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Life through my lens… Easter!

I’m a big event planner for special days… I like Birthdays to be special for the person who’s day it is, I plan what we will be doing, the food, the cake, the decorations, sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan, but I like to try to get it right, and Easter is no different! This Easter started on Thursday for us, unfortunately not for Paul though as he doesn’t get Good Friday or Easter Monday off, so with that in mind we headed to meet Paul for what turned out to be a late lunch at his office…

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The afternoon was slightly rushed due to car restraints that come with sharing your car… the weather was beautiful, if not a little windy, and the scenery was fabulous, so a few photos had to be snapped!

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As the weather was going to be reasonable for the weekend, we decided to head to my happy place… The beach on Saturday! It was a bright sunny day with lots of sunshine and blue skies, but oh, that wind was brutal… Paul was a trooper and spent along time playing in the sand with Florrie, even with the mother of all hangovers (no sympathy there though)!

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Easter Sunday was not a restful and relaxing day for me as I’d imagined, there was the basket making, the gift opening the egg hunt organization, cake making and dinner prep, but thankfully my mum did most of the last one, by late afternoon I sat with my glass of wine and breathed a sigh of relief…

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Easter Monday was girls shopping day out, of course Tate was the only boy allowed until at the last minute Jordan decided to gate crash our fun Urban Outfitters day shopping…

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There is just something about Easter weekend that I love, perhaps the promise of spring just around the corner, or the thoughts of an alarm free week ahead as my children had Spring break… Or just some quality time with my family… One thing is for sure though, getting home after a fun packed weekend, kicking my shoes off and sitting on my new rug, hand dancing with my children to Jordan’s new vinyl was the perfect way to finish our Easter off!

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Happy, Happy Holidays to one and all!

Christmas grocery planning and shopping is always a favorite pastime of mine… NOT, but I’m getting there, which is always a good start, the planning is done, now onto the shopping… Luckily Paul is off tomorrow and is coming with me to get the food, always a mammoth task with so many hungry mouths to feed in our house!

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Having a large family makes planning my menu especially for the holidays an essential, it’s a mammoth task that takes time and precision, especially when you are a home cooking person, not using convenience foods as much as possible! I’ve started my week today with some ingredients I already have in, I like to include baked goods in my menu too, and this week I’m going to be experimenting with using some gluten free flours to add to my dairy free change outs I now use in some recipes, it’s taken my brain a while to adjust to thinking dairy free where I can, but I’m slowly getting there!

Brownies are becoming a hot favorite in my house, I’ve discovered that melting some butter in a large cast iron skillet for baking then making the batter in the pot I melt the sticks of butter in makes brownies not only a success but it’s oh so easy with little to clean up… Easy quick and delicious, but this week I’m planning on trying to use the recipe and make it gluten free… I love experimenting with recipes to make my life easier! We have a new store opened near us, their selection on flours is fantastic and cheap too, so I’m heading in there to see what they have and what I can save on!

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We are not great traditionalists in our house, I like to mix it up for Christmas now and then, my absolute favorite thing to do for the holidays is go on vacation, I love being away and just doing something completely different, a few years ago we spent our Christmas and New Year in Florida then California… Best Christmas ever, but when times are tough you have to vacation at home for Christmas and make some traditions for your family! One of our new traditions is making our own mince pies, I prepare the mincemeat in advance and then Paul and Mabel make the pastry and bake the pies on Christmas Eve, I of course supervise with a glass of wine from the sofa! Mincemeat is one of those things I always bought in a jar until a friend told me how easy it was to make your own fresh and delicious, so now each year I whip up a batch ready for Christmas Eve baking!

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Another tradition we have steered away from in recent years is the traditional turkey dinner, oh no I hear many of you say, but after cooking Thanksgiving dinner just a few short weeks before, my need to repeat the process is not there! This year though we having a little bit of tradition with a baked ham, but apart from that I’m going for easy to prepare and little to do on the day itself!

We still call the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, always a true Brit, no matter where we live, our Black Friday left over sandwiches will be transformed into a Boxing Day treat this year too! Of course whatever the celebration there has to be a cheeseboard, a new favorite a large bucket of Trader Joes popcorn and lots of chocolate this and that… Oh I forgot something we’ve always had at this time of year is satsumas, mandarins or clementines… Vitamin C to ward off those dreaded Christmas bugs… That’s about it, our Traditions in a nutshell!

Now for my menu for the next week…

Thursday…
Tortilla soup and cornbread
Friday…
Chicken and fennel soup… Focaccia bread
Saturday…
Pumpkin pasta bake
Sunday…
Chicken pot pie and baked potatoes
Monday…
Sausage tortellini soup and a Mac and cheese
Tuesday…
Rotisserie chicken warm chicken salad

Christmas Eve
Pizza night with a huge cheese board
Mince pies

Christmas Day
Breakfast… Muffins and bacon rolls
Ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, Cesar salad, pumpkin lasagne
Chocolate Victoria and strawberry cake
Apple crumble and whipped cream

Boxing Day
Leftover sandwiches
Brownies

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This year of course is Tate’s first Christmas, I’ve hardly had time to decorate the house with this little bombshell in my life, at 9 months old he is into everything and anything, so Paul put the tree up and that’s as far as we have got… It is what it is, it’s far more important to enjoy my time with him before he grows up and that is happening so fast already!

