Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallelujah Chorus

When Handel composed 'Messiah' in 1741, he was in debt and deeply depressed.  Yet he  somehow managed to compose the oratorio in only 24 days, which (if you know anything at all about music) is absolutely astonishing. So many songs and their lyrics, up to 8 vocal lines, complete orchestral scores.  Amazing.

And of course the most famous piece from the oratorio is 'Hallelujah' (referred to these days as the 'Hallelujah Chorus').  The story goes that during the composition phase Handel's assistant had called him several times and received no response. So he went to Handel's work room and there he found the composer with tears streaming down him face.  When he asked him why I was crying, Handel apparently held up the score he'd just written of the Hallelujah Chorus and replied 'I have seen the face of God'.

It's almost a shame really that the chorus is so well known these days, because I think people get so used to hearing it that they've stopped listening to it.  You hear it in shopping centers, or television commercials. Often you hear it in passing.  But if you haven't ever heard it performed live, with a wonderful choir - especially as part of a performance of the extended 'Messiah' - then you should really put it on your list of things to do.

And if you do see it performed live, you'll enjoy a wonderful tradition (that may or may not be based in fact).  Apparently at the London Premier of the 'Messiah', King George II was so moved when Hallelujah Chorus was performed, that he rose to his feet. And as everyone else must stand when the King stands, the entire audience rose to their feet.  The King may have been showing respect for his Saviour and felt moved by the Spirit to rise to his feet.  Or he may have stood to try and get some relief for his gout.  Perhaps he never stood at all (there's no proof that he did).  But the tradition remains, and audiences will always rise to their feet when the Hallelujah Chorus begins. And honestly, there are few things more exhilarating then rising to your feet as an orchestra and choir perform what is without doubt one of the most thrilling pieces of music ever written.

Having sung the piece with several choirs over the years, I've got the Soprano and Alto parts of the chorus down to memory.  And each Christmas I try and make sure I get to sing it at least once.  In fact for any fellow Brisbanites who are interested, a favourite Christmas tradition of mine here in Brisbane is the 'Sing along Messiah' that's put on by the Albert Street Uniting Church in the city.  Any one can turn up at 4:30pm on Sunday the 9th of December, and have a bit of a practice/sing-along for an hour and a half with all the other would be singers and a wonderful conductor, and then at 7pm all the friends and family turn up to sit in the stalls above the main seating (where the singers sit) and the impromptu choir, excellent conductor and four professional (and wonderful) singers perform large segments of the 'Messiah'.

Including, of course, the majestic Hallelujah Chorus.

xo Tammy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Family Christmas Caroling -

So many wonderful things are associated with Christmas!  Presents, family gatherings, fun and laughter..  the list is a long and happy one.  In our family we generally start to prepare for Christmas when we begin to plan and make presents for one another, usually from about September or so, (for those who do).  The next herald of Christmas each year is generally the sound of Christmas carols.  Our son Michael was notorious for wanting to play carols from about the beginning of October (!)  I can hardly imagine the Christmas season without the constant background sounds of the Disney chipmunks, inter-played with Bing Crosby and Mariah Carey and others.  Because we didn't have television, our 'background noise' over Christmas was carols, often played all day long - so you can understand why two months is enough, much as we all enjoy them :)

These photos show most of our family ready to go out caroling a few Christmases ago, and our afternoon practice beforehand.  Under Tammy's direction we practiced our parts to sing 'Christmas Bells' and a couple of other songs, then put together some plates of homemade biscuits and off we went.  A really fun part of this activity was that as we caroled at various homes, we managed to collect up some of the friends we sang to, who then joined us to visit more houses! :)   

If we have a Christmas party (which most years we do), we always enjoy having musical performances from several of our friends after dinner.  It's amazing how talented many people are.  One of our friends is a member of the Ten Tenors, so of course he is fabulous, but we enjoy hearing from everybody.  Abby plays her viola beautifully and others have played guitar, flute, violin, bells, saxaphone and yukulele.  One year a friend came fully dressed in his kilt regalia, and played the bagpipes, so that was particularly memorable.  We have our favourite carols printed up into about 30 little booklets that we re-use each year, and we always close the party with Tammy playing the piano for group caroling.

One year a good friend who has a magnificent bass voice turned up on our doorstep early on Christmas morning with his wife, who is a pianist, as his accompanyist.  He announced that he had come to sing for us.  We were still in our pj's, but we all curled up on the couches and listened with tears in our eyes as he sang 'I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked'.  It was so beautiful and so unexpected that it is one of my favourite ever Christmas highlights.  We loved it so much that he came back the following year and the year after and the year after.  Lucky us!

