Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mama loves wooden puzzles

This may be really sad to admit but I think I love some of the kids' toys even more than they do.

I'm very old-fashioned in that I like the kids to actually use their brains to play so I love wooden toys. Seriously. I don't even look at the price if I see something wooden - I just toss it in the basket :) and justify it later.

Wood just feels so solid, substantial and... satisfying to play with.

Anyway, I'm really not a fan of puzzles (I lack patience) but because these were wooden, I got a lot of them. For the kids.

We got ours at Westpack and besides the puzzles, I also got dominoes, counting ones, big, medium, small, etc. Tons.

But they really won my little organisational heart over when I opened this box to do what I always do with kids' puzzles (make identical marks on the back of each piece for easy packing away) and I saw they already have them pre-printed.

Be still my beating heart!

these people didn't pay me; they don't even know me!
can't you just smell the wood? mmm

How cute are they?!

I store my our puzzles either in the box if it's nice and sturdy like these, or otherwise in individual ziplock bags, labelled of course, and then all the puzzles go in a big clear plastic container.

Do you like puzzles? How do you store yours?

PS On another note, I keep hearing about all these young kids (younger than mine) doing much bigger puzzles but they all say no 0 - 3! What's up with that? Am I too rule-following?

PPS I'm linking up with Julia today for the Mama loves linky party :)

Manic Mother

Friday, June 29, 2012

{Friendship Friday} where do I stand on my half-year friendship goals?

Okay, to start...since we're half way through the year, some Friendship Friday stats

  • This is post 21 (not counting the other friendship posts I wrote before I got organised and called it FF)
  • All except this one and this one had well over 100 views :)
  • This is the most popular post with 333 views.
Isn't this fun?

(this is the most consistent series I've ever written. yay me)

Okay, back to the half-year friend goals.

On my 2012 goals list, I have...
  1. meet with friends twice a month
  2. have 10 friend dates for the year (one on one)
I just counted them all up and I've had 11 one-on-one dates and 10 group friend dates, either with two or more people (like when I met two friends and went to a church conference), or my family and another family.
So I'm doing well even though...
I didn't even have one stated friend goal accomplished this month. Although three got set up and happened spontaneously. Hmmm.
The goals not happening for June are due to a number of reasons:
  1. I had a really hectic May so we needed some down-time.
  2. Our inflexible friends have been impossible to schedule - they have now declined our invitation at the last minute twice... (btw, I sent an email on Thursday, something like "come on, guys, you're going to have to help me out here" and I've heard nothing...)
  3. I saw Louisa on a Sunday at the end of May, we were supposed to have supper on the Tues so we obviously cancelled that.
  4. My work friend and I have had huge workloads and just kept postponing... although we did have a fat chat before and after a meeting today :)     
my gorgeous friend, R, at her 30th
What's going well?
  • Because I make a monthly goal, I'm really intentional about putting people first.
  • I'm getting to connect 1:1 with lots of friends. It's filling up my love tank in a big way.
  • I'm becoming a lot more flexible and spontaneous.
  • Life is more fun!

What's not going so well?
  • I'm spending tons of money on all the friendship socials. Need to tone that down and become more creative. I've joined a great service to track my spending and I noticed the months that are not so friend-heavy have a smaller eating out spend. I'm not going to stop seeing friends; I just need to have people over more often and do slow cooker meals :)
  • There are really good couple friends of ours that I really, really, really want to get together with and this has just not happened. I'm going to make that happen before I go on my trip.
But enough about me, let's talk about you.

How have you done this year so far?
Are you happy with where you're at with your friendships?
What do you want to change?                                                

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Elevate the ordinary 1 - get uncomfortable

So Elevate the Ordinary started off very slow for me.

I was all ready and raring to go and the first week was a week of just familarising yourself with the formats, discussion groups, flickr, etc.

Which I was not a fan of. Because I lose momentum.

And so  I didn't quite get into it until a lesson where she spoke about commitment and going the extra mile to get good pics.

It was very timely for me :)

Especially since she used a pic of hers I absolutely LOVE (the one of the girl in the yellow leaves). She mentioned how many pics they'd taken on a normal street to get The One and how all that was worth it.

