Monthly Archives: November 2014

Daily Gratitude

Today I am grateful for:

1. Living in a safe, friendly community, where I can give my kids free rein in public spaces knowing that others will look out for their safety too.

2. My husband cooking some fabulous roast beef for dinner this evening while I relaxed with the kids.

3. Gorgeous sunsets (technically this was from yesterday but I skipped a day so am including it here now).

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What are you grateful for today?

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Hello Little Bloggy

Sorry I’ve been neglecting you a bit. Everything’s kind of falling by the wayside right now. I feel like all the gains I’ve made since I started you have slipped away and I’m stuck back in the mire of chaos and laziness.

My depression ain’t so mild anymore – mostly thanks to you, tbh. You’re really helpful when my head is good, but just one more broken commitment to myself when my head is bad. I’ve actually sucked it up and started back on medication (Go Team Lexapro! Give it all you’ve got!) as my mood swings were getting way too extreme for my liking. I don’t really like being medicated but this isn’t about me.

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I was really hoping you’d help me stop feeling like a broken record but here we are again after all. Back at the slump. Feeling like a bug pinned to a page, legs flailing for purchase but helpless to move, the ol’ black dog happily padding out a circle to make herself comfy in the pit of my chest.

So I’m throwing my hands up for now and waving the white flag. Back to coasting through life as best I can and just surrendering to the chaos and randomness. All goals are off – except one.

Three Things I’m Grateful For Today:

1. Sweet cuddles with my two year old.

2. A cool change after some stinking hot weather.

3. Casual conversations with local mums at school drop-off that help pull me out of my own head.

I’ll try to post three things each morning – but with no pressure. Hopefully things can build up momentum again soon.

Operation 6th Birthday Party: The Reckoning

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Well after all that stress, it went smashingly. PHEW! I didn’t end up taking many photos though – I never do when I have a party at home. Too busy running around organising stuff and making sure everyone is having a good time.

We were setting things up right up to the start time (and a little beyond). Hubby did an amazing job rigging up one tarp for a shady seating area, laying out the other at the end of the yard to minimise mud, and just generally cleaning up the outdoor space. I also improvised some extra shade by pegging some old curtains across the Hill’s Hoist and filling the gaps with draped streamers and balloons so the wading pools could have some extra cover (we’d found the curtains during the big clean up last weekend and I almost threw them out, but decided at the last minute to give them a wash and see if we might use them for something after all. Score 1 for hoarding tendencies!). Then we put a few trays of chalk down the side passage next to our house for a quiet arty space and filled a bunch of plastic spray bottles, to add to the tub of water balloons I’d prepped the day before.

My parents had given us a little extra cash towards the party so I threw the idea of a tight budget out the window and bought everything at our local supermarket, even the cake (at the end of the day, kids don’t give a shit how gourmet your cake is. They just want it in their faces right now!!). Given my propensity to over-cater I basically bought only slightly more food than I normally would for a much smaller party and hoped for the best.

I got a platter of veggie sticks, rice crackers, grapes and dips sorted and upended a bag of popcorn and some mixed lollies into bowls. I also had a cheese platter, baby franks, watermelon and chips held back in reserve, plus a bunch of wrapped lollies and chocolates for a piñata and, of course, the birthday cake – which I put together two hours before the party started and hid from prying eyes (actually pretty chuffed about this as I’m normally getting it on a stand and looking for candles in the middle of the party).

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Kids started turning up bang on the start time while I was still filling the wading pools and getting the first wave of food out. Thankfully I had my mum and another good friend around to help set things up as hubby was still out getting ice and extra cups for the drinks. The kids didn’t mind though – they went straight for the wading pools and started splashing around. Someone put our little slide over the edge of the bigger pool and the kids happily formed a line to take turns sliding into it while I grabbed some ball pit balls and plastic tea party sets to add to the mix, along with another big tub of water with watering cans and other pouring tools.

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I took a moment to relax and chat with the other parents and cuddle my Little Miss who – true to form – had not napped and was super sooky and clingy through the whole thing. We ended up going inside and setting her up on the couch with the iPad and a bowl of chips so I could keep doing stuff, as I had yet to make my piñata bags.

I really wish I’d taken photos of them! Basically I laid out four alternating squares of coloured crepe paper, piled the sweets in the middle and tied them into bags with ribbon. Then I tied them to two arms of the Hill’s Hoist and handed out big sponges. The kids then tried to hit the bags with wet sponges while I spun the clothesline in circles. It was SO MUCH FUN, with water going everywhere – they grabbed spray bottles and water balloons to try out too. I just wish I’d had more layers of crepe paper, as they burst open far sooner than I would have liked. Not that the kids minded when there were sweets to be scavenged all over the ground.