I hope that Tammy will tell you about the singing activity she likes to attend in the city.  I forget the name for it but it's an 'instant' choir that come together for a short practice, then perform 'The Messiah'.   Anyone can join :)

Do you love the music of Christmas?  Do you get sick of it?  Do you have favourite songs or albums that you play every year?  Do you like hearing carols while you are shopping?  Do you like to sing?  

55 Days to Christmas!!        

'Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring...  !'

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Motivation - Genius vs Stupidity


We lived for a few years in PNG.  The Papua New Guinean people often struggled to meet the demands of our western-style work and culture, which often had the effect of making them look less capable.  But I often thought, "put me in the jungle and see how stupid I look!"

Everyone has something that they do well, everyone.  One of our life's challenges is to learn what that is in ourselves. Another, probably more important challenge, is to appreciate the individual genius in each of those about us.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Let there be Light!

This is just a little post today, because it's a little thought really.

I've enjoyed the last few weeks.  There have been some things in my life that have been needing to change for a long time and with a lot of divine help, I've finally been able to tackle some of the biggest of these.

It's been quiet, and I doubt even the people who've spent the most time with me have noticed much of a difference, but it's made a big difference in my head and heart, and in the way I see the world.  And myself, I suppose.

Anyway,  (and I'm getting to the promised 'little thought', I promise).  I've been thinking a bit lately about the process of change.  Especially when we're trying to pull ourselves out of a rut, or when we think we're stuck, or when everything seems a little dark and dreary.  For many years I've mistakenly (at times, because I do know better, really) spent my energies on the method of 'trying to get rid of the darkness'.  Which is pretty much impossible to do while you're sitting there in the dark (if that makes sense).

And something my Dad said to me a few years ago has been floating around my head (and I'm paraphrasing, because I can't remember his exact words but I've got the sentiment down):  "The best way to get rid of darkness is to introduce light".  You don't get rid of darkness so that there's room for the light. You just introduce the light, and the darkness is forced to recede.

And I guess I just wanted to second those wise words. Introducing light will probably mean different things to each of us at different times.  Sometimes it literally means opening the window and letting in some light, other times (most times) it means spiritually increasing the light in our lives (it's no coincidence that Christ is called 'the light of the world'). 

Maybe it's simply doing something that will make someone else (and thereby us) smile.

But whatever it is for you, this has made a big difference for me.  It's harder to get discouraged about all the perceived failures in our lives when there's an ever increasing amount of light in our outlook.

So, there you have it. Friday's post.

There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.
Robert Alden

xo Tammy

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In Cahoots!

The other day I was washing some dishes, and realised that I hadn't heard from the girls for a while.  I dried my hands and tiptoed down to the playroom to see what they were up to.  When I peeked in, I saw them both sitting under the little table in there together.  My first thought was a heartwarming 'How sweet and cute - they're playing under the table all snuggled up together!' - but almost immediately afterwards I stopped and caught the feeling of espionage in the room.  I dropped to my knees so I could see under the table, and poked my head in again.  I couldn't see much, but I could see little bits of... something...paper?... scattered around.  They were passing something back and forth between them.  It took me a second, but I realised that they were devouring a packet of fruit Mentos I'd picked up at the checkout of the shops last week to meet an eftpos minimum!!

Just in case you don't know what Mentos are... (Mum had to ask :))

They're little round, chewy lollies:

I immediately retreated, so that I could stop giggling and be at least a little stern-faced before going in and confiscating their spoils!  I separated them in different corners of our little house for a little 'sit out', and then called them together to talk about what they'd done.  As I explained to them that they needed to ask me if they wanted to eat something, and that stealing lollies from wherever they found them and hiding out under a table to eat them was wrong, I noticed that they kept sidewards glancing at each other, secretly delighted to be 'in it together'.  As soon as I 'dismissed' them, they soberly apologised, then grinned delightedly at each other and ran off together giggling.

What is it about the situation that's made me grin, all warm and fuzzy thinking about it ever since?!  It wasn't their clear respect for what I was saying to them or their obvious resolve never to sneak lollies into Maggie's bedroom again.  And I can say with certainty that if I'd found either of them at it alone, I would have been completely unimpressed... okay, a little bit impressed if Ana had gotten them off the high bench and thought to hide and eat them all by herself!!  But I loved that they were 'in it together'.  I love that it brought back familiar feelings from growing up, and being 'in it together' with whatever sister or brother I was getting up to no good with at the time!!  I love that Maggie has Ana firmly under her wing, and is constantly teaching her everything she knows - from colouring in to playing with dolls to sneaking under the table in her bedroom to eat Mentos!!

