Category Archives: birthdays

The news

I wake to the news and I’m saddened. I never thought the government of this country could be so heartless.

I watch the news unfold during the day and I’m angered. The lack of empathy, a distinct lack of kindness. It’s rotten.

When I was younger I thought that living an important life was what I was destined for. And that important life would make a difference in a big way.

I turned 39 last week and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don’t have a big important life. I have a little, quiet life. And my ability to affect change seems minimal.

What I have come to see though is that a quiet life can still be an important life. That small kindness, an open mind and empathy can make a difference. That as a Mama I can instil these important values in my boys. That I can live by example. And that if everyone for in with living a life with a lens of kindness and empathy the news would be very different.

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Loverly Parties….Things that ROAR!

My boys birthdays are three weeks apart and this year, after his brother’s large 1st Birthday Party, Bebito was very keen to have a party.  I think he imagined another huge gathering but instead I wanted to focus it around him and his friends.  Five seems like a milestone year to me and I’ve certainly seen him grow up in the last little while.

It’s the first time I really saw Bebito as my “Client” when it came to planning.  I’ve talked about his in my previous party planning post. Essentially, my party philosophy is home made, hand made, thoughtful and organised and don’t spend a fortune so I was guided by this. It was the first time he got involved in the planning and worked out who to invite and I wanted it to be first and foremost, a kids birthday party.  As Little Lion was 2 several weeks later I just combined their party together.

My boys are loud. Yep, I know all kids are loud but my two are particularly loud when they play together and one thing they like to do is out roar each other and pretend they’re dinosaurs.  So months ago I decided on a, “Things that ROAR!” theme.  This encompassed dinosaurs and other animals, rockets, planes, trains and pretty much anything.  As I like to reuse decorations I stick to safe colour palettes that I know we can incorporate into our house…blue, red and green essentially.

I wanted to get Bebito involved in making things so bought some cheap white fabric and some fabric paint and had him potato paint to make a tablecloth. He also helped me glue some dinosaurs on some jars and spray paint them for party favours.

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The jars had some jelly play dough in them, which again, he helped me make – see the recipe here for this play dough which is the most awesome play dough ever.

I did invest in some cookie cutters which I used in various projects for the party – biscuits topped with natural food colouring sprinkles….

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and to trace some figures on card (which my bigger niece and nephew helped us do as a school holiday activity) and we then strung them together as garlands.   This was a great activity to do with both the boys as we talked about colours and patters and it cost less than $5 to make a whole lot of garlands.  We strung these up around the yard and they’re still hanging up under our verandah. The kids love them!

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I found some blank bunting on special for $3 so had my niece, nephew and Bebito decorate two flags each with fabric crayons.  SUPER cute yes?

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Activity wise, the party was a smash hit.  Given the age of the children attending was so varied I wanted to make sure there was a lot of different stuff to do. I took the train set outside, had a table set up with play dough and the cookie cutters, left our swing set very accessible, had a face painter (our largest expense), had a table set up with fabric crayons and blank aprons that the children got to decorate and take home as gifts also.  The feedback from Mama’s who came along was that their smalls loved the aprons most of all.

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We had a few party games too – including pin-the-tail on the dinosaur drawn by me and looking a whole lot like George’s Din-e-saw  – I think I’ve watched too much Peppa Pig!

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Food wise I did a light lunch and had a table set up outside with menu cards written by me on card and using various stickers around the theme – Bebito helped with this too.  We served up home made mini pizzas and garlic bread, home made sausage rolls, healthy chocolate crackles using this recipe, mini frittatas, pinwheel fairy bread using the natural sprinkles again, fruit skewers, spinach and ricotta puff pastry rolls and some puffed corn in a mini cup. The only things I made on the day were the fruit skewers and frittatas as they don’t freeze well.  The rest I cooked up in a huge batch the weekend before and froze, reheating the morning of the party. By far the most popular food was the fruit skewers. I decorated the table with some of the boys toys that met the, “roar” theme.

We also made some strawberry milk using smashed up real strawberries and chocolate milk with cacao and honey, as well as some iced coffee for the grown ups.  Mr also spent a fair chunk of the party ensuring everyone who wanted to had a chance to sample his barista skills.

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The cake was one Bebito chose from a Donna Hay kids magazine and in spite of the sponge having completely split and falling apart when we baked it and inverted it, turned out really well I think!

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Overall, the party was really good fun and very relaxed.  The 15 or so children who attended all had a great time and there was no fighting, screaming or ickiness at all which I think marvellous!

Most of all though, my client gave me the following feedback, “Mama, today was the best day of my whole life! I think we should call the news people to tell them what a wonderful party it was.” High praise indeed!

Two

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Dearest Little Lion,

Today you are two! Two! Well, where did that time go?

You are a boy of many facets – like the colour of your eyes you won’t be pinned down. You are brave, shy, happiest with those you love most. You have a wicked sense of humour too and are the funniest person I know. You already make jokes, saying things you know will get a laugh. Mostly I know they’re coming as you get a twinkle in your eye first. You are also the most stubborn person I’ve met and I know that will serve you well when you’re grown. You’re chatty too, just like your brother. I guess you have to be to keep up! And oh man are you loud!!!

