Tuesday, July 31, 2012

a good sacrifice ...

These kids are worth it. They are just so cute, helpful, loveable and happy!! However, the last 2 weeks we have been hit with illness after illness. Runny noses, virus', infections, colds etc. If it has been going around, then I can bet you that one of us have had it. But now it is my turn. Oh how I yearn not to be sick. How can I look after 3 little ones and myself??? I feel like I'm dying. I hoped and prayed we would get through the night uninterrupted last night, but sadly that was not the case. But that is ok. Getting up to these 3 IS a good sacrifice I make.

On the whole we don't really have it bad. It can be hard to look after 3 littles though when you feel you can barely look after yourself. But we are blessed to have family close by to help (thanks Mum!) and to give of their time and energy for me and our family when my husband has to go to work. I am very grateful for these experiences because every time I do get up in the night and sacrifice my sleep (even though I REALLY want to sleep), I know my character, patience and spirit are being shaped and moulded into the woman I hope to become.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

Afternoon Tea Baby Shower - A Recipe For.. Part 1

The Reason...

One Glowing New Mother-To-Be!

Other Participants...

13 other special guests

..and some fabulous background kitchen help

(Perhaps an angel husband, daughter or teenage sons, for example... :)

Other Ingredients...

A home-made 'Mother To Be' sash, joined with baby pins
(more on this next week)

Invitations sent out 3-4 weeks earlier

Printed name tags in the shape of baby bibs

A nappy cake in the baby colours
(more on this next week)

Fresh flowers - pink and white for girls, blue and white for boys, 
a mixture if it's a surprise

Printed place names, for the table

Your prettiest china and glassware

Some candles - on the table and around
(more on these next week)

Pre-prepared Scrap-booking activity
with box to keep the cards..

Custom-designed Mad-Gab game
(more on this next week)

Prepared strings for 'Guess the Mummy's Girth!'

Pre-cut and printed 'Mothering Advice' pages
with album to store the pages

Fabulous Afternoon Tea

Someone Assigned To Take Photographs!!
(I always forget this one!  It's why I don't have photos for everything, even though we have 
done this Afternoon Tea Baby Shower three times now.. )

The Program...

Arrival of the guests
(and hopefully not the baby)
Each guest is welcomed, introduced, and pinned with a name tag
(Presents put aside to be opened later)
The Mother-To-Be is invested with her very own, 
take home, Mother-To-Be sash

Pre-cut, generous lengths of pink or blue soft baby wool,
each with attached sticky label that is named for each of the guests, are given out
Each guest uses scissors to cut the woolen string to the circumference 
that they believe the pregnant tummy to be..

Each guest is provided with a pen and sheet of linen paper that carries her name..
And asked to write a message to the M-T-B,
that includes a favourite mothering memory about their own mother/mother figure


The guests are escorted to the scrap-booking station
where they are served a glass of punch and
where they will be making 21 cards for the baby's first 21 birthdays

Each card creator signs their name on the back of the card
(cards are partly pre-organised, but with lots of scope for originality)
These cards can be used by the parents to write their 
own message to their child each year
The cards are displayed when they are completed,
then boxed for the new Mother-To-Be

2.40pm - ish

The guests return to the living room for a game of 
Baby Mad-Gab

The M-T-B is measured with the strings and the winner is given a prize
(The M-T-B gives a big, grateful hug to the guest who guessed the shortest length!)

3.10pm - ish

Afternoon Tea is served!
Everyone is seated at the table, which is already laden and groaning under the weight of 
(the table, that is)
..a wonderful selection of savoury and sweet delights!

4.15pm - ish

Time to open the presents!

The 'advice' pages are collected into a small photo album book and
The birthday cards are collected into a box 
These are given to the M-T-B

4.30pm -ish

End of the party.  Nobody really leaves for a while.

(We emerge to find that the angel husband and sons have done all the kitchen clean-up.  Yay! :)

(Part 2 Afternoon Tea Baby Shower is Here.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An AWESOME Cook :)