When I was pregnant with one of our girls, I read in a parenting magazine that came in our Bounty bag (a bag they give you at your hospital appointments, full of samples and advertising and coupons - I love it! :)) an article about the benefits of having a big family.  I just tried to Google it but can't find the exact one, but it talked about the fact that even though parents are worried that they won't be able to give as much of themselves to each child if they have many - or even more than one - children gain a LOT from their siblings that you can't gain in the same way, from parents.  I love what I see the girls getting and learning from each other, so much!! I feel like the best gift we've ever given Maggie was a little pocket-sized sister to be her best friend, and to play with and get into 'cahoots' with!!  And the best gift we've given Ana is a big sister to love and adore her and dress her up and teach her the ways of her world! :)

So I'm sure sneaking lollies will lose it's charm for me if it continues, but as long as these two remain in cahoots (hopefully with more constructive and less deviant plots as they get older!) I think I'll be happy :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Grownup Birthdays

So, I have a birthday coming up. 

Please note: your comments on this post should probably include some kind of birthday message...  :)

When we were kids, mum (and dad, but mainly because he was married to mum) did birthdays bigThere were seven of us kids, but we almost always had a birthday party.  And what parties they were! I was Wonder Woman when I was four, Snow White when I was six, and a witch more times than I can count (when you're born on Halloween, that kind of comes with the territory). 

I remember going to the Opera with mum and a friend and her mum one year.  I remember a sleep over with a ton of friends (with pancakes in the morning of course).  There was the year (I would have been seven or eight I think?) when I had a dinner party with my friends and all of mum's fancy silverware and crockery, where we wore pink, and drank something pink, and Dad (again, because he was married to mum) served our dinner in a fancy outfit complete with a pink bow-tie.  There was the birthday party where everyone bought their favourite dolls, and my brother Micky brought his ET doll.  There was another dinner party in my teenage years that we had at the foot of the kangaroo point cliffs - complete with chairs, tables and candles.  

There was the year I turned 17 and was too stressed for a party (with my A-Mus piano exam and final grade 12 exams), but mum and dad threw me a surprise birthday party a week later at the local pool with a ton of friends, that took me ages to figure out was actually a party for me ('oh goodness, is that all my friends over there? They're having a party without me.  Poor things, they'll probably be all embarrassed if I suddenly show up. Maybe I should leave?...'). There was the amazing Halloween Party my sister and mum threw for me with awesome games and crazy costumes and decorations and food galore that people are STILL talking about.  There was the year I turned 16 and we had a jukebox and a ton of people and the neighbours called the police because they thought it was too noisy (it wasn't, as the police said when they came, our neighbours were just nasty... but everyone was very impressed at school the next week that my party had had the police called on it.... I probably shouldn't have included this story because I think it still makes mum feel a little sick to the stomach...)

The list could go on and on.  As I said, we did birthdays big, and were obviously some of the luckiest children on earth (as dad would point out every now and again... because in his family (and he didn't seem to think this was such a bad idea) the kids took turns and one kid each year got a party.  Thank goodness for mum, huh?!).

Anyway.  I have a birthday coming up. But I'm turning 31, and am obviously getting a little too old for huge fusses and elaborate birthday parties. Right?  I mean, I have been for some time now.

So instead, I'm going to quietly take next Wednesday off work, and Mum has kindly agreed to hang out with me for the whole day (which I love, since it was mum who actually 'gave birth' to me all those years ago...  All those loooooonnnnnggggg years ago.... soooo long ago...  do you feel as old as you must be to have a 31 year old daughter, mum?)  Anyway, I'm not sure what we'll do, but I'm kind of excited about it.  We can do whatever we want to do really, since it's a birthday :)

Oh, and then on Friday next week I'm going to have 31 friends/family over for dinner to celebrate.  Because when you've had parties your whole life, it's kind of hard to give them up. 

Even when you're a grownup.

xo Tammy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Best Dress-Ups!

Although I wrote here that I don't much like shopping, the truth is that I recently spent some very happy moments purchasing not just one or two, but..  (ok, I don't really want to count them up because it might have been a lot) - perhaps I'll just admit to several gorgeous complete outfits with all the trimmings.  And you should be imagining full-length confections perfectly suitable for a princess and the occasional fairy or two, because I'm talking dress-ups!  With Christmas coming up you might have a daughter, niece, grand-daughter or friend who would love these too..   ?

      Traditional Cinderella Bundle 

With five little girly grandchildren aged four and under, you can believe that dress-ups had already re-entered our lives in recent months.  It has taken me back to the days when our children loved to ransack the dress-up basket to produce an ever-amusing parade of sartorial splendor!  (I'd show you photographs but they might have to kill me.)  All this led me a few months ago to a dedicated internet search for the best (and best deal) in children's costumes.  And Readers, we have a winner!

Snow White  *NEW* Teal Fairy - Click Image to Close 

All of these images are from are from the Little Adventures website.  The business was started ten years ago by two mothers in Utah who were themselves looking for high-quality, affordable dress-ups to buy.  When they couldn't find any to buy, they began to sew and sell their own designs.  You'll find Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine,  Rapunzel, Snow White and others here.  What I like about these costumes is..

