2015: The Year of New Adventures

As Christmas and the end of the year approach, I find myself looking back in wonder at every new adventure my family has had this year. It’s been a big one, and to say we’re tired is an understatement. However, it’s a pleasant tiredness, the way you feel after a full day spent in the garden; we’re weary, but we can see how far we’ve come, and it’s satisfying.

Active Mums Kids

One of the biggest changes around here would have to be Tiny turning five and starting school. After a rough first day, my biggest his found his rhythm and absolutely loves school. He started the year not being interested in writing or reading, and is now often found with his head in a chapter book, reading quietly to himself. He’s made some lovely wee friends and likes to come home and share what he’s learned with his little brother which is so sweet to see.

Reading at 5 Pickle also had a big year, finally starting kindergarten. He would go every day if he could, but has just three sessions a week; his friendships have been developing over the year and while he’s not as talkative as his big brother, he’s very good at articulating his ideas and games to others.

Kindy Kids

Both boys are currently Avengers-obsessed, and Pickle has joined his brother in thinking Lego is the best toy ever. They play together so beautifully, and Tall and I often remark how we feel a bit redundant because they don’t need or want us to play with them anymore!

Pickle and AvengersBoys playing

Pickle and I had the pleasure of attending very good friends’ wedding in Fiji, which was amaaaaaazing, and as a family we embarked on a tiki tour from Dunedin to Taranaki and back again in the last school holidays. Tall’s sister welcomed a gorgeous baby boy into the world, I got to get my rock on at Rod Stewart and Fleetwood Mac concerts, and my braces finally came off.

Fleetwood Mac Dunedin

I’m sure there’s been many more highlights, and there has been some sadness, but mostly, 2015 has been a good year, and I’m looking forward to more fun times in 2016.

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas, surrounded by people you love, and a marvellous start to 2016 xxxxxxxxx

 

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Zoo Party

We finally celebrated Pickle’s second birthday, just a few weeks late, with some of his little friends (and their families) joining us for afternoon tea and general hilarity. Given his love of animals, a zoo party was a logical – and incredibly simple – choice.

I made invitations featuring Pickle’s favourite noisy lion, RaaRaa, and used pictures of the same (free colouring pages from the internet) to make a simple bunting. Cups and serviettes featuring a menagerie of animals were on the table (paired with plain green plates), with a little zoo animal for each guest to take home. Add a few orange balloons and a zoo made from Duplo and our animal collection – done.

RaaRaa Invitation Zoo Party Zoo Party Zoo Party Party Balloon Zoo Party RaaRaa The Noisy Lion The food was simple too (a change for me, as I tend to go overboard and then get flustered because I have so many things to make), and chosen with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. Sweets, crisps and fruit, cocktail sausages (of course), popcorn and homemade gingerbread panda bears and tigers.

Panda and Tiger BiscuitsI had an absolute cake disaster to begin with (trying a new recipe combined with a failure to measure my cake tin was the issue – lesson learned!), but my go-to chocolate mud cake recipe saved the day, and I’m quite happy with my decorating attempt. Again, simple but recognisable, and the birthday boy loved it.

Zoo cakeZoo PartyHe had a great afternoon, and was exhausted by the end of the day – at one point I’m sure he was close to falling asleep in his cot while his friends, and Tiny’s, leaped about in his room!

Pickle and ShortPickle is two!

A Casual Sunday Morning Stroll

Over the (pathetic-excuse-for) summer, a group of friends and I have been walking at least once a week while our biggest ones are at kindy. We bundle our not-so-little littlest ones into their buggies, load up with drink bottles, snack boxes and sun- and rain-shades, and go for an 8km power walk.

As the summer has gone on, those hills have gotten easier, and we’ve been getting faster. During the holidays, we even took double-buggies, each pushing more than 30kg of children and buggy up those hills. Okay, so we only did that once, but we did it, which is the point here.

Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014
On Sunday, we participated in the Dunedin Stadium to Surf 10km fun run/walk, sans children. We crossed the finish line at 1hour, 40minutes, a time we were all more than happy with, given that it was 2km more than we were used to.

Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014
Along the way, we saw Ms D’s partner and kiddies having their morning tea – Mr W had cut up orange quarters to offer us. We also had Mrs C’s husband, sister and kiddies drive past a few times, horn tooting, hands waving, car covered in signs saying “GO MUM!” and “Yummy Mummy Support Crew”. They made our day….and the day of many people walking near us.

Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014

It was great fun, and a small personal achievement. I’ve often thought about doing a fun walk, but never actually did anything about it until this year. And who knows? Maybe I’ll run it next year.

A Bit of a Makeover

Soooooo…what do you think of my new ‘do??

Isn’t it fantastic?? If I was 20 years younger, I’d probably get away with saying I think it is totes amazeballs…but I’m not cool enough, or young enough, so…yeah.