When I was imagining the type of boy you would be I never imagined you as you are now.

On being 38

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Today I turned 38.

There was cake, gifts and hugs from my boys, out of tune singing, more cake, lots of well wishes and a chat with my bestie. I felt overwhelming love for my children, kissed my love, told my Mum I love her and thanked her for having me, loving me and supporting me every day of my life.

I also took myself shopping and saw this dress on the hanger. I was drawn to the spots but wasn’t sure how it would look…..as I did up the zipper I felt that the reflection in the mirror was actually me. Really me. I haven’t felt that good in a dress (or anything) in 20 years.

I feel like I am finally, FINALLY getting comfortable in my own skin. I know who I am, what I am good at, what I totally suck at, what I want to change and what makes me happy. I know what I want and what I don’t. I’m hitting my stride.

Today I turned 38 and I am happy to be me.

The “occasion” Scrooge

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At the outset, let me say I adore my Mum. She is wise, beautiful and strong in the same way as a willow tree is. She has made me both literally and figuratively.

I have a problem though with the “big occasions” and as we are inundated with marketing materials around Mother’s Day I’m particularly stricken at the moment. Megan and I have talked much about this in the past. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day …. I am an “occasion” Scrooge! I make an exception for birthdays as they are really about the person whom you’re celebrating with … And my problem is this …. If it takes a “day” to remind you to be nice to someone well, don’t bother! Additionally, there are lots of people who have lost their loved one – either through them not being the kind of person they should have been or that they aren’t here in the corporeal sense. People struggling with fertility or the heartbreak of having lost a baby. How painful these days must be for them. Also, the pressure on this one day … To have the picture perfect celebration is just too much! It just leaves room for disappointment.

More though, the role of Mum’s is undervalued and I think in modern times this extends to the role of “parents” not just Mum’s as Dad’s have taken a much more hands on approach in recent years than has been the case historically.  In my circles I know how central parenting is to many people’s lives but I’m hyper aware that “my” circles are more about the people I choose to surround myself with.  Sure, there are high profile debates about feeding in public, children running “wild” in cafes or food courts (don’t get me started) but the day-to-day parenting of being woken ridiculously early, loving, nurturing and playing, answering a million questions, coaxing food down toddlers throats, keeping little fingers out of powerpoints and drawers and oh man, the worry – that’s not something we see portrayed in the media or even in movies or television.  And why?  I think really it’s because on the whole, it’s not that interesting to watch or talk about.

I’m all for appreciation, gratitude, showing affection and of course love but maybe, just maybe that should be part of every day life? Save the spontaneity for when it’s least expected though.  And I would really love to see the role of parents being embraced more readily so that parents feel appreciated for trying to raise good children who become good people!

Oh, I am going to counter all this by saying I am SUPER looking forward to whatever amazing Mother’s Day creation Bebito brings home from kindergarten for me! Oh and I never need too much coaxing to make or eat cake so I’m looking forward to making the caramel apple upside down cake pictured above!

How about you? Are you an occasion Scrooge like me?

Lessons in parenting: the dealing with setbacks edition

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Last week Bebito and I set about making his gift for his much loved Grandma (my Mum). I asked him what he wanted to make and after some thought he decided upon a necklace. Kellie put me on to this great tutorial on making a clay necklace. I knew it would be perfect.

So we set about making it together…rolling and chatting and chatting and chatting (well he did most of the chatting!) and poking holes. It was fun. The best kind of crafting together fun.

Only, the thing is, that I forgot to account for the difference in temperatures…the tutorial and indeed the clay was listed in Fahrenheit not Celsius!!! I popped the beads in the preheated oven and a few minutes later returned to the kitchen where there was smoke billowing from the oven. And oh boy, the smell!!!!

Let me say, I’m usually quite good in a crisis. I’m clear headed and calm and I leave my freaking out til later. EXCEPT when it comes to fire. I am not good with fire. So I did what any normal person would do and rang my husband. Because of course that was going to fix it! I mainly wanted to check whether it was a good idea to open the oven. I was worried adding extra oxygen to the situation would be ok and not burn the whole house down! My Mr was the rational man he always is and talked me through it. He sometimes must think he’s married to a complete ditz! Anyway, major crisis was averted.

I was however worried how Bebito would react. He has his Mama’s propensity to get a bit upset when things don’t go according to plan. He asked a million questions but actually coped well. He actually thought it funny more than anything, especially when the drama died down.

That night as we reflected on his day together he asked if we would try again. He knew we had more clay and we hasn’t actually achieved what we had set out to. I really didn’t want to! Fire! I made a mistake. One that could have ended terribly. But it didn’t.

