Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas on a Budget: Decorations: CD Mobiles

Every year we have a number of traditions around Christmas time, and one of these are making and creating all sorts of decor for the house to create that Christmas atmosphere.There are some that we tackle every year like Christmas trees made from magazines, snowflakes are a big favourite and of course anything that takes lots of arting and crafting, is always fun.

As some of you may know I am married to the most amazing man who specialises in anything online. And with that comes all the paraphernalia - cords, cords and did I mention cords? And for more than a year I have been eyeing out a pile of old CD's and DVD's that have been tucked away in one of our drawers. I kept an eye on them and noticed that they have not moved in the last year - which of course I was very quick to mention to the aforementioned hunk. (I can say these things because he's MY hunk and we have been married 13 years which makes him especially hunky;) He relented and I had a pile of disks just begging to be part of this special time of year

And so this is what we did: We got a pile of paintbrushes, paint and some varnish and started to create.

First we had to put our base colours on, we used Dala Craft Paints for this. I just got the primary colours (red, blue and yellow) and then a black and white. This way we could pretty much make any colour we wanted to - though to be honest, when I mix colours I always seem to come up with the most obscure shades. Like oh my word orange, pukey pink or fungus green. Sorry but being a mother to 3 boys, kind of gives me permission to use gross terms too.
We had to start with red of course, being a house full of red heads! One coat may not be enough. We did one side first, waited for it to dry and then added further coats until we were happy before we turned them over and painted the other side too.
Also a bit of advice, don't paint on paper, because guaranteed someone will mess a little bit of paint on the underside of a disk and you'll have to unglue and remove the offending bits stuck, which will mean lots of mom involvement and a bit of a mess. As you can see I am getting more art savvy - slowly. I also put them in the kitchen just in case there was any mess or water spillage, which didn't happen because I put them in the kitchen. Guaranteed if I hadn't, there would have been one. Oh and by the way, this rather 60's looking kitchen is not my own but my parents. I love my parent's home. It's old and I get to experiment in their home without messing up mine. Of course the fact that I was house sitting and they didn't know anything about is .... well... for the best I think:0
We painted and painted and painted. It doesn't take long to dry. We painted and then took a break and had a swim and by the time we got back it was time to paint the next layer. Also the nice thing about this activity is that it even works for little ones because as you will see later on, with a bit of glitter paint, you can make any design look beautiful.
We put all our disks on a dish rack, because sometimes when paint is not fully dry they end up sticking to each other and pulling some of the paint off which we didn't want to happen after all the hard work.
And then we go crazy and decorate to our hearts' content. Besides the Dala Craft paint, we also used their Glitter Craft Paint in gold, red and green which just gave everything such a lovely sparkle. You can see that even Ruthie created some real masterpieces.
In the beginning the children were quite reserved and stuck to very basic designs but as they gained confidence and also became familiar with the way the paint worked and how to use colour, they really enjoyed coming up with designs unique to each one. I especially enjoyed seeing how their different personalities determined the type of patterns and colours they chose. 
We painted different designs on both sides. We painted our designs first and then added the glitter paint.
The last layer we added was Dala Deco Varnish Dead Flat. We chose this because we like to keep our decorations. We don't toss them away at the end of the Christmas season, even if they are homemade. We always keep them until the next year.
Of course there were times where I wanted to grab the paint brush out of their hands and "fix" what they had maybe done, or correct their lines. (colour between the lines kind of thing) But I resisted the urge. I tried once, but my one son was mortified that I would dare. So I quickly put myself to work and got busy with my own disks. I found this hugely addictive and loved working alongside the children. In fact, even after they went to bed I worked on some of mine.
And then we hung them with some string in front of the windows. We made rows of 4 or 5 at a time. We mixed and matched and just hung them so that they would catch the sun and breeze.

And there you have it. And look how pretty it looks. They catch the slightest breeze and just turn and rotate. They really are such lovely creations, and they just beautify our view. We had a couple of extras which we also put on our Christmas tree which also looks lovely. Such a display of colour and life is just befitting for this wonderful Christmas season.
Happy Christmas Crafting

Thanks to Dala for sponsoring our art materials.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Preparing to go

With our pending departure to China, there is much to do and only another 4 months to do it in.  I am in no way an expert on moving from one nation to another but these are the things that I know really work for me and have helped alleviate some of the stress and pressure of our preparations.
1.  Make a list 
My husband and I share a google doc, which enables us to keep adding things to the list and to tick it off as and when it's done.  We also try and put a time frame we hope it's to be done by.

2.  First things first
Do the important things first.  The deal breakers need to be first.  Sometimes just because I am tired of a specific task I may find a task that's not so important to do but I don't get stuck or distracted there, its just a temporary reprieve.

