood and flesh below! It's difficult to come up with any western food names that even come close to this… 'toad in the hole' maybe? She also prepared a 'red head' cake - I can't quite figure out the name of this one seeing as the cake wasn't red but whatever it tasted delicious. Layered with walnuts and custard. Sadly no photo of the cake (I promise not to be so slack with my photography in the new year!)

Boxing day was another full blown Christmas celebration at the inlaws. We really were spoilt this year with some amazing gifts… we got a dehydrator! Stay tuned for some dehydrating adventures in the new year (jerky anyone?)

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

xmas burn out

I'm currently suffering from a serious case of post-Christmas fatigue. We packed in an insane amount of Christmas parties, celebrated a wedding and ate a criminal amount of food, including something called a 'polar bear's jacket' (ten points to anyone who can guess what this is). I'll give you a full wrap up tomorrow when I've had a chance to wade through all the photos I've taken (but in all honesty I'm not too sure that there will be many, if any, decent shots, as I've learned from experience that juggling photography with child wrangling, alcohol, and all around revelry doesn't generally produce terrific results). I will be spending this evening in my PJs attempting to recover by lying prostrate on the couch watching episodes of Mad Men.

But for now here are some photos I took a few days before Christmas. We went to a carols night at the foreshore in Cowes. There was face painting, rides, an animal farm, fairy floss, balloon animals and fireworks. Such a great night with friends. The kids had a ball and Minty has since decided she would like fireworks for her birthday (yes Veruca, anything you say).

Friday, December 24, 2010

getting ready for santa...

the stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

I don't know about all of you but I'm exhausted... and I still have a lot of wrapping, cooking and sewing to do before I'm ready for the big day. The children are very excited. Minty thinks we will be meeting baby Jesus (possibly at the hospital) for his birthday tomorrow... I had trouble explaining that although we are going to celebrate baby Jesus' birthday we won't be meeting him and in actual fact he is already dead. We put out snacks for Santa and the reindeer. Minty had trouble restraining herself and decided santa would like to 'share' his chocolate square with her (the reindeer snacks remained safe from nibbles).

Thankfully all my gifts are a little easier to wrap than this...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

arrrgh me hearties!

In thinking about Christmas and all the gifting that goes with it, I decided I really wanted to come up with a gift that the kids could give to all the people that are important to them. I really wanted it to be something they could make themselves, since giving handmade is something that's important to me. But seriously my kids are aged one and two ("would you like to shake hands with thing one and thing two?"), so it was a bit of a struggle to come up with something they could make themselves that anyone would actually want to receive or find useful. So basically I was trying to come up with the holy grail of a gift idea - kid friendly, cool, useful, creative and handmade…

And so the idea of the 'holiday mix tape' was born. Back in the 80s and 90s when tapes were all the rage, the mix tape held an iconic cultural status, often gifted as a romantic gesture. With the instantaneous possibilities that electronic playlists allow the mix tape doesn't seem to hold the same appeal it once did. So we're bringing it back (well not literally since who the heck still has a tape player?). I gave the kids complete creative discretion to create a list of their absolute favourite holiday tunes and then burned them to a CD. This does mean that there are about four different versions of Jingle Bells in the mix since this is one of the few Christmas carols Minty knows the words to.

Now by suggesting this idea I in no way mean to promote music piracy. It is perfectly possible to legally purchase the songs you wish to include - in fact itunes makes this remarkably easy. But if y'all want to don an eye patch, sport a wooden leg and create a CD mix of sea shanties that really isn't for me to police now is it?

So for your holiday enjoyment here is the playlist…

DJ Turi and Mint's Holiday Mix Tape - I'm Just Crazy 'bout Horses

Jingle Bells - Ella Fitzgerald

Baby, It's Cold Outside - Dinah Shore & Buddy Clark

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas - Gayla Peevey

Jingle Bells - Peggy Lee

It's a Marshmallow World - Brenda Lee

Rock 'N' Roll Santa - Little Joey Farr

Christmas Alphabet - Dickie Valentine

Santa Claus is Back in Town - Elvis Presley

Sleigh Ride - The Spectres

White Christmas - Elvis Presley

Jingle Bell Rock - Boby Helms

Rockin Robin - Bobby Day

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Faux Christmas...

We've clocked our first major Christmas celebration of the year. Every second year my parents host 'faux christmas' so that people don't have to try and negotiate multiple gatherings on actual Christmas day. 'Faux Christmas' is fairly traditional in format, with turkey, gifts and general over indulgence, the only difference being it is held a week early.

Minty's 'moulin rouge' christmas skirt got its first airing - though it was too cold to wear the singlet I had made to go with it. The silk gives it a lovely three dimensional ballooning. It's a little hard to see the tulle ruffles in these photos, but they do add an extra element of fun. I think this may well be my favourite project of the year. I'm in love and a little sad that this would likely look comic in an adult size!