Whatever you have planned for the Holiday season… take a deep breath, breathe and remember the most important thing of this season is family and loved ones, not the chaos that is in the shops right now!

Happy Holidays!

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Days in our lives…

I think I am never letting my mum go home, it’s so lovely to go out then come home to dinner cooking… Yesterday was Veterans Day over here and of course my brothers birthday, anyway Paul had the day off from work, he very kindly looked after our babies who both have colds at the moment, so I could visit my friend, who is in hospital today having surgery on her broken ankle… Good luck Jill! After that I came home and Paul and I took Tate out, Florrie wanted to stay with her Nanny, which was fabulous, because Nanny stayed home and it meant that we walked through the door at 5pm to the smell of dinner slowly cooking away… Yummy!

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Time is flying by way too fast, it’s crazy, Halloween came and went in a flash, we are hurtling towards Thanksgiving at an alarming rate, which means my Mum will be heading home soon after, then of course it will be time for Santa to visit all of us that have been good this year… Florrie does not understand that all her wants and needs have to be put on Santa’s list, she wants it all NOW, and if she doesn’t get it she just cries and cries… Really this has got me thinking, that things never really change, as my children get older they have their wants and needs and if they don’t get them they just moan, they are quieter than Florrie at 3 years old, but they still demand and moan, I think this really only changes as they move into their mid twenties and really start to grow up… So again that got me thinking, are younger children that much harder than dealing with teens and twenty year olds, I’m really not sure, the problems are just more complex and you don’t have quite so much control in dealing with the problem!

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We had a wonderful afternoon in Westfield last Friday, a girlie shopping trip and Tate… Mabel has decided she wants to be a leader in fashion not a follower, truly her mothers daughter, she loves the boho look and has developed into a gorgeous fashionista with her own style, well actually it’s her mothers style , I knew it would happen one day… She is a mini me when it comes to choosing clothes these days! We headed into Westfield after my doctors appointment and straight into Urban Outfitters, she was like a kid in a candy store, piling things to try on everywhere… On top of the stroller, underneath it and on her personal coat hanger… Me!

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We picked up the same things to try on several times and unbelievably we can share some things these days, even though she is so thin and it always looks so much better on her, I suppose that’s what being Mabel’s Mum is all about these days… Accepting she looks so much better than me in my clothes 🙂

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Anyway after a very successful shopping trip in UO, we sat in Starbucks, then had lunch… Visited Baby Gap, my favorite shop for Tate’s clothes and then bought sleepover goodies for Mabel’s friends in Trader Joes and much needed wine for my Mum and me too, this time we tried organic wine, which was yummy btw!

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All in all Friday turned into a perfect teacher convention day off, ending in a sleepover for Mabel with three of her friends… Now on that subject I will just say this was not so perfect… Three teenage girls at 2am doing handstands in my living room is not so much fun… Enough said!

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Sleepover chocolate chip Frappes for breakfast…

For 4 sleepover teenager girls… Half fill your blender with ice, add 2 cups of coconut milk, 3-4 tablespoons of chocolate sauce, we used Trader Joes True Moo and a cup of semi sweet chocolate chips… Blend until mixed together, pour into glasses and top with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a few chocolate chips… Serve with a smile and think to yourself they will be sleeping in their own homes tonight… BLISS!

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Dressing Florrie…

Friday, a week ago already, saw us traveling down to Somerset Medical center for more blood work for Tate, so of course it would have been silly not to call into Bridgewater Commons Mall… I can quite honestly say that I have only managed to visit 4 or 5 shops in this mall and the food court! I recently discovered that Bridgewater Commons has one of my absolute favorite childrens shops of all times… Naartjjie, and this is as far as I usually get into the mall… Thankfully for my pocket!

In 2005/2006 we were on vacation in California, we visited the Beverley Hills shopping mall and there was this oh so cute children’s clothes shop… Mabel was 4 and Blu was 6 at the time… All I can say is that I fell in love with all the clothes immediately, and of course had to buy a few items of clothing… At the time I thought this shop was higher in price for their apparel, but I have recently discovered they have a clearance rail and even better Memorial Day weekend saw 30% off all their clearance clothes… Yay, fun for a Mommy of a beautiful 3 year old girl and a handsome 2 month old boy!

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Leggings and headband by Naartjie, tutu skirt and top by Cherokee, Target!
Crocs by Crocs for Target!

There is definitely something very different in style about Naartjie, it’s unique style of clothes can be matched together easily with other pieces within the store or put together with clothes from other stores or clothes that you have hanging in your child’s closet! I’ve noticed that across all three age groups the styles are almost identical, for instance a 1-2 year old skirt with attached leggings is made in an older size but without the leggings attached, they also typically use a limited number of color schemes throughout the whole store for girls and the same is said to be true for the boys clothing, so each style of say one top can then be found in the several other color ranges to mix and match together with different items of clothing throughout the store!