Pink Parisian PrincessYellow Beauty - Click Image to Close

They are so pretty!  (And modest too.)  Because the bodices are made from a stretch velvet, the children quickly learn how easy it is to dress and undress themselves - there are no buttons or zips or even velcro to worry about.  All the clothes are machine washable.  The fabrics are light and cool for our climate.  Once ironed, I've found them to be crease-resistant.  (I know, no one else will probably even care about this, but I'm happy :)  None of the fabrics are the least bit itchy, and the inner seams are well finished.  Various reviews highlight that they fit well, are comfortable, long-lasting, well-made - in short, as the Little Adventures company promises: they are 'affordable, comfortable, washable and adorable'!

*NEW* Royal Rapunzel - Click Image to Close   

(The price for each of these outfits is $29.99 plus postage.  Although you can find a few of these costumes on the odd Australian site, I've found it much cheaper to buy directly through the US site, where there is also access to the full catalog. You can see what they have available on their wholesaler's catalog here.  This won't show the prices, but you can view the entire range.)

Since these beautiful costumes and their various accessories arrived, we have hosted many very happy play dates with several different lots of children.  Although I did not think the boys would be too bothered, I've found that I completely underestimated their interest, and have since ordered some boy costumes for them to enjoy too.

Who doesn't love getting dressed up occasionally?


Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Motivation - Kindness

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do so with no thought of any reward.  Your life will never be the same again.”   ― Og Mandino

kindness inspires kindness kindness

Friday, October 19, 2012

More Household Heroes!

Back here I wrote about some Homely Household Heroes.   This post adds a few more of my favourite around-the-house things to that list..  

(If you click on the title of each, you can read other reviews or more info. on these favourite things.)

It's a big claim - to be the world's best anything, but this knife sharpener, all things considered, may just rightly deserve the appellation.  Our daughter bought this for us at a shopping centre demonstration.  (Which we don't hold against it :) Ours sits in a drawer and is whipped out and suction-stuck to the bench whenever we are cooking.  It's so easy to use that I sharpen the knife every time I need it.  It takes a couple of seconds and no effort, and sharpens better than I have ever managed before.  Works on scissors and other blades too.  Love it!     

You know when your shoe toes or heels start flapping and 'talking' to you?  With teenage boys in our home it was a pretty frequent occurrence with their leather school shoes and occasionally their sports shoes.  If you look up this product you will find a whole list of directions on how to use it - but never having read those before (actually, I didn't much read them this time either, truth be told) - I used to just grab the tube, squeeze out some globs of the goo into the space between the sole and upper, wipe away the excess with a wet finger, and weight the shoe under the leg of the kitchen  table to cure overnight.  It turns out that you can also use shoe goo for waterproofing, and, amazingly, to actually repair even large holes in the sole of your shoe!  Our experience was that the rest of the shoe was more likely to fall apart before the repair did. Wonderful stuff to have on hand!  Shoe Goo has truly saved many a sole!  :)

I've just discovered this one after our real estate lady put me onto it - she tells me that they use it in their rental properties all the time.   It is like using an eraser on the walls to remove marks - without that smudge you usually leave after cleaning.  I've heard of people using this on furniture and in other applications too.  Pretty amazing!

Vanish Powershot: removes stains from carpets quickly and easily

This has been one of my favourite products for a while.   It seems to magically remove even bad marks from our pale carpet.  If a mark doesn't come off with this, it's probably there to stay.  So easy to use.  Love having it in the cupboard.

I'm that person with almost constant hay-fever and allergies that everyone knows they can always ask for a tissue.  Since changing to these AloeVera tissues some years ago I am now never bothered by the the sore, chapped, red nose I used to regularly endure - the one you've probably endured before too when you've had a bad cold.  These tissues are wonderfully soft-skin friendly.  They have changed my life!  (It's not a huge change in comparison to say, childbirth, but it's been significant nonetheless :)  I highly recommend these!


This Total Effects Serum glides onto your skin like silk!  A small squirt covers your whole face because it spreads so well - and feels wonderful on your skin, leaving it feeling smooth and hydrated.  I fell in love with this the first time I used it!  The Regenerist Syrum is supposed to be even better.  

Apparently some people use this very successfully as a nappy rash preventative (click on the link to read some reviews). In our family we've used it mainly to treat and prevent prickly heat and other rashes.  When our children came home from school on a hot day with heat rash under their arms, this is what went on after their baths, and was always immediately effective. Great for use between skin folds, and as a protection against all sorts of skin rashes for all ages.  (We've always used baby powder after showers and baths, but this is particularly effective when you need something more.)