That delicious piece of eye candy that is my new header was designed by my talented, creative, totes amazeballs* friend**, Angela. Isn’t she cleeeeveeeeeerrrrr?

She’s captured the essence of my blog just perfectly; the book open over the toes of my gummies? THE BEST. Seriously.

Sigh. I love this space again.

Also – thanks to Simone for her free social media buttons AND her simple-to-follow instructions which meant I installed them all by myself. Yeah yeah, I totes did.

*Did that work?? Have I just totally, like, ruined the saying of 2013?

** Yeeeeep. She’s my friend. We hang out ‘n stuff. I’ve seen her in her lawnmowing clothes.

Things I’m Loving

Today, I’m a bit sad.

Actually, I’m a lot sad.

I’ve just said good bye to yet another very good friend who is moving back to England. We met when Tiny was four months old, and her son was six months old. They both have the same name, and her son has always been referred to as “Big —-“, while mine has been “Little —-” – even the other kids call them that. I’m going to miss her, but I know that she’s making the right move – back to families, and to start her dream job. It’s bittersweet.

And Tall leaves for his 8-day work trip to Mexico on Sunday. I was feeling really fine about it, but Pickle has decided that bedtime is over-rated, and Tiny has been a bit naughty the last couple of days. I know we’ll be fine, and I know I’ll cope, but I’m going to miss having an adult to talk to once the babies are asleep…and someone to take the pressure off when it’s witching hour!

Anyway…despite the little air of gloom hanging around this week, there are some very bright patches, like:

~ the arrival of a friend’s first baby, a bonny 10lb 2oz not-so-little boy

~ the arrival of another first baby, another boy, up in Auckland

~ the news that another very good friend – who is one of the best mamas I know – is pregnant again 🙂

~ days that have been 20degC-plus, reminding me that summer isn’t too far away

~ new jandals (and the sudden realisation that I now have five pairs…is that too many? I don’t think so…Tall was a bit surprised…)

Jandally goodness

~ big brothers who encourage baby brothers to lift their heads for tummy time, and who offer such lovely words of praise like, “Good job! You’re doing so well!” (someone’s a bit of a parrot!)

“Good job!”

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Linking up with the fabulous Meghan for

Things I’m Loving

Our batteries have been recharged after a wonderful four-day mini-break in Central Otago.

I grew up holidaying in the area with my aunty and her family, and it’s one of my favourite places in the country.

The mountains, the poplars, the weeping willows; the drive through the winding Manuka Gorge; the views as you drive alongside the Clyde Dam and Lake Dunstan; the hills dotted with vineyards; the fruit orchards; the ruins of gold miners’ huts.

We stayed at a “quaint” motel in Arrowtown; loving spending the days playing tourist.

We met up with friends for lunch at Carrick Winery; loving good food and good wine enjoyed with good friends! (Thanks so much for coming across to meet us, Em xxx)

We rode the gondola in Queenstown; loving tacky touristy photos!

Tall took Tiny on the luge; loving my hesitant boy’s bravery!

We ate divine French breakfasts at Bonjour; loving authentic French pastries and coffee!

We visited Chard Farm and Amisfield; loving delicious New Zealand wines!

We rode on the Kingston Flyer; loving being moved to happy tears upon seeing the excitement on Tiny’s face when he saw the train!

We had two sleeping boys on both the journey from and to Dunedin; loving the chance to talk to my husband uninterrupted!

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Linking up with Meg and other loving lovelies

Tales of Travel: Leaving London

The decision to leave London was one that we made early in 2009.

Everything started to fall into place when Tall was head-hunted back by the company he’d worked for prior to us leaving Dunedin. He’d already put them off once, but with the doom-and-gloom recession starting to hit New Zealand, he recognised he was lucky to have received such an offer.

Flights to South America for one final jaunt on the way home booked and paid for, we then found out I was pregnant with Tiny. A few weeks of tears and “should we? shouldn’t we?” later, we both handed in our resignations, and began the process of packing up our lives and preparing to leave the country that had been home for almost two-and-a-half years.

London

I knew that the hardest part about leaving would be saying good-bye to my sister and her family (they stayed in England for a few more months longer), and to the wonderful friends I’d made. But I always knew we wouldn’t stay indefinitely, and that my sister would head back to Melbourne, and I knew that I would always keep in touch with those friends who really mattered. So instead of spending our last few months thinking about what we were leaving behind, we chose to make the most of our time and made sure we saw and did all those things we’d been putting off.

Picnic at Hampstead Heath with my sister and family

Things like visiting museums and galleries, going to see The Phantom of the Opera and having a picnic at Hampstead Heath.

Brighton Pier

Visiting Brighton, taking last strolls for squirrel watching around Hyde and St James’ Parks, and having one last shopping spree on Oxford Street and the maze of streets in Covent Garden.