I then set up the sprinkler and tried to get a game of limbo going, but the kids just weren’t interested so I left them to their free play. Unfortunately unbeknownst to me somebody had flipped the clam shell pool over and one of the kids put her foot through it as she tried to jump off. No major damage done (to her foot anyway – the pool was totalled!) but I figured that was a good time to do the cake and set up the slip’n’slide.

The cake was SPECTACULAR.

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My oldest lost her shit when she saw it! I’d grabbed a few of her favourite toys to swim in the M&M and Kit Kat pools along with the piggy candles I’d found. I just wish I’d bought two chocolate cakes rather than one chocolate and one banana – a few kids missed out on their first choice once the chocolate one ran out. Kicking myself a bit over that one.

Still, they all got over it once the slip’n’slide was up and running! Hubby bought a bottle of dish liquid to get it super slippery and some of the parents pitched in to drag the kids along for extra fun.

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I got Mum to put the rest of the food out and then started putting together the “party bags” in the kitchen. I’d bought a bunch of disposable coffee cups with lids and put a small bottle of bubbles (the type you blow, not the type you drink), a few stickers and a handful of water balloons in each. The plan then was to invite the kids to grab some lollies to put in – but there were none left! So I popped in 2-3 jellybeans each from our small stash and figured the parents would thank me for that anyway.

Slowly it all started winding down as people decided it was time to leave. The general consensus was that it was a heap of fun and the perfect day for it. I couldn’t be happier! The best bit? My Birthday Girl had a fantastic time, with no tears or meltdowns, and wants to do it all again next year.

Things I improved on compared to previous years:

I started thinking about it and planning things out way earlier than normal. Hello? Paper invitations? Activities? Party bags?! I have literally never been organised enough to do these things before!

I had a slightly more realistic view of what I could achieve and had no qualms about dropping things as necessary.

We actually physically did things a day or two *in advance* (filling water balloons, covering the clothesline, cleaning) rather than just thinking about it.

I was able to stop and enjoy it at times and any tasks that I needed to do throughout the party went smoothly thanks to me having a clear, simple vision about it.

I hardly micromanaged my support team and just enjoyed the help rather than itching to “do it right.”

Pretty much nailed the amount of food we needed – in fact, could’ve done with slightly more. Am also really stoked about having the cake ready before things started. I cannot emphasise enough how rare that is.

Things I still need to improve on

Completely blew any budget out of the water – it actually would’ve been cheaper to hire a play centre or something. If my parents hadn’t stepped in and given us that buffer it would have been a far more stressful experience.

Generated so much rubbish, what with all the disposable cups and water balloons and crepe paper and stuff. Plus we had heaps of leftover supplies, including a bunch of plastic forks we didn’t end up using for the cake and all the spray bottles and sponges. Sure we can use/reuse them in the future but it still isn’t ideal. I’d like to be more eco-conscious next time.

I’d like to get even more stuff done in advance next time so I can properly enjoy the party in the moment. I barely talked to any of my friends there. Plus it would really cut down on the pre-party panic attacks!

We didn’t cull any of my daughter’s toys beforehand and now have a serious glut of extra stuff. I really must get more on top of it before Christmas!!

Take more damn photos next time!

Operation 6th Birthday Party: T-14.5 Hours

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The yard is clean-ish. The house is clean-ish (mostly thanks to my best bud who came over unprompted and worked her cleaning magic! So grateful). Vague list of activities and run times formulated in my head. Half the necessary stuff for said activities outside; the rest is scattered but accessible. Hubby went to the local Bunnings and bought a bunch of cheap outdoor chairs, tarps to string up as shade, and assorted other bits and pieces to make everything easier. My mum is here to help keep kidlets entertained while we keep setting up in the morning. I got a haircut today. I know exactly what I want to do for the cake (it’s gonna be awesome!) and have a plan for nibbles.

That being said, I still have not done any grocery shopping. It’s going to have to be a mad dash in the morning, probably just around the corner rather than to cheaper stores further afield. I have no party bags made, nor have I gone through our supplies to see what we need in terms of plates, cups, etc. I’ve also not cleared out the front room as much as I thought I would or culled pre-existing toys. It’s going to be a nightmare with the influx of new stuff!!

Still, actually able to feel a bit excited underneath the dull panic. I think we’ll have a heap of fun. And if not, we’ll just make sure we have enough wine to keep the parents happy anyway…

Operation 6th Birthday Party: Progress Report

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*deep breath*

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Why did I think having the party here was a good idea? Why did I think inviting the whole class was a good idea? What is wrong with me? Where will they all fit? Where will the parents all fit? How will I entertain them for 2.5 hours? WHAT WAS I THINKING??!!!

Oh, and also?