A friend introduced me to these at her home today.  I was wondering about all the pictures she had hanging in their rental house, and Rani gave me a glowing endorsement of these 3M hanging strips, saying that she will now use nothing else! The link in the title will take you to more reviews.  With Christmas decorating time on approach, these sound like a perfect way to hang everything without pockmarking your walls!

And on that Christmas note...

Christmas decorations

Only 66 Days until Christmas!!!

Do you have any products or favourite things that you think everybody should know about?  I'd love to hear if there is something you would like to share :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Magic Moments :)

Okay, so I'm super pressed for time today, because James is taking his LAST exam tomorow morning, and needs the computer between now and then to study.  He's just called one of his mates to discuss some of the stuff they need to know, so I've jumped on quickly!

Of course everything's gone out of my head completely, and all I can think of is the not very creative, pretty in routine day I had with the girls.  Fortunately every day has some magic in it, so I thought I'd share some of my favourite moments :)
  1. The girls woke me up this morning, cuddling me and grinning at me and trying to press their faces riiight up against mine!  Instant love claustrophobia :)  Then they said, "Can we see Baby Bruva?!" (have I mentioned we're having a boy?!), and when I lifted up my shirt so they could see my tummy, they started blowing rasberries simultaneously and 'tickling the Baby Bruva' and giggling their heads off together.  They gave my belly a big hug and rested their heads on it, and Maggie whispered "I love you SO MUCH, Baby Bruva!" :)
  2. This morning I was holding Ana, but I put her down when I was making her breakfast so I could use both hands to cut the banana.  She started crying her eyes out and ran straight over to Maggie.  Maggie gave her a big hug and asked, "What's wrong, Buddy?  What's wrong, litttle buddy?!".  Ana started speaking in her own language, accentuated with emphatic gestures in my direction and ending with a mountain of tears and covering her face with her hands!  Maggie gave her a big hug, and while patting her on the back said sternly to me over Ana's shoulder, 'Mummy, you made Ana so sad!!!".  I said "I just needed to put her down while I chopped up the banana for the Weet Bix", and Maggie said "Ana buddy, it's okay - Mummy is chopping up your banana!  How about we get in our high chairs, okay?!"  and then she led Ana over to the table, and climbed into her high chair.  When she noticed Ana couldn't quite make it into hers, she said "Mummy, can you please come and help Ana into her high chair?  She can't reach it!" :)  Then she spoke reassuringly to her 'little buddy' until it was time to eat :)  (gush!)
  3. I taught the girls some Christmas songs.  We started with "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph", and they loved shouting in at the ends of phrases.  Then I talked to them about how Christmas is when we celebrate the birthday of the little baby Jesus, and sung them 'Away in a Manger'.  The spirit instantly changed in our little conversation, and Maggie said "Mummy that was so beautiful, it's like I am a Child of God"!  And then we sang that one too :)
  4. Tonight I went to the hospital for a pregnancy check up.  When it came time to hear the heartbeat the midwife found it instantly, and it was strong and wonderful to hear :)  I can't believe we have a little boy coming to join our family in a few months!!!!! :)  I can't believe we get to have another perfect little newborn!!  And the girls are probably grateful, because I'll probably let them keep getting older as long as we have little ones to keep the pace :)
  5. When I got home from hospital I went in to kiss Maggie goodnight.  She drew me in for a cuddle and said "Mummy I wanted you but you were gone!".  I said I was sorry that I wasn't there earlier, but that I was back now, and she smiled and snuggled into her blankets.
Today my magic moments were all about the little ones, but I think if we stop and think about it, every day can have a little bit of that!  I know when I was teaching there were many magic moments with the children in my class, and interacting with anyone, or even just being out of doors, I think we can all find them and feel grateful :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Everyone has a story...

I came across a show on BYUtv sometime last year that I've taken to watching online when I get a moment.  It's called 'The Story Trek' and you can check it out here.

I. Love. This. Show.

The premise behind the show is that everyone has a story worth telling.  It's a little show and the budget's obviously not huge, but in a nutshell Todd the presenter takes his crew to various towns/cities, and then they start door knocking until they find people willing to let them in and be interviewed for the show.  I imagine sometimes it takes a while, but these stories, well, they're wonderful.

Even more than the individual stories and the actual show though, I love the idea behind the show. Because I have long believed (and thanks for backing me up here Todd) that there is something interesting, and special and, well time-worthy in everyone. If you just take the time to look.

During my film degree I definitely found myself leaning more towards the academic side of the curriculum than to the practical side.  But my very favourite of the practical stuff was the personal documentary genre.  Somewhat randomly, the National Film Board of Canada has a really wonderful reputation (and I'd suspect quite a healthy budget) for having produced some remarkable documentaries over the decades, and they really have this personal doco thing down.  I remember watching films on all sorts of wonderful 'unremarkable' people from train track cleaners to marching girls, and I think that's when I first fell in love with this style of production.  Because so many of them were people that you would probably never have looked twice at.  They lived 'small' lives, but when you got to spend an hour with them, well, you realized just how interesting they were, and you couldn't help but feel a little sad that the people you saw walking past them on the streets didn't seem to see it.