Last night, I whipped up a beautiful Moroccan Lamb Casserole for dinner.  It was pretty fabulous.  Possibly the best you ever would have tasted.  I can tell you the recipe off the top of my head:
  • 2 carrots, diced (I don't think I'll ever forget this, because I thought it said 'sliced'.  So I sliced them.  And then I realised it said 'diced'.  So I diced every annoying slice!!! - Did I mention I did a double recipe?? lol)
  • 1 onion, sliced (for real, sliced.  I think that's what I read when I was doing the carrots :P)
  • A can of diced tomatoes (I opened one of my cans of 'diced' tomatoes, and they were whole! - So I wiggled a knife around in there for a bit.  Yes, I'm sure the can says 'diced'.)
  • 1kg of diced lamb (I used beef, but only because it's cheaper.. did I mention I was doing a double?! - I want it for dinner at least tomorow night, also!)
  • Oh, and a Moroccan Lamb Casserole McCORMIC Slow Cookers Recipe Base... :)

Moroccan Lamb Casserole
All photos from www.mccormick.com.au

You brown the meat, carrots and onions (wiggle them around in a fry pan for a couple of minutes), then chuck them in the slow cooker.  Then you mix the recipe base with the can of tomatoes (ie. put them in the same bowl and wiggle a spoon around for a second) and chuck them in the slow cooker, and mix it all a little :)  THEN you chuck the lid on and wait for 4-8 hours - 4 hours on high, or 8 on low.  Just before serving, you can stir through some fresh coriander - we did this last night, mmmmmm :)

Then you do whatever you want all day (I opted to go to the park with 3 of my favourite friends and their gorgeous bubs), and come home to the mouthwatering aroma of Moroccan!! :)  Yay!!! :)  On the back of the recipe base it suggests you serve on a bed of cous cous topped with yoghurt and toasted almonds, but James is anti cous cous so we serve it on a bed of rice, but DEFINITELY do the yoghurt and almonds thing, mmmmmmmm :)  And they're yummy and classy, so you can have them when people are coming over for dinner.  I highly recommend this - they cut the stress cause you prepare it in the morning and can spend time before they come over cleaning up, or more importantly, cooking dessert :)

So my slow cooker + McCORMICK Slow Cookers recipe bases = an AWESOME cook :)

Another one of their slow cooker bases I've made and we all LOVE (including my 1 and 2 year olds!) is their Mild Chicken Curry! - Easy peasy!! :)

Mild Chicken CurryMild Chicken Curry

But there are lots to try!! 

And here's a screenshot from the mccormick.com.au website:

Doesn't it all look crazy appetising?!  It does to me.  I think what makes my mouth water the most is knowing by experience how EASY they all are!!! :)

1 last thing I love about slow cookers:  Eating the food at night, it feels like someone else made it for you, which always makes it taste better ;)

If you're not so keen on a recipe base but slow cookers intrigue you, I'll have to share my favourite non recipe based slow cooker recipe some other time - almost just as easy!  But for now - go!  Have fun! - Go out for the day!  Just remember to chuck your dinner in the slow cooker and switch 'on' first :)

PS:  2 cooking posts, and only 1 about children's books from me so far.  Totally out of character.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

I'm a fan of the 'Gratitude Journal’. I have one that I periodically write in and I love to give them as gifts. Sometimes we just don't notice all of the blessings in our lives until we start looking for them. And then I find I'm overwhelmed with just how many there are and just how loved we all our by our Heavenly Father.
I first started keeping a gratitude journal after a talk I heard at church by President Henry B Eyring, to quote just a section:

“I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

But it’s not just something I’ve heard about at church. I’ve often read about university studies on the subject actually (particularly from Californian Universities for some reason!) One article that I read recently reported some of their research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from gratitude journaling that I thought were pretty interesting:
  • Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
  • Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  • Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  • Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  • Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.

Anyway, I’m grateful for so many things in my life, and love to journal about them.

 xo Tammy

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

photo memories

I LOVE photos. I love taking them, editing them, looking at them and displaying them.

I especially love taking photos of the kids. They are easy subjects to capture. 

But what to do with all these photos?

I have quite a few large, bulky, photo albums where the photos printed were 6x4. These are great memories to look back on. But we now live in a digital world, where it is easy to take 100 photos of pretty much the same thing. I don't want to give my kids 100 bulky photo albums to take with them when they leave home, so instead I have created a photo book for each child. 

I have only made 2 thus far, covering years from their birth to their 2nd birthday, and it sure was hard sorting through the 1000's of photos, then editing the selected ones to make a photo book. Needless to say it took hours. But I am SO glad I did. Two years are now presented in a compact landscape A4 photo book. Even if they had 10 or more photo books to take with them when they leave home, it would be a lot less bulky then my big, chunky photo albums.

It is also worth finding a good quality photo book company. I highly recommend The Photobook Club. Every so often they send fantastic deals via email that make it worth it. Even if it gets printed wrong, they will replace it, free of charge. 