Here I am with baby Lilly in her nurture sling (bless!). I kidnapped her and rocked her to sleep in the sling so that her mum and dad could relax and open their gifts. If you have any new mums or bubs on your Christmas list who you are looking for gift ideas for I can't recommend this sling highly enough. You can even get a gift voucher on their website so that the lucky recipient can choose their favourite colour and size. And it's a small family run operation so you can feel good about buying handmade. (I'm not getting any kickback to plug these - I have just loved using mine with both my kids and now with baby Lilly too!)

And while we are on the topic of presents…

I'm going to talk about some of the gifts I made in this post, so if you will be attending 'real christmas' please stop reading now. There will be some spoilers. If you insist on continuing to read please commit to pretending to be surprised on Christmas day. I've held off as long as I could but frankly I'm beginning to struggle with relevancy in this space seeing as I haven't been able to talk about anything I've been working on, and by the time Christmas is over I will probably be too over it to bother posting about any of it. If you are (god forbid) still searching for some handmade gift ideas there is still time to whip up some of these, so I hope you find this wrap up useful…




Ok here goes…

First stop - ruffle butt onsies. I loosely followed this tutorial. The fabric is Amy Butler.

And because I am mildly obsessed with gathering fabric and ruffles this year (in case you hadn't noticed) - here are some gathered clutches come pencil cases for the glamorous scholarly types in my life, of whom there seem to be quite. They have card holders inside, useful for a library card, photocopy card, or ID swipe card (or of course credit card if one is using it as a clutch). The fabric is liberty, on linen, lined with some cake rock beach and red dots from my stash. You can find a tutorial for these here.

Reversible liberty headband for new mum who may or may not need to glam up neglected hair! Find tutorial for these here.

Precious liberty silk scarf for my equally lovely mum. I must say I wanted to keep this for myself! Instructions on how much fabric you'll need etc found here.

Boxes of yummies including, peppermint bark, pistachio and cranberry chocolate squares, and chocolate dipped shortbread (I love this recipe). Cute reindeer and silver Christmas trees found here (such a fun shop!) I really want to get myself some of these red pixies for next year!!

And an ultimate inventor's box for my nephew - containing inspirational schematic drawings, all sorts of tools, and construction bits and bobs, safety goggles and a book to draw his wild imaginings in. Basically I was hoping to put together a starting point for all kinds of creative play.

That's it for tonight - lots more handmade gifts to share in the next couple of days…

Thursday, December 16, 2010

christmas ramblings...

Sorry to all my lovely readers for leaving you alone and abandoned in the wilderness of the interweb for the past week. I have such a backlog of stuff to blog about that I'm feeling somewhat bewildered - I don't really know where to start and this post is liable to ramble along in a haphazard misshapen fashion much like a sweater that has begun to unravel in the washing machine. Where to begin?

My quest to create the ultimate Christmas has somewhat got the better of me. I had grand plans for a completely hand-made christmas but the universe seems to have other ideas. I think we must have left an umbrella up somewhere inside the house or broken a mirror without realising. Just as I was beginning to feel like life was getting back under control after all my neck issues we have been hit with a series of injuries in the household. Within the fortnight my husband has been bitten by a blue ringed octopus, had a white tail spider bite, and had to have a biopsy of a suspected skin cancer. Before anyone gets too worried, he is fine, just largely useless around the house and feeling decidedly sorry for himself. And just to make life even more interesting Turi snapped my glasses clean in two, so I am now have the choice of being blind or wearing contact lenses.

Enough whinge.

I have managed to get a fair bit of sewing done despite all the dramas (most of which I can't share yet as they are gifts). I made this little outfit for Minty to wear to an upcoming wedding. I used some of the precious liberty fabric for the skirt, and the top is a total and complete rip off of one I saw at Heavenly Creatures (I'm too poor/tight to buy the real thing- so if you like it go there and buy one because no doubt it's better than mine!!) I attached the wings down a bit too low, and because I used a press stud to attach them (they are removable for washing purposes) I can't move them. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry and give up sewing. When I realised what I had done I told my husband I had lost the will to live. He said that was surely a little dramatic… maybe, but I'm nothing if not dramatic.

We have been chugging along with the advent calendar (apart from a few slack days when frankly I couldn't face any more christmas activities with my overtired and fractious kiddlets). I won't bore you with a complete blow by blow, day by day account but instead here is a cliff notes version - the highlights and lowlights…


We made Christmas cards. I cut out little christmas tree shapes which Minty decorated by gluing on sequins with homemade glue. All very cute and we had grand plans of posting these to all the relies. However I left Minty with her dad for an hour and when I returned she had picked every sequin off because apparently they didn't appeal to her design aesthetic. So we were left with a batch of wrinkly discoloured paper christmas trees. Frankly I couldn't fagged starting again so we chucked them and gave up. Sorry to any of you who were expecting to receive a card from us this year. Do not wait by your mail boxes… there is no card on its way.