Without a doubt, my favourite part of the job I have today is interviewing people.  Especially if the video we're making gives me a little leeway to spend some time portraying who they are and what their lives are like.  Because honestly, people are divine.  And spending time with people, and seeing them (really seeing them) is about all the testimony I need to know that we really are children of a magnificent God.  

If it was a little more socially acceptable to walk up to strangers and start questioning them about the intimate details of their lives, I'd probably spend a fair amount of time doing just that.  BUT, since it's not, I find it helpful to remember as I walk through the grocery store, or sit on a bus, or find myself waiting in a line or being surrounded by a crowd, that each and every one of these people are gems.  Even the ones who maybe aren't doing the things they should be doing. They're amazing, and if I could get to know them, (really know them), there'd doubtless be something about them that would inspire me to be a little better myself.

So a smile, a nod, an impromptu conversation, or at least a general feeling of goodwill, is always worth out time :)

xo Tammy

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest Post - Rani: The Merciful Plant

(We are grateful to Rani for today's guest post!   You might remember Rani from 
this great post about cake decorating.  You can also access her own Blog here. )

If there was a colour opposite to green, my thumbs would share its name.

I do NOT have green thumbs. My thumbs do not even closely resemble the colour green. I’m not spearmint green, or even aqua green. So when it comes to growing vegetables, flowers and herbs, I fail miserably every. single. time. How is this possible, I hear you ask? Well, it’s a long and miserable story, but if you’re interested, read this (“What’s the Opposite of Green?”) for further clarification.

So today I am going to share with you something that even non-green thumbs like myself can grow...
I’m talking about… BAMBOO!


I know, it’s a pretty random plant to have in your home. But, it’s real. Check this out:

This beautiful, green leafy plant is growing in my home. And boy is it growing! I love it; I love its colour, its leaf, even the funny little roots that tangle in the bottom of the vase. I love this plant.

And it loves meJ

I discovered bamboo when I went to a professional photo shoot sitting with my three girls. The Asian lady who owned the business had a large vase of them in her windowless office. I instantly liked them. They were dark green and unique. I had never seen anything like them. She was given them by a florist friend “years” ago. All she had to do was change the water every now and again and trim them from the top, not the bottom.

 Years? Change water every now and again? I had to have them!

So off I went. For days I asked every florist I passed whether they sold them. No one did. But then, as if like lightening, a bolt of inspiration struck me. I needed an Asian florist! So off to Sunnybank I went. Sure enough, the first Asian florist I went to sold beautiful bright green stems. I was actually surprised at the colour, because the photographer’s bamboo was very dark green, but I can now assume it was probably due to the lack of natural light in the office. (Hello, doesn't even need natural light to survive?!) But I definitely preferred the bright light green ones I found this day. I bought five, at $5 each. The following month I bought two more J.

Well, it’s been almost three years, and my bamboo is still thriving! If anything, my house is overflowing with it!  The stems grow from the top and they shoot up in long stems. If you don’t want them too long, they must be trimmed from the top. If the leaves get a little yellow/brown on the tips, just use scissors to trim the colour off (into the shape of a leaf).

The roots grow very long and intertwine with each other, but they can be cut apart if desired, or even trimmed back so they don’t intertwine. The stems grow taller by smaller shoots branching off from the major stem, but it somehow maintains the straight up-right position as it grows. The water should not sit too high in the vase when you first begin. Only about 6cm of water in the bottom should be enough. Then as the roots grow and intertwine you will need to add more to keep the roots moist.

Many of my older stems now have faded cut-off marks where I have trimmed them down because I want to keep them confined to the size of the vase I sit them in. But I keep all the cut-offs in glass bottles around my house and I love to see the roots sprout from the ends (usually around 1-2 weeks later). I watch as the little stems grow longer and longer, stronger and stronger, and I think to myself… “look at me..  I’m like a plant physician!” It’s quite exhilarating. J

When long enough newly grown stems will one day join their original stems and make my vase even fuller and more lush.

Needless to say, I have bamboo all over the place, and I think I always will. I love how fresh it is, I love how it adds a pop of colour to any space. But what I love more than anything else is the fact that there is not one single speck of brown dirt anywhere! Water is the ONLY thing this wondrous plant requires to survive – and even thrive! Now THAT is my kind of plant. J

So maybe I do have green thumb after all? Well, bamboo green, anyway..  J

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Mirth - Mummy's Favourite Colour

It was Abby's birthday last week.  Her husband James took their two lovely little girls for a visit to the shops, in order for each of them to choose her own present for Mummy.