3.  A little at a time
Start the process as early as possible and keep going.  I don't do mountains.  I break everything up into smaller parts and keep doing it.  If I need to sort through clothes - I do a drawer today, a drawer tomorrow.  This way I stay motivated, keep doing and it all becomes achievable.

4.  Declutter again and again
I have probably decluttered about 4 times already.  Hoarding and keeping things for just in case, seems to be a pattern in our family.  It helps to go through rooms more than once as time passes, because you start to become more and more discerning in your choice of what stays.

5.  Make time for friends and family
Don't withdraw, don't end things abruptly.  Friends and family are important and they count.  You may be moving to another country but you are not leaving planet earth.  They also need time to get used to the idea and the children need the time to communicate with their friends.

6.  Get your children involved
They can do so much.  Simple tasks like checking which clothes still fit, sorting through cupboards, writing thank yous.  The more involved they are the more they will adjust to the idea of going.

7.  Read Read Read
Read books, read sites aimed at expats, read travel books, autobiographies written by locals.  There more you know from different perspectives the more prepared you will be.

8.  Chat to people who have done what you want to do 
Talk to those in the know.  Ask for their to do list, ask them for advice.  Even if they don't offer you any revelations, they definitely will know how you feel and might be a shoulder to cry on or to bare your soul.

9.  Learn the language as soon as possible
Of course if you are moving to an English speaking nation - you're probably not going to do this.  However, if like us you plan to go to China, then Mandarin is a must.  My children have been studying Mandarin for about 2 years already.  They have made some progress and though they may not be fluent by the time we get there, they are definitely going to be more prepared - and they will pick the language up very easily because they already have some foundations.

10.  Not everything will go according to plan
And that's OK if you have left enough time for the unforeseen.

Who knows in a month I might change this list or add some more but these work for the moment.  Have you moved to another country?  What would you add to this list?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

15 Ways to cure a fussy eater

Fussy picky eaters in your home? Oh and by the way they don't have to be toddlers to be fussy - I know LOTS of fussy eaters ranging from toddlers to adults.
What are fussy eaters you ask?  

Silly question I know but you may have become so used to this way of life that you think the grazers in your family with their likes and dislikes are pretty normal.  Here would be some very simple indicators that you have a fussy eater in your home:
*  they pull up their nose at the mention of certain foods
*  they hide their peas under their gem squash skins(or equally ingenious ideas)
*  they "accidentally" drop the offending food on the floor, or tell you the cat took it, or the dog - or the bird next door...
*   gagging (oh yes they can be very good at acting as most mothers will immediately remove the offending food away just at the thought of this one - oh come on be honest, so would you!)
*  they have a list of things they do or don't eat, or how they do or don't like to eat it - they sound like they are ordering food at a restaurant

How to get your picky eater to eat is not usually the problem.  If they were surrounded by their favourite foods, they would be quite content to eat all day - the problem is that they don't want to eat the healthy stuff, or the wholesome stuff or the unidentified floating stuff...

And to get picky eaters to eat certain foods requires strategy and planning:

1.  Camouflage
Hide them, the army does it through the clothes they wear, we do it with the make up we put on our face - simple camouflage works wonders!  Put some of those green things with the other green things that they DO eat and hopefully they won't see them.

2.  Cloak and Dagger
Hide them under sauce.  In our house white sauce with cheese is a sure winner.  They love the stuff on top so much they often don't notice what's at the bottom until it's too late.

3.  Nuke it
Blend those babies!  I don't care what it is - if you blend it they won't even know what they are.  Sometimes its more important to get those vital nutrients and vitamins into their system.

4.  Close ranks
Don't let your fussy eater, eat snacks before meals - I have seen some of my children have a look to see what's for dinner, decide it's not their favourite, promptly eat 3 apples and 2 slices of bread and then tell me that they are not really hungry.  Yeah right!

5.  Put on a Show
Make faces with fruit, dig tunnels in rice, make castles with peas and mash potatoes. Dressing up the food, like they have never seen before, will have them rethink some of the foods they always thought looked Yucky!  You may think this is only for children but how you present your food can often determine how people view what it will taste like.  Do you blanch your vegetables or do you boil them until the beans go grey and the peas look all withered, the cauliflower looks brown and the broccoli looks wilted.  Get some cooking skills:)
6.  As head honcho you need to lead the way
Oh yes you too! You can't expect your children to eat food that you conveniently leave off your plate.  They see, they take note and boy do they have ammunition.

7.  Leave Ethiopia out of it
Telling your children about starving children somewhere else will not produce any lasting effect.  But letting them miss a meal so they understand what it's like to be really hungry - might change their perspective.   I often tell my children that when they are fussy they are not hungry enough, because when you are hungry even a plain piece of bread tastes like a slice of heaven.