So I was reminded again that you don't get great pics (or any pics, for that matter) by being lazy and saying that it's cold outside (because I still don't know how to take pics unless it's Extreme Daylight, not Jhb winter fading daylight).

I need to make the effort and take tons and even be willing to play a little with post-processing (which I also hate - no patience!). But I have learnt about the beauty of warmify in Picasa for that whiter than pale winter skin :) I mostly still aim to get it right in the camera.

Anyway, these were all taken one FREEZING Saturday afternoon at 5ish after I returned from errands with Kendra. I really should have been cooking supper but I thought no more excuses. I want a couple of decent pics.
this whiteness is exactly what the sky looked like. beautiful but cold.
the ground was a bit greener in patches... but look at the underside of the leaf
and the flipped-over leaf
the one bit of green in the garden :)
this. THIS. never fails to grab me. LOVE the colours.
this could be a metaphor for life. barren branches with just a bit of growth :) HA!
more of the sunset
then I decided to make a bit more effort and got up on a stool...
and I got this one. It was worth it to get uncomfortable and make the effort
love the texture of this old plank
and of the bricks - oh, I added some shadow to this one - do you spot the bit of green?
the nicest pic of an old tap I've ever seen :) otherwise known as elevating the very ordinary!
and the inside of a rusty pipe
by this time, the sun was practically gone so there are some gorgeous shadows. yellow makes me so happy.
So there you have it!

As usual with these sorts of things, it was totally worth it getting REALLY cold for 20 minutes that Saturday afternoon.

I've done another two of these "braving the cold" sessions and I think I'll chase the kids around the garden again tomorrow.

Playing with photos and cooking/ baking is about all I've done that was creative this month, except for the two canvases I made for gifts, both of which I have no pics of :( And you don't want to see pics of the party bags, right? That's the other creative stuff going on here!

Which is your favourite pic?
Would you get cold and uncomfortable for a photo?

(I wouldn't if I wasn't on the course. Actually I would if at my work - I LOVE taking pics there so much)
PS Click here to visit Superhero Designs and read more about Elevate the Ordinary.

{Create} The June linky party

I have some work to do tonight frst so I'll write my own link-up post later.

BUT in the meantime, you can show off your creativity and link up crafts, sewing, knitting, scrapping, COOKING and baking, creative photography, etc.

BTW, Pinned it, Did it-type posts are also 100% acceptable :)

What did you get up to this month? 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New, Pinteresting recipes... just for Laura

So I have on my 37 things list to cook 12 new “main course” recipes.

When I last updated my page, I'd done 7 - pan pizza, chicken with peaches, honey chicken with pineapple, enchilada casserole, aromatic chicken, mince, noodles and sweetcorn, chickpea and pita bread salad.

I then set out to finish up those last 5.

1. Quesadilla buffalo burgers

I don't eat buffalo but minced beef (or chicken) would work. And I used wholewheat pita to contain it all nicely.

It was a lovely, quick meal for a change but I need to work on the burger part as mine were not all that tasty to start...

Still I would do it again.

2. Spicy sausage pasta

This one was a big hit and I've already made another pasta recipe based on the same, one-pot principle.

The only change I made was using beef instead of turkey sausage. Next time I will use pork but D is not too fond of pork. Is there anything better than a pork sausage though?! YUM!

This one is staying on our menu rotation.

By the way, this is my new way with recipes. I pin everything I'm likely to try, take the laptop to the kitchen and if we love it, then only will I print a copy for my flip file :)

3. Skinny Chicken Divan

This one was a little too skinny for me because it uses chicken stock instead of a cream-based sauce. My old recipe uses a cream of chicken soup plus mayonnaise (always Crosse and Blackwell Lite).

It's nice enough though; in fact, we're having the second half of it for supper tonight.

4. Macaroni cheese

I already make a good and healthy macaroni cheese (to which I add carrot cubes - the kids don't even know and they think it's cheese because of the orange) but I'm always game to try anything pasta.

I made this on Saturday and both the kids and D loved it. I preferred mine but I will admit this is EASY, delicious and quick.