Two year old Maggie excitedly announced several times on the car ride there: "Daddy, Mummy likes purple!"  She was pretty definite about it.  Which was a little strange because people on four continents know that hot pink is Abby's signature colour.

Maggie saw what she wanted immediately in the chocolate aisle and made a bee-line for the boxes of Cadbury's Favourites.  "Mummy likes purple!"  Maggie grinned up at James.

Cadbury Favourites boxed chocolates 300g

(How is that for a well-trained child?! :)

Happy Birthday Abbadabs!! :)

(If you can find a photo of Abs where she is not wearing pink and eating Cadbury's chocolates, it is probably worth a fortune..  :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Don't Like Shopping, But....

I love shopping so much that I actually list it as one of my hobbies. I will regularly spend hours in my local shopping centre, catching up on the latest trends and people watching. My perfect day would be spent strolling around the shops followed by lunch and a movie. On my own. I don't like having to wait for someone until they finish in a shop, I like to do my pace and my pace only.

I really don't much like shopping.  So much so that my husband does most of our grocery shopping. (He says it relaxes him!).  I can get excited over a book shop or two.. or three, but that's about it...

HOWEVER - I recently discovered some very cheap shopping that I am glad to pass on  :)  Perhaps you already know about these sites and I am the last one to the party?  But if not, please let me introduce you to -     Where everything on the site is only $1 !  That is my kind of shopping!  (I did a huge shop here on Saturday.)  For up to 70 items, the shipping costs are $14.95.  That works out to be about 21c per item for P and H.  Items available for $1 include 500g of Duo washing powder, 450ml of Morning Fresh detergent, 200ml of Pantene shampoo, etc, etc.  The best deal seemed to be Nescafe down from $11 to $1 a jar, (I don't drink coffee though, so..), but there were savings of $3 to $6 on each item for a lot of the stock.  It seems unbelievable and I have no idea how they can be in business ..  So, perhaps get in quickly before the site is not there anymore? :)  Actually, with more of these sites opening up all the time, it seems that this is more and more the way to shop.  I don't like shopping but I do like a bargain!

I like you enough that I don't care what we do, I'd even go grocery shopping with you

(Just to clarify:  This is not a paid advertisement, as much as it may perhaps sound like one.
Just me, impressed to be getting a good deal, I promise :)

submitted by photalkr :)
(Did you know there is a whole site devoted to curly hair problems?  They are up to problem 939 - and counting.  Some understanding at last! :)

If you are interested in other good shopping deals, then please be my guest to look here:

I also quite like the look of this site for future white goods' purchases:

Do you know of any other good shopping deals that you can share??

I feel like a failure! I've been shopping for 20 years and I still don't have anything to wear.

And, in related, (but not-too-closely) news - I may not love shopping but I do rather like these European shopping bags!   I think my favourite is the lady with the plaits.  She just looks so happy :)

European Shopping bags. I need to know why we don't have cool shopping bags like these

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like...

Ha! - and you thought my Halloween post was early! :)

I know, it's ridiculously early, but I honestly LOVE everything about the Christmas season, and I am so excited to feel it beginning!!  It's in the air, don't you think?!  The fact that when you wake up at 5:30am it's already light, and you're in your summer pj's because it's even getting hot at dawn now....wanting to jump in the for togs... feeling like ice cream instead of hot chocolates... uni winding down for James :)  It's my birthday this week, and I feel like I kind of 'kick off' the Christmas season.  It's around the time that all the decorations start appearing in the stores, and I don't know about everyone else, but I am excited and tingly walking through all the new Christmas displays!!! :)  I want to go to the shops, all the time!

This year especially, I've been trying to get a lot of Christmas stuff planned early, because we've got a lot on around Christmas time - James is graduating (yay!!!) and our little baby #3 is due in January, along with James and Maggie's birthdays.  In fact, my first thought upon seeing Christmas displays in the shops was that I could finally buy cute Christmas gift wrap to wrap up some of the presents I've already made for some of our family.  I would really, really love to share the idea with you - but it would ruin Christmas for half the family, so I'll let you know before next year ;)  

Anyway, here's some of the stuff I'm getting REALLY excited about for Christmas this year :)

  • Going to look at some Christmas lights!!! :)  There is a cul-de-sac about a 20 minute drive from our place, where every single house goes crazy with Christmas lights!!  The picture up the top is one I took from there last year or the year before, and here are a couple of others...