A picture really does tell a thousand words, and I'm so glad that we have these photo memory books to show for it!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Home-made Present Idea - Family Quote Book

Our family makes our own Christmas presents for one another each year.  Some of us, 
(well, only one really - you know who you are J) 
sometimes wouldn't mind if we just bought them instead, because it would be easier! 
but for the most part, we have had a lot of fun with it over the years..  
And we have had some great presents!  :)

One year Abby spent a couple of months jotting down some of the 
silly/funny/wacky/witty/you-really-had-to-be-there comments 
made by various members of our family, (whenever she remembered and felt like it),
 then compiled them into a family quote book for that year.   
After typing it up and printing out a front and back cover, she used our home binder 
to make them into A5 size books, complete with clear plastic covers,
 then gave them as Christmas presents.

This was the back cover, below.


Now, I know that we are not the only family who make these 
silly/wacky/funny/witty/you-had-to-be-there kind of comments..   are we?
Of course we all forget them unless someone does write them down.
I'ts fun to remember them though... so perhaps you can use this idea too :)

Below is a small selection of a few of the quotes from that year's book ...

(Tammy would indubitably have been featured a LOT more, if she wasn't living overseas during this period :)


Abby: Jonny that was my healthy lunch you just ate!
Jonny: I only took a bite! – Now it’s healthier :)

Abby (in art class): I just picked this picture (a cute, cartoon skeleton) cause I liked it.
Tutor: No, you have to give a deeper interpretation
Abby: Okay…  I picked this picture because it reminds me of my brother (class laughs) cause we’re always visiting him in hospital with the cancer and he broke his neck and back in a car accident…
Class: (long, uncomfortable silence)
Abby: (uncontrollable giggle)

Mum: We’ve just had an explosion here!
Abby: An explosion??!!
Mum: Yes
Abby: As in… ?
Mum: Bang!
Ben: The battery blew up
Abby: No way!
Oliver: Yeah we haven’t had an explosion like that since Ben attached his little car thing that he made through wire into the electrical socket!
Mum: He what?!?!
Ben: It’s okay – you already got me in trouble for that one
Mum: Oh, good! Don’t do it again.
Ben: (wicked grin)

Dad: You hit all the wrong notes
Abby: (playing viola) No I didn’t!
Dad: Well then I hate the song!

Oliver: (to his identical twin) Ben, you’re really, ridiculously good-looking!

Bethy: I could cook meals for them..  (to help out a family in need)
Oliver: Um..  They’re already sick

Abby (about Sarah) : She’s my friend!
Jonny: No, she’s my friend!
: Okay we’ll put her in the middle of the room and both call her and see who she goes to.

Ben: Oliver, you’re really ridiculously good-looking!

Bethy (playing the card game Phase 10):  So, we have to get 2 sets of 3…won’t everyone run out of 3’s?

Jonny (calling home): Hey Bethy, are mum or dad there?
Bethy: Who’s this?
Jonny: Are you serious? It’s Jonny
Bethy: Oh – okay, hold on…
(mum answers phone)
Jonny: Hey can some people come over tonight?
Mum: Who is this?
Jonny: (sigh)

Dad: We’ll sing the first verse of ‘O How Lovely was the Morning’. I know it’s a big choir song, but –
Mum: I’ll take first soprano!
Abby: I’ll do descant!
Mick: I’ll take bass!
Jonny: I’ll take tenor!
Bethy: I’ll take alto!
Ben: I’ll take audience!

Jonny: Why did the blonde get thrown out of the M&M factory? … Because she kept throwing out all the ‘W’s
Mum: What was wrong with the ‘W’s?

Abby: How do you get ink out of a white skirt?
Tammy: Are you paying me out because I tried white-out that time?

Tammy: Remember that time I tried to suck the air out of that bag of cut onions and I nearly passed out?

Dad: What would the family be like if we only had Mick and Tammy?
Ben: Uhm… well I guess I really wouldn’t know.

Dad: (opening a Christmas present) Honey this is from your mother… oh… we’ve adopted a platypus…

Dad: Honey you need to work on focusing
Mum: You guys don’t understand, I can focus on lots of things at once!
Tammy: Mum, the definition of ‘focusing’…

Ben: No, Oliver! That was my only ruler you just broke!
Beth: Yeah.. but now you have 2!

Abby: I didn’t get to sleep at all on the flight
Mum: yes you did, because you kicked me in your sleep and then you smiled…I think you were asleep!
Abby: Oh yeah that’s right – slept for ages!