5. Black bean quesadillas

I made these last week after I noticed I had two packs of wraps in the freezer. I'm into clearing the freezer regularly so I force myself to get creative and use up all the odds and ends. Which is exactly why we had pasta with butternut and bacon last night :)

I saw this recipe on Deanna's blog and since I don't know what black beans are, I used a can of chickpeas. BTW, I can't find red kidney beans (dry) anywhere in Jhb. If you see some, please tell me where. I like to cook them myself but have had to buy tinned because I can't find them.

They were SO easy and SO delicious. I sampled one while I was cooking and shared with the other 3.

BTW, this is how I introduce new foods to my kids. I heat our food, have a taste and go "mmmmm" and then they also want to taste. I'll give them one bite and then say, "no, Baby, this is MY supper. Would you like some for your supper tomorrow?" and that's how it works.

A huge hit with me, D and both babies. D and I had two quesadillas each (4 quarters) and the babies had 1 each. The mixture was just enough for the 6.

If you have it with a bowl of soup (because it's winter) or some salad (in summer) it will stretch further... or maybe not :)

We're having some more on the weekend, this time with red kidney beans :)

6. Bonus - cinnamon muffins

I also made these last week (it is SO nice cooking in winter).

I've been looking at Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls for years and years but I just can't get past all that butter and sugar.

So when I saw these on a blog, I thought, "hey, I can do that" and so I did.

This recipe is just perfect. I adjusted it as I always do and I always skip the glaze.

It felt like a little slice of heaven in my house. And I was a rock star wife and mother because everybody loved it.

D said the other day he's LOVING the fact that I'm making so many new (nice) things to eat and I just smiled. My secret's Pinterest :)

This is why I'm writing this post, Laura, because you asked for recipes the other day and I was too lazy to comment and write all that I was thinking :)

So which recipes are you going to try???

Please share your favourite cooking and baking pins with me!

I'm officially done with those two items on my 37 things list but that doesn't mean the fun in the kitchen stops!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Winter in Jhb = 1 degree in the mornings

Gosh, this morning my car said 1 degree at 7:30 ish and there was an icon of a little snowflake which definitely means freezing :)

I drive past a field and the field was white with frost. I would have stopped to take a pic but I was already very late for the breakfast.

But honestly, do we not have the most gorgeous winter weather in the world?!

Gorgeous blue skies.

Empty branches.


I do realise I need to stop taking pics of the naked tree branches but I'm fascinated. It's like I'm appreciating a whole new view of winter through my lens.

What's your favourite thing about winter?

Monday, June 25, 2012

I got to my desk at 9:05

Not taken this morning but a week ago
D dressed both kids, packed the 4 bags in the car and made their Weetbix before he left at 7:20 and still we only left at 8:30ish.

  • Supervising breakfast
  • Wiping hands and faces
  • Brushing teeth
  • Getting myself dressed
  • Bundling them up in their winter woolies
  • Taking first day pictures
  • Bribing them to sit still in their car seats
  • Getting them strapped in the car

Got to the basement, had to say a couple of times, "HOLD HANDS. There are CARS" and eventually got them inside.

Who knew a basement and a lift could be that exciting?!

Fortunately my kids were not the last to arrive (!) and I signed them in and then went to my desk.

Here's the cool part - when I walk into or through our pause area, I can look down the two floors and see the kids.

Here's the not-so-cool part - between 9:05 when I arrived at my desk and 9:20 when I emailed D, I'd already checked on them TWICE.

Connor didn't even say BYE to me before he was off.

Kendra wandered around a lot looking a bit lost (my heart!) but D told me she's just settling in and would be fine.

I had back-to-back meetings til 12, raced down there and had to BRIBE my kids to come with me. Of course the first thing Kendra says to me is, "where's Daddy?"

They were very good with eating their lunch (peanut butter sandwiches, water and carrot sticks) and I got lots of compliments (they're well-mannered, friendly and gorgeous).

After that I didn't mind them going back for the afternoon session. I couldn't get out of a two-hour workshop so I had to book them in again.

And they were just fine. No accidents peeing, no fighting, no nothing. The teachers said they were very good and the teachers were also very good and told me they had no sugar except for a chocolate muffin (Connor - I noticed that right away with the tell-tale smudges on his cheeks).