There are a few interactive displays as well - a Santa who's a chair so you can get your photo taken with Santa, a couple of Santas who dance, along with some of the watching children, and one house even sets up a big toy area for the children, right on their driveway!!  You can even get your photo taken some years with the snow queen!! (Who is apparently visiting from one of the poles, and is well out of her comfort climate! :))

Most of the displays are more Santa-centred, but I was excited to see the wise men chilling out on somebody's roof :)

  • Going into Brisbane City to see what there's to see!!  Let's face it:  There's actually not a great deal to see, but there's the giant Christmas Tree in King George Square: 

And the Myer Centre Christmas Window Displays!!  The first year we went, it was the Nutcracker, and last year it was about Santa coming to town :)  Maggie stood in front of them and danced for ages, much to the delight of the little crowd.  Hopefully this time Ana is awake for and excited by all this too!! :)

  • Decorating...!!!  Yay!!!! :)  And let's face it, all this stuff is about a MILLION times more fun due to the fact that the girls are now at ages where it's actually exciting and they can remember things and understand them enough to look forward to them and enjoy them!! :)   

  • Wrapping and giving gifts with the girls.  Last year, Maggie was beginning to be a little more excited about giving things to people: 

But this year she understands so much better, and Ana will be in on the fun more too!!  I plan on saving a bunch of gifts for close family to wrap, until a day or two beforehand, so that we can wrap them with the girls and they'll be super excited to give them to people the next day :)  So much fun!!!

  • I guess when you're first married, most of Christmas is divided between your two families, but as you grow your own more traditions start to pop up!  One we've had going for a few years now is a special little Christmas breakfast: 

And we're hoping to start having a great deal of fun together on Christmas Eve as well - acting out the Nativity together with the children and having a nice dinner together maybe??  While we wrap some presents??  Sing some carols together?!  Does anyone have any other ideas for us?!!  I am so excited to start fun, new traditions!! :)

  • Visiting our family on Christmas as well of course!! :)   There's nothing like going home for Christmas, and my family 'do' Christmas in a big way - it's so much fun now seeing the next generation enjoying it all together and spending time together!!! :)  Last year we went to NSW to spend Christmas Day with James' extended family, so we had 'fake' Christmas a week early with my family.  This year James' parents are going overseas for Christmas, so we're having an early 'fake' Christmas with them! :)  (the more the merrier!!! :))

  • Setting up the nativity!!  I know, you may think this belongs with 'decorate', but this was my very favourite part growing up.  This is the family nativity set I grew up with at my parents' house: 

I used to play with them like a doll set - acting out the nativity over and over, with the shepherds, wise men and Mary and Joseph interacting however I imagined they would!  They used to look as wooden as they are, but one year Mum decorated them using gold leaf - they're gorgeous, and I want them.  Mum and Dad did buy us a gorgeous Willow Tree nativity set a couple of years ago for Christmas though that I also love.  I think I could be happy with 25 different nativity sets around my house one day - I love them so much!!  And they are what Christmas is all about!!  I hope our children love them too :)

  • The food.  James thinks our family is a little food crazy - we seem to have special food associated with every special occasion.  I love it :)  Last year we branched out, and Dad made a turkey for the very first time: 

Doesn't it look incredible?!  Especially for a first time effort! - it was fabulous :)   And we always go a bit overboard with desserts:

A couple of very healthy looking yummy salads there, along with a couple of other bits and pieces... :)

  • Christmas music!!!  Today I was watching an old episode of The West Wing.  It was a Christmas episode, and a group of male a Capella singers called 'The Whiffenpoofs' were singing so incredibly beautifully, I actually found myself Googling 'Whiffenpoofs'.  I found them.  They're a Yale singing group who've been around forEVER (I'm assuming they get new members as the old ones graduate) AND they have a Christmas CD!!! :)  You can find it here.  I don't know whether to buy it now, or in a month or two.  I think it will be gorgeous.  I also notice Olivia Newton John & John Travolta are releasing a new one, and so are Lady Antebellum.  Choices, choices! - I'm so excited!! And I love all the albums I already have!! I love Christmas songs!! And I love that the girls love singing so much, and I can't wait to teach them Christmas songs!!!!  When do you think it's too early to start?  I mean, they have to first learn them, and then be able to sing them throughout the season!!!
  • Ward Christmas Parties!!!
  • Baking Christmas treats with the girls!!!
  • Gingerbread houses!!!
  • The beach!
  • Walking through shops that are overcrowded, because EVERYBODY is trying to buy EVERYBODY fun presents!!! :)
  • Boxing Day!! (does it get any better?!!)
  • Candles
  • Everybody getting time off work and hanging out together! :)
  • The musical Christmas program at church the Sunday before Christmas!!!  (yay!!!)
  • Everything.
So is anyone else out there 'feeling it'?!!  Or were you rolling your eyes when you walked past all the commercial displays that have been popping up?!!  Do you have any fun traditions that you think I should adopt?! (I'm pretty open!)  Christmas present ideas?!  

I'm pretty excited, bring it all on!!! :)