Course four at Le Gavroche – scallops cooked with ginger, oh my!

Going out for a fancy eight course Michelin-star meal at Le Gavroche, and having “last drinks” at the various pubs we’d spent so much time in over the past couple of years.

Squirrel!! I love squirrels.

There were tears – copious amounts of them – and hugs I never wanted to end, and promises of keeping in touch. There were removal men collecting our boxes for shipping home, and strangers collecting items we’d sold on eBay. There were new tenants to take over our lease, goods to be donated to Oxfam, and food to be used up.

And suddenly, it was the 1st of November, and we were in a taxi in the driving rain, on our way to Heathrow Airport. The tears had dried up, and the excitement and anticipation of eight weeks in South America had set in.

I Heard Your Heart Saying “Love Love Love”

It was no coincidence that I chose this month to focus on the important people in my life, and do my best to show that I care about them. February has Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary, so it made sense to make this month all about love.

My goals were to tell people how much they mean me, reconnect with an old friend, do something special for my parents, and concentrate on friendships.

It’s been a mixed month, really.

It started off well; a dear friend and I cleared the air after a silly miscommunication misunderstanding (although I think non-communication was the issue, really!), and were both relieved to hear that the other still cared as much as they always had. I made a point of telling friends that I love them, and for those not close by, that I miss them and that they are always in my thoughts. In every email, text or phone call, I told my brother and my sister that I love them, and boy, did it feel good!

I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in months, and have made albeit-tentative plans to see another shouldn’t-have-been-so-long-between-catch-ups friend soon. I accepted every offer of meeting for a coffee or a visit, and made sure I also suggested meeting up with people.

And then…one of my closest friends separated from her husband. It was unexpected but at the same time, not a big surprise. I found myself caught in the middle of two people I love immensely, and having to make a decision about who could be the one to cry on my shoulder. In the end, it came down to having known my girlfriend for close to 20 years, and I had to gently, so gently, explain to her husband that I couldn’t be that person for him. It was heartbreaking, because I knew he trusted me implicitly and felt comfortable telling me all manner of things, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t be drawn into a messy game of “he said, she said”. And here I was, trying to spend the entire month spreading the love, while for these two, it had died a quiet death. It felt wrong to continue with my journey, but by the same token, it made me realise exactly how important this month’s challenge was.

After a few sleepless nights, I realised that whether I agree with their choices and decisions or not, they are my friends, and that I have to be there for them, support them, love them regardless of how I feel about their situation.

And I felt better. Sad, but content that I could still show them I care, without feeling like I’m being dragged down into a situation that will most certainly become harder before it becomes easier.

With much of my brain-space taken up with this (and much of the remainder disappearing fast into the ether commonly known as “baby brain”!), I haven’t been able to do something special for my parents as yet. However, I am formulating a plan which will be mutually beneficial, and will keep you posted!

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Linking up with Greatfun4kids – check out some awesome posts from the past week over at Simone’s place:

Showin’ the Love

February. Valentine’s Day. Love.

In keeping with the spirit of love that abounds this month, I’ve decided to focus my Journey to 35 on relationships. With my family, and with my friends.

I come from a family that is very close, but growing up, I don’t remember saying or hearing the words, “I love you” very often. I always knew my parents loved me (even when they were SO mean and were cramping my style by being SO old-fashioned and SO strict), but we were never very good at saying it to each other. As for my brother and sister? Don’t be daft! Pffft, I was never going to tell them that I thought they were awesome.

And my friends? As a teenager, I had a group of friends who, looking back now with the wisdom and experience of a few more years, were never really the supportive, encouraging, special friends everyone should have. Now? I’m blessed to have a smaller group of really good friends who I would do anything for, and who I know would do the same for me.

Maybe it’s having a family of my own, or maybe it’s just something you come to as you get older, but I’ve suddenly realised that I need to tell the important people in my life that they are just that: so, so important to me. At the risk of sounding a bit doom-and-gloom, life is short, and we could all do with knowing how much we matter to those around us.

So, this month’s goals are:

  1. to tell my family and friends how much they mean to me: I know it, but do they??;
  2. to reconnect with an old friend – not a I’m-not-friends-with-you-because-you’re-actually-quite-poisonous friend, but a I-haven’t-seen-you-in-a-ridiculously-long-time-and-I-miss-you friend;
  3. to treat my parents to something special as a way of thanking them for everything they’ve done for me and my brother and sister; and
  4. to concentrate on the friendships I have, and not worry about forging new ones just for the sake of it.

As a starting point, I am going to take a leaf out of Miriam‘s book (or should that be blog??), and I am going to send some words of love and encouragement to someone who means a lot to me, but probably doesn’t know it.

***Miriam is running a lovely giveaway this month, so pop on over and check out her blog, MakeItGiveIt – Let it Shine, and share some lovin’ too!***