They tie-dyed t-shirts today and made meringues and all was well with the world.

Except... My babies are growing up and I'm suddenly not sure that's a good thing.The upcoming birthday doesn't help either!

I've been in bed for the last hour because I suddenly started feeling sniffly, right about the time I said good night actually :)

I have a verrrrry early day tomorrow, a breakfast thing at 7:15 but I will be fashionably late at 7:30-ish because I can't see the point of stressing myself out to leave any earlier than 7!

Enough about us, how was your Monday?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Will someone please smack me on the head?

Next time I have bright ideas about sending the kids to pre-school, will someone please slap me?

I am exhausted with preparing the kids for their Big Day tomorrow.

Nanny S is on leave tomorrow to sort out her asylum papers and since D has a work situation from hell and I have a LONG 3-hour meeting in the afternoon, I decided to leave them there for a full day tomorrow. D also felt uncomfortable about asking his mother. BTW I've gotten a lot happier now I've made the switch in my mind that we don't have any family support. It's just easier. Low expectations and all that jazz :)

They could phone me and tell me not to bring my kids back.... let's hope not.

So please pray for me from 4:30 tomorrow as I'll have Cranky and Whiny in the car with me. And I'll have a messy house to come home to.

But people, I have 4 bags just for the kids (besides my normal 2). One with clothes, one backpack each (their out and about bags as I call it - I should blog about this) and a food bag. I'm going to also have to lug all this plus hold two kids by the hands..... I'll have to do my stern mother voice and hope it doesn't turn into the screeching version....

The "kids care" closes between 12 and 1 so my kids will be at my desk eating lunch. Yes! And the lady who complains about me being noisy hasn't seen anything yet!

But over to you - what are you looking forward to doing tomorrow?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gym, party priorities and driving through Jhb

1. I said to D last night when he asked if I really had to go to gym...

1. it's the only time I'm making it these days...
2. it's good for Connor and me to have some alone time
3. it forces the whole house up and dressed early instead of us lounging around in pjs til 11.

So we went.

I loved the class and I think it's the teacher. There are two that alternate. The one takes her craft very seriously and is technically perfect but I'm never sure she's having fun...

This one from today has a BALL and so do we. She laughs at herself, at us and just really makes us have fun! She'll be there on Monday night too so I'll go again.

2. My babies turn 3 in exactly two weeks time. How's this for my prioritities this year?

I have all the party favours on my guest bed in the study and 4 packs are actually ready (for pics!). I need to get them done because the kids, despite trying to "help", have fingers that are all too busy and involved!

I kind-of have a photographer booked for their actual birthday (I say kind-of because she mailed me back to say yes she was free but when I asked about forms, deposits, etc. I've heard NOTHING) but not for the party. I'm going to be bossy and leave a list of things I want pics of and trust my lovely friends to grab my camera and get those shots.

Nothing food has even been thought of nor a shopping list made. But I do have paper plates, serviettes and paper cups (from previous shopping trips - don't be impressed).

I'm living on the wild side :)

3. Mandy and I set some accountabilities for ourselves this weekend so I'm knee-deep in photo organising.

Fortunately, once I get going, I'm on a roll so I've already finished the stuff I wanted to do and I'm on the bonus stuff now :)

As I was looking through my pics, I remembered I haven't yet posted on Elevate the Ordinary. That post will come this week- I've really had to elevate the very ordinary because Jhb is beautiful in winter, yes (especially our skies - look out for that post too but you've seen my many sunset pics - just gorgeous), but it's dry and brown and uninspiring unless you REALLY look and are willing to be totally uncomfortable (cold!).

More on that this week.

But for now some random pics taken while going home one evening (D was driving!). Please remember the car was moving for most of these :)

look at the lady on the right wrapped in a blanket. Yes, it's that cold
Louis Botha Avenue - if you can drive here, you can drive anywhere. I quite like this pic.
Leaves and graffiti
more graffiti
I love how this dude's giving me a weird look :)
oh, sunset!
10 degrees!

last bits of sunset
and we arrive home - Nanny S is holding them back because they want to open the door and run outside
Did you enjoy driving through Jhb with me?
Which was your favourite pic?


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