Highlight (kind of)

We went to San Remo for a night of Christmas fun. There was a jumping castle, face painting (we gave up on waiting as the line was too long), lucky dip, an appearance by the fat man himself and much to my delight we decorated our own gingerbread house. For $18 the local bakery provided an undecorated gingerbread house, a piping bag of icing and enough lollies to make all your Hansel and Gretel dreams come true. Everyone ate far too many lollies, there were some tears and an announcement by someone small that 'I didn't have any fun' - so I think we can clock that day as a resounding success.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In which Minty decides mince pies aren't worth all the hype...

Advent Day 8 - we eat a mince pie

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In which it snows on Hannibal...

Today's advent activity was to make Christmas decorations. This wasn't a particularly well thought out plan since when I woke up at 5:30 this morning I realised I hadn't figured out anything to put in the calendar and hastily had to come up with an idea. So I thought I'd keep things ridiculously simple and just make paper chains with the kids. Which would have been fabulous except that then I realised we didn't have any paper to make paper chains with… we didn't even have a single piece of A4 printer paper left.

So I thought laterally and found an old novel that was due to go to the op shop. We ripped pages out and used these to make our chains with. Minty quickly got bored with the prescriptive method of chain making and decided to just do free 'snipping' instead. She cut out 'mountain tops', 'bees' and all sorts of other things. This left me free to cut out paper snowflakes. We spent the next two hours happily snipping away together and then, much to Minty's delight, hung the snowflakes from the ceiling of her room, as she exclaimed 'wow it's snowing!!'. You can kind of see the (short) paper chains draped over the picture frames.

In case anyone was thinking it was all sugarplums and mistletoe at our house I just thought I'd reveal that we are currently struggling with a little two-year-old violent streak. This afternoon I found a perfect imprint on 'someone's' teeth on 'someone' else's arm.

I'm off now to try and restore some semblance of order to my house… it is beginning to look as though we live in New Orleans post Katrina...

Monday, December 6, 2010

In which Minty is overcome and falls off the couch...

Amazing birthday sponge made by my mum

We're currently busy little elves putting together Christmas gifts. Sadly I won't be able to share most of our projects with you until later in the month seeing as most of the people receiving the gifts read the blog (hi peeps!), so in the mean time I'll share with you a little gift we made for my sister's birthday this week...

Minty and I put together some home made bath salts. This is a great project to do with kids seeing as they can do most of it themselves (though I really wouldn't recommend letting very small children drop in the oils or food colouring unless you want a disaster of epic proportions on your hands!).

Bath salts

1 cup epsom salts (you can buy these at some supermarkets, chemists or your local health food store)

1 cup sea salt

3 tablespoons baking soda

food colouring (we used about 5 drops)

essential oils

Mix everything together thoroughly and package.

We chose our essential oil blends especially to cater for a new mum (my sister just had a baby) but you can create one that is perfectly suited to your recipient. Just do a bit of aromatherapy googling if you need some ideas.

Goodbye baby blues bath salts - to relieve depression and enhance self-love

9 drops neroli

5 drops jasmine

3 drops rose

On the go bath salts - to energise and clear the mind

8 drops orange

6 drops neroli

4 drops peppermint

For those of you following along with the advent calendar…

On Saturday we 'sang' carols, which basically ended up as dancing wildly around the living room to christmas music, given that I was the only person who actually knew the words to any of the songs.

On Sunday we stayed up late to watch a Christmas movie on the big screen (we watched Elf), a raging success until Minty got a little too engrossed in the film and pitched forward off the couch, face planting on the floor.

And today the kids started making Christmas gifts (shh top secret!)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm dreaming of a candy coloured christmas...

For yesterday's advent activity we decorated the Christmas tree. This was a true exercise in the art of letting go. I am usually a completely anal retentive tree decorator, with nothing mismatching touching the tree and every decoration evenly spaced, with the best decorations in prime positions...

Minty on the other hand is a creative free spirit. She decided to concentrate 90% of the decorations in a small area at the bottom right hand side of the tree. She then decided the tree would benefit from a draping of tinsel around the lower branches and subsequently proceeded to wrap some of the branches in coloured tissue paper. At regular intervals she would stand back to admire her handiwork and then adjust things if she thought they didn't look quite right.

For the most part I have left things where she put them, though I have to admit I did remove the tissue paper (I am yet to reach a zen decorating state where these things don't bother me).

I made the felt decorations you can see in these pictures last year in an effort to make the tree child safe but this year negated the effort by using a whole heap of glass decorations as well. Frankly I'm a bit sick of our red and white decorating scheme and I'd like to do a complete tree overhaul next year. I'm dreaming of a candy coloured christmas... (similar to this). How about you?