Sometimes the teaching moments in parenting are just so obvious and this was one. A mistake shouldn’t stop you in your tracks. You should pick yourself up, try again, learn along the way. I had to set that example. So, we did it again, this time, only better and he made one for me too (his idea!). One that I will proudly wear for the rest of my days as a reminder of how much he is teaching me as much as I am teaching him.

My guide to kids’ birthday parties (& a giveaway!)

Image – from here – super cute coffee and biccie in a box – I’d love a party where I got this!

If you’ve been hanging about these parts for a while you’ll know that in my full-time work days I was an Event Manager.  I now lecture future Event Managers which is much more family friendly work than the odd hours Event staff do.

I LOVE parties and I love birthdays too….I especially love kids parties and celebrating my baby’s birthdays is all kinds of awesome….but I have a disclaimer….I love the kind of party that is well organised and pretty but I’m not keen on anything that looks over produced.  I love a good theme and all of Bebito’s parties to date have had one – his first birthday had a Where the Wild things Are, his second, an Oliver Jeffers’ “How to Catch a Star” theme, his third a “racing car” and his fourth (a very small gathering) saw a construction vehicle theme – and I think it works well to have one.  My boys’ birthdays are both coming up and we are having a “construction” mini-party for Bebito and a “hot air balloon” theme for Little Lion’s 1st Birthday and Naming Day (I’ll share more about that in another post).

As an event manager, I have a few tips to share about how to organise a “good” kids party for would be party planners:

– my biggest and best advice to is to know your client. I think this applies to a super swish corporate gig or to a 1st Birthday party. Who is the person you’re trying to impress by having the party? Your small person? Your mother-in-law?  When you know this it’ll guide you as to the type of party and even the time of day.
– My second bit of advice is to focus on a few important details – maybe the cake or the decorations – the thing that is going to appeal to your client the most.  The rest of it isn’t so important.
– Don’t get caught up in trying to make everything perfect.  Good event managers have a bit of a “good enough is close enough” attitude that comes from planning things in advance and letting things fall how they will.
– Don’t think you have to spend a fortune to have a good party. I’ve never yet spent more than a few hundred dollars on everything associated with Bebito’s birthdays gone by.  This is easier when you focus on only a few important things.
– Do as little as possible on the day of the party – if you’re like me, you’ll be worried about how the guests are getting along and making lots of food or doing lots of preparation on the day is an extra stress you don’t need.  For Little Lion’s 1st Birthday I have chosen a menu that means I don’t have to make anything on the day. Also, magazines like Donna Hay have great tips on how to organise a Christmas lunch well in advance too.
– Don’t be scared to enlist the help of your loved ones with catering and ensuring the guests are enjoying themselves.  My Mr is a brilliant mingler as are a couple of our friends so we know we can count on them to get around and make everyone feel welcome.
– Don’t think you’ll make everyone happy! There will ALWAYS be someone with a sourpuss at every gathering – they could be a three year old or indeed, your mother-in-law! As long as your “client” has a good time and you can see smiley faces about you can consider it a success!
– Do something a little bit surprising. For Little Lion’s upcoming 1st Birthday and Naming Day we are getting our guests to fill out this cute little wish list card for him.
– Send thank you cards! I think this is just plain good manners but I may be a bit old fashioned about these things. I prepare these at the same time as I do the invitations.
– Plan something nice for the grown ups too – coffee or wine is a nice touch – it’s not just about the kids after all but don’t make it your biggest focus – remember your audience isn’t the grown ups after all!
– Don’t be scared to umm….”steal” ideas from other sources. Heck, that’s what pinterest is all about isn’t it? 🙂 Which brings me to my giveaway! ….

Thanks to the folks at Pan Macmillan I have three copies of the soon to be released book, “Party!” that is absolutely full to the brim with excellent kids party ideas. The big themes are covered – fairy princess, space, dinosaurs, cars and trucks, craft, cooking, zoo – to mention a few. It includes decoration tips, recipes, costumes, invitations and so, so, so many ideas around each theme which really does make it a comprehensive guide to having a birthday party. Even the most nervous party planner could feel confident using this book as a guide. I think some of the ideas would work equally well for “grown up” parties too!

If you’d like to win a copy all you need to do is comment below telling me what your favourite ever birthday cake was from your childhood…or the best cake you’ve witnessed was.  My Mama made me one of those dolls in a cake thing for my 9th birthday and I thought it was the best thing I ever did see in my entire life even though I was never really a doll kind of girl.

Good luck lovelies!

Amended….& random.org has drawn numbers 2, 11 & 6 which is Kate, Natalie & Gab. Exciting! Lovely Kate can you please send me an email to cat.beloverly@gmail.com – Nat & Gsb I’ll be in touch. Congrats and thanks to all who entered! Xxx

The “fineprint”:
– Open from today, Saturday September 1st 2012, through to 6pm Tuesday September 4th 2012
 when I’ll draw the three winners at random
– Sorry, Australian residents only
– If you’d like to tweet about the giveaway please do but leave a comment telling me you have done so
– I’ll need to pass on your details to the folks at Pan Macmillan to have the book sent on to you