Mum: Wait, this road looks familiar! … I think we’ve been lost here before

Abby: (opening a Christmas present) Yay! More undies!!
Mum: They’re Elle MacPhersons!
Micky: What is it with second hand undies?

Abby: We should do Denise Austin’s 30 minute blockbuster workout!
Jonny: Okay – how long does it take?

Mum: Abby stop sticking your bottom out – stand up straight
Abby: I’m not sticking it out
Mum: Oh...

Micky: I just heard on the radio that in the last year several large asteroids passed very close to earth, and a NASA scientist published his belief that they were flung at earth from a civilisation millions of light years away.
Abby: Haha – and they missed!

Bethy: What’s Al Qaeda?
Mum: You don’t know?
Bethy: Well I mean, I know it’s a place…

Jonny: Learning Korean was awesome - I’m the smart kid! The hardest bit was trying to read the English translations.

Mum: Jessima you have beautiful eyes
Dad: And lovely teeth
Mum: And you’re a lovely height
Oliver: They’re going to eat you

Jonny: Here’s a sharpener
Dad: I’ve got one and mine’s better
Jonny: Mine has Barbie on it, how could yours be better?
Dad: Mine doesn’t have Barbie on it.

Oliver: (beat-boxing)
Abby: Hey you’re almost as good as Jonny at that!
Jonny: How insulting!
Abby: Okay you’re right – Oliver you’re way better than Jonny!

Abby: I’m excited for the houseboat, but we’ll get bored
Dad: Are you serious?! Swimming, fishing –
Abby: Swimming? Are you serious?! What about crocodiles, haven’t you been to Australia Zoo?
Dad: There are no crocodiles in the Tweed River!
Abby: Really?
Dad: The sharks ate them all.

Ben (at the Pancake Parlour): How freaky would this place be if it were twice as big, and the lights were really dim……and you could hear shuffling…

Abby: I’m so excited about the houseboat! Except I don’t think I’ll swim cause of sharks
Oliver: I know! We can fish, catch all the sharks and then swim!
Jonny: Except you’ll probably catch the babies and the mum shark will eat you!
Micky: Or catch all the fish and so the sharks are hungry and then eat you
Abby: Yeah… I’ll watch.

Jonny: Mum - I’m not perfect
Mum: I know - you get that from your father

Jonny: Can I have some chocolate?
Dad: Steal your own!
………………(a while later)……………………
Bethy: Where’s my chocolate?
Dad: Jonny is that Bethy’s chocolate?!
Jonny: You said ‘steal your own’!

Jonny: She was aiming for my head!
Mum: It being the biggest target!

Micky: When mediocre results are required, I’m your man!

Dad: Bethy your friends won’t even notice if you’re not there!
Bethy: Of course they will, there are only 2 of them!

Mum: Oh sorry to keep you waiting – I put some hand cream on and I couldn’t get out the door!

Mum: Bethany you really do need to stop acting dumb
Bethy: I’m not acting!!

Mum: (hearing the end of a conversation): Who has 2 right feet??
All: Ben!
Ben: Hey! – Mine are left!

Ben (After singing ‘Give Said the Little Stream’ in FHE): I always thought that song said ‘give said the little string!
Oliver: Me too! I couldn’t figure out why it was running down the hill… or why it was a Primary song.

Micky: Sorry Tam I couldn’t hear you – Abby was talking to me and she’s pretty much impossible to ignore.
Tammy: Yeah, Helen Keller couldn’t ignore her!

Abby: Wow, Oliver! – You knew something I didn’t! Quick, go and write it in a little book!
Oli: Uhm, that book is full.

Bethy: Did we get a heap of new bowls recently?
Abby: Uh…we did but ages ago
Bethy: Well I’ve been meaning to ask that question for a while

Mum: So you had fun camping?
Bethy: Ahuh
Mum: And you were really good the whole time?
Bethy: Ahuh!... Oh wait – define really good.

Mum: Tammy got another 2 exams back, and they were both out of 10. For one she got 16, for the other she got 15. What I want to know is - where she lost the mark in the second one?

Abby: Remember that ‘M.A.T.C.H’ game? – you’re gonna live in an attic, drive a skateboard, marry Brad Pitt and have 37½ children!
Oliver: Gee, I’d hate to be the half!
Jonny: What are you talking about? – You are the half!!