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Price range is similar to the Gap, and like the Gap they have a sales and a clearance rail, they also add additional percentage off the clearance clothes regularly, so it’s worth signing up for their emails to know when this happens, this week they have had free shipping online and 40% off a range of clothing within the store… Don’t worry if there isn’t a store near you, like me, my nearest one is a 50 minutes drive away, everything is online and shipping is very reasonable!

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To say I love this store is an understatement… I REALLY love this store and now that I have found it again my two little ones will be dressed Naartjie style much more often!

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Rambling on…

Is it me or does everything in the winter seem far worse than when Spring arrives… Is the corporate world taking advantage of it’s employees, is there real justification behind cutting salaries 2 years in a row and absolutely no pay rises in 6 years now, is all the bank bashing having detrimental effects on hard working individuals… In a world where everything has rising costs almost daily, companies feel it is ok to reduce incomes for hardworking individuals… In my book, it all seems wrong that in this day and age it’s not how hard you work, it seems to be if you are in favor with your boss, has all the fairness gone out of pay rises and bonuses, it seems to me some people do well year after year, whilst others suffer because of the unfairness created by corporate greed!

Moan over… Back to menu planning again, it’s been a while, but this time I’m planning a baking day, breakfast, lunch and dinner… My iron levels are still low, so I want to make my life easier by keeping everything easy and simple. My Ninja super cooker is the key to simplicity, pasta cooks perfectly in it, dinners can easily be switched from slow cook to oven for finishing off, it’s even great if you don’t have time or have forgotten to set your slowcooker, just add the ingredients as you would have to slow cook, set to stove top and cook in no time at all… I can honestly say I’m in love!

Here is my budget friendly menu plan and baking day recipes…

Breakfast

Yoghurt with fruit x2
Oatmeal x2
Eggs with toast x2

Lunches

Pasta salad x2
Soup x2
Grilled panini sandwiches

Dinner

Pasta bolognese
Chili with roasted veggies
Pasta with winter pesto and chicken
Cobb salad
Baked penne with ricotta
Meatball noodle soup

Leftover night

Baking day

Brownies

Coconut tea loaf

Chocolate chip muffins

Banana bread

Easy quick oatmeal breakfast bars

I feel I am missing something after watching Extreme Couponing… Wow how do they save so much money, on one episode I watched this week, one woman spent $2700 on groceries, after swiping her store card the total was $1700, then after using her many, many, MANY coupons the total was $187… Crazy! Granted I do not need 100 bottles of gatoraid, although I am sure my children would love them, and I do not want 100 bottles of coke, but I am sure I could incorporate this into my grocery shopping, so after a little bit of research, I kind of get how it works, you collect the manufacturers coupons, they are worth double in most grocery stores up to 99c, then you wait for that item to go on sale, there is a schedule by all accounts in each grocery store and they rotate the discounts, then you use your coupon, giving you not only the stores savings but double the manufacturers discount too, sometimes the item can be free or an extremely low price, you don’t just buy one item you buy enough to see you through until the next rotation of the sale… Very clever, so although you will never see me on the next episode of Extreme Couponing, I think I could give it a try on a much smaller scale… Why give your money to these over priced grocery stores when you could save just a little bit!

This is the link for a fabulous Coupon website that makes it easy to save on your shopping!

Like menu planning, I think couponing takes time to organize too, but in the end being smart and organized is the key to making your money work for you, and true happiness, it’s only taken me 46 years to realize any of this, but we only grow as people when we learn new things and change is good, so this year I plan on lots of change, living healthier, lots of exercise and being just a little bit cleverer with our finances, you cannot rely on companies to help you out, the only way forward is to make your money work for you, I honestly believe the key to true happiness lies behind true organization and the true love you hold within…

Happy Weekend to everyone, let’s hope all this freaky weather we all seem to be having goes away soon, leaving us with a happy, sunny Spring!

I will leave you with my little miracle, kicking and wiggling inside me this week at my amazing ultrasound…

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Happy New Year!

This day every year brings reflections of a year gone by… I have not viewed 2013 as a very good one until yesterday when I made a short video of a the year of our lives, as I browsed through the many, many photos taken in the last year I realized that although at times in the year things were hard and sometimes sad, there have been many days in between that more than outweighed the bad days, the days we smiled, laughed and just had a great day, the sunshine, the birthdays and the first day we had a little window into the new life growing within me… So my New Years resolution for 2014 is going to be focussing on the good things I have in my life and not dwelling on the not so good, along with my usual trying to be more organized and being better with spending money!

Christmas was a quiet affair this year, well as quiet as it can be in my house, lots of food and presents, but most of all I got the much needed rest I was craving, a few days in watching movies and catching up on a messy filing system on my computer of photos!

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So on this last day of 2013, I want to thank everyone for reading these crazy ramblings of this soon to be mother of 8 children, but most of all I want to wish each and every one a very Happy and Healthy New Year in 2014… And just remember that for every bad day there are many more good days to come in between!

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This is my 28 week ultrasound photo of a new little man in our lives… Now that Christmas is over it’s time to concentrate on his arrival into our already crazy family… I wouldn’t change a thing, maybe just a tweak here and there!