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Stinking hot AND rain forecast. Sure, it’s a water play party, but we have limited shade at that time of day and even less shelter. People will have to come inside.

Oh, and also? MY YOUNGEST FELL DOWN OUR FREAKING BACK STAIRS THE OTHER DAY! “Big deal!” you’re thinking. “Kids fall down stuff all the time.” Well these are the stairs in question:

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She tripped on the third one, tumbled, then slid upside down on her back with her head bouncing from step to step for the lest few. She is somehow OK apart from some bruises and wicked scrapes (pretty sure she’s part Wolverine at this point) but her fall has ratcheted my normal fears about these stairs up to 11. How am I supposed to enjoy this party and be a gracious host while obsessively monitoring every child whenever they have to go up or down these things? With wet feet, no less!

If I make it through this party alive it will be a freaking miracle…

Wednesday Recipe: Two DIY Cleaning Sprays

I’m doing something a little different for my recipe this week. Shit is getting REAL over my oldest daughter’s upcoming birthday party so I’m being a bit boring on the cooking front at the moment (although not for long!) – but I am doing a bunch of cleaning and tidying around the house.

Now personally I am not a fan of most store-bought cleaners. I don’t like the expense, the smell, or the chemicals and would rather keep them out of my house wherever possible. There are a whole bunch of ideas out there for thrifty, eco-friendly cleaning solutions. I use a number of different approaches, but after much trial and error these are my two favourite sprays to make.

Citrus-Infused Vinegar

Ingredients

Discarded citrus peels
White vinegar

Method

Place citrus peels in a glass jar and cover with white vinegar. Close tightly and store in a cupboard for at least two weeks to allow the oils to infuse. Strain infused vinegar into a spray bottle and use like a normal everyday solvent.

Personally I like to combine any and all citrus peels as I use them but you can just stick to one type if you prefer. This can be used as a mild solvent on most hard surfaces but you should water it down for carpets or furnishings (I like to douse with water first and then lightly spray with the vinegar) and definitely do a spot test on anything you’re unsure about. Since it’s acidic it can etch some surfaces so research online if in doubt – there is OODLES of info about cleaning with vinegar out there!

Dusting Spray

Ingredients

Cold black tea
About a teaspoon of your Citrus Vinegar
An extra drop or two of lemon oil if you have it
3-5 drops of lavender oil
Extra water to dilute if desired

Method

Pour cold water over a tea bag in a cup and leave to infuse for at least ten minutes or so. Pour into a spray bottle and add the Citrus Vinegar and lavender oil. If the tea is particularly dark, dilute a little to reduce any marks it might leave on light surfaces (don’t worry – in my experience it doesn’t stain! Best to wipe it off ASAP though).

I love cracking out this spray before I dust and vacuum. I’ll spray it liberally into the air before and after cleaning a room. Not only does it smell gorgeous, but the tannin in the tea kills dust mites! I used to be quite sensitive to them but since I learned this trick (from Spotless by Shannon Lush, who has some more great cleaning tips here) the sneezing attacks have basically disappeared. And if I do become affected I go sniff the used tea bag that I leave on my kitchen counter until the cleaning is done and it all clears up again! Bliss.

Also, the lemon oil acts as a spider deterrent, the lavender oil as a mosquito deterrent and anti-bacterial agent, and the whole concoction works as a very mild solvent. I often spray it onto brooms and dusting cloths to help smear the oils over walls and other surfaces to keep rooms fresh-smelling and reduce incursions by creepy-crawlies.

Each batch can last for a couple of weeks but do a smell test first if it isn’t freshly made – sometimes it can stagnate and leave a bad after-smell. I always prefer to make it fresh if I have the time.

Just FYI

This week’s Sunday Soapbox isn’t so much delayed as cancelled now. Frustrating technological issues resulted in a lost post (after a decent chunk of work was put into it) and I just cannot face staying up even later to type it all out again.

*breathe*

Instead, here’s three things I’m grateful for today:

1. A good friend who recently moved away is now moving back, as things didn’t work out how they planned (she didn’t really want to leave anyway so everyone is happy about this).

2. During all the sorting last night I found some little Dr Seuss “flip the flap” books that were the first books my oldest ever let me read to her (prior to that she would scream at me and try to grab books out of my hands whenever I attempted it). I reintroduced them to her this afternoon – and she read them to me. ❤ Not gonna lie, I got a little teary.

3. We threw out about a quarter of all the stuff in our front room last night. Half of the rest will be boxed up and donated to charity (I've given up on the idea of selling anything. Just want it out the door!). I just now rearranged what is left so that the stuff that we're definitely keeping is mostly on the shelves – and took a moment to enjoy the extra floor space. Hopefully we can get all the donations out tomorrow and really let the room air and breathe for the first time in years. Feels pretty darn great.