(halfway through mum’s FHE activity)
Jonny: Oh! Can we play a game??
Mum: We are playing a game!
Jonny: Oh… I mean… a fun one! 
Mum:  sigh                                                                                                       


Ok, you may not get them all, but to us they are funny -
and that's the point really, that our family enjoys having this!

Perhaps your own version of The Family Quote Book would be hilarious!  :)

Bethy put out a second edition a few years later...

We had three more people in the family by then :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beth & Robbie’s Awesome Beach-Themed Engagement Party

So it’s been mentioned on here a time or two that we love throwing parties in our family.  They’re pretty collaborative, but generally masterminded by our Mum (Sandra!).  I happen to be the crazy photo girl though, so I have the photos of this and therefore I'm the one writing about it!  Mum, you can add some details wherever I’ve missed them, and tell everybody if I start taking extra credit ;)

So our fabulous little sister, Bethany got engaged a couple of years ago now, to Robbie (now her husband J).  Beth and Robbie both kind of LOVE the beach, and so a beach-themed engagement party was an obvious choice.  Here’s some of what we did!!

It was held in one of the recreation halls at church.  I love painting (not in a really-great-artist-who-can-paint-stuff-that-looks-like-anything-real kind of way – more like a there’s-a-part-of-me-that-never-left-preschool kind of way), so was excited to paint a banner for them!! J  I did it on the day, because it was massive, so we stuck heaps of paper on the wall and painted right onto it!  Don’t you love the ‘lifesaver’ ‘o’?? J  

'Congratulations Beth & Robbie!' - in process... :)

The colours Mum had chosen for the evening were a bright blue, a bright aqua blue, a bright almost yellow-green, and bright red.  We'd be able to get balloons, trays, towels, balls, and a bunch of other stuff in these colours so it all looked really good together - they were fun, bright, perfect beach colours! :)

I love playing with paint! :)

You can't go wrong with a balloon net!!

Mum had asked me to paint some 'beach huts' a few weeks before.  I should've taken photos of our little unit, with the beach huts spread and drying everywhere lol :)  It was lots of fun!

Most of the room done up and ready to go!

Beachy table centrepiece - nice, Mum! :)  Simple and easy to put together too!  And don't you LOVE the long table tablecloth with the stripes?!!

Towels as tablecloths for the little tables - and bunches of wild flowers in bright vases with some palm leaves underneath!

Mum found a bunch of $2 wakeboards at our local Reject Shop - awesome!  We also found  those cool light, multicoloured soccer balls, so we had those and a few giant balloons floating around!!  I think most of the palm leaves are from Mum and Dad's house! - They had a palm forest in an area of their yard - they were awesome!! And of course there were beach towels here and there, and that's one of the beach huts I painted.

I think Mum got the deck chairs at the Reject Shop too - not quite as cheap as the wakeboards so we only had a couple, but they looked great :)

A bucket of cans on ice, of course!

Home made door streamers!!! - In the party colours of course :)  I don't remember who it was who stapled all of these together, but I'm thinking Tammy?!

A friend of ours made Beth and Robbie's fabulous cupcake cake tower!!  The flowers looked great, and on each of the cupcakes is a Guylian chocolate - perfect for the beach theme, and soooo delicious they're making me want them right now!!

Just in case you didn't know what Guylian chocolates look like, thanks to the first image that popped up in my google search, mmmmm!

Sorry this is pretty dark! - But the finished sign with the cake!  Mum had lots of cardboard fish all over the place! :)

Mum filled a giant vase with M&M's - original and peanut - YUM!!! They looked great on the table! :)  This is halfway through the night when they've been eaten a LOT!

The plates were all in theme colours :)  (and now we use these platters all the time! :))  We ate lots of fruit, some homemade fruity sweets, and anything fish-shaped Mum found :)

One of the giant balloons that was floating around!!

The soccer balls were also a big hit!

And this was our cool island-shirted DJ, from Alan Casey Entertainment - he's also a long time family friend :)  We also had ping pong set up at the back of the hall just for a bit more fun! :)

And that was mostly what we did!!!

We spent most of the day setting up, but it wasn't too hard!  I got to play with paints all day, Tammy decorated and stapled and helped cook, Dad (the man) was in the kitchen, James and our younger twin brothers with a few friends took care of all the high things (like the balloon net!) and palms, and blowing up all those balloons!, and Mum ran around directing and doing everything as usual :)  The day of putting everything together is at least as fun as the actual party!!! :)  We think everyone had a great time, and I know we did!  It was a lot of fun :)

And I can't resist a photo of the cute couple :)

Happy Party Planning!!!