8.  Make sure it's not the enemy
Our bodies have natural defense mechanisms in place to protect it and sometimes the aversion to a specific type of food can also be related to their bodies just shouting NO!

9.  It's all about team
When everyone else is eating something, it's easy to follow suit, especially for a toddler who has never seen something before but if it looks like everyone is happy and eating, it's a lot easier to be a little more adventurous.

10.  The Sound of Music
My children do chores, some days they love it, sometimes they don't but put on some music and they hum happily along and will do it without a single complaint.  Get some sing a long tunes on vegetables or by vegetables - like VegeTales.  You could even get them to watch the DVD - look this might not be a stand-alone-I-will-eat-anything-you-put-before-me-moment but it's all about reinforcing a common theme.

11.  Try Try Try
They say (not sure who THEY are - but they say nonetheless) that a person needs to be exposed to something up to 7 times before they acquire a taste for something. Just think back to when you were a child - there were probably things that you didn't like then that you really like now - I can think of a few myself: olives, beetroot, mature cheddar, green peppers, sardines.  But somehow that can all change in a moment - it could be the 5th time of the 7th time or the 1st time.  Don't give up.
12.  Sshhhh!  Keep it a secret
Don't announce to your picky eater, you have a new food for them to try, and then followed by the words "I'm not sure if you 'll like it but give it a try!" You are setting yourself up for disaster.  Even I would be wondering what taste defying object you were about to give me - like the day I asked my sister to check if the watermelon was over ripe and she did.... let's just say, she has never forgiven me and always reminds me of this day.

13.  Let them cook/ create or make
I remember trying to convince my children to eat salad - just plain, regular lettuce, tomato and cucumber - but for some reason they were just not interested.  Until one day I put our pita breads, and each of the children were allowed to fill their pitas with a variety of fillings - from cheese, to salad, to bits of meat.  Before I knew it they were eating salads to my utter joy and they have never turned back.  I also find that when I let them cook they almost seem to eat twice as much, just because they did it!

14.  The Reason for the Season
Sometimes we go off food because we've had too much of it.  Imagine eating 4 bananas at home, going to someone else's house and being offered a banana dessert. Yum Yum - NOT!  We need to be careful of not feeding our children too much of the same types of food all the time, otherwise they will be put off.  Try to vary the type of food, and also how it's prepared.

15.  Stand your ground
Be sure that this is not a power struggle.  Don't allow yourself to manipulated.  I firmly believe in children being taught to eat what is put them.  Fussiness is rude and especially when  you are a guest at someone else's house.  To receive a long list of what they do and don't eat might ensure that you don't get invited back. (enough said)

Now you have some of the ways I have dealt with my children.  Of course they will always test me, and sometimes I get a little fussy myself - just ask my husband. But eventually if you persevere you can achieve greatness:0

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Out and About: Durbanville Rose Garden

My parents live in Durbanville,I grew up in Durbanville, well at least from my 12th year in life and I go there at least once a month to show my face, get all the lovin' I need from my mom and dad, and to add a couple of kilo's to my already ample figure.  (mom's cooking is great - totally old school - none of this organic, healthy mambo jumbo stuff which I do rather reluctantly).  

As long as I can remember I have driven past the Durbanville Rose Garden but as a teenager, who really has an interest in rose gardens?  Unless it's because your current teen heart throb is taking you there for a romantic stroll and chances are his interests do not lie in the plants.  

And so almost 28 years later I finally took the plunge (sounds far more exciting than it really is) and took my 3 very reluctant boys and my not so reluctant girl to the Durbanville Rose Garden with promises of scones and tea which had been advertised on the building which operates as the tea room.  This was definitely a winning idea and we all headed off on a Sunday morning to see roses and enjoy a real English delight.

This is what we saw: 

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3,5 hectares - 500 rose varieties and 4500 rose bushes!

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
And so are you
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Pointers for visitors:
*  The major disappointment was that the tea garden was closed with no apparent reason - consider packing your own picnic - however you may be lucky they apparently serve tea and scones on Sundays from October to May.
*  Flowers are not in bloom all year round. I know this sounds like an obvious comment but we moms don't always think these things through before heading out (or is that just me?)
* Lots of place for little ones to run, so no real problem taking little ones there except for the thorns, best to wear shoes just in case the occasional rose branch is lying on the ground.
*  It's free, the gates are open from sunrise to sunset.
*  Ample parking especially if you park on the Durban Road side.  They have a whole area sectioned off for parking, away from traffic which allows you to get in and out of your car with relative safety especially with small children or toddlers.
*  Lots of wedding parties come here for their photos so at times may require sensitivity -especially if your children love being in other people's photos.
*  There are no shops close by so if you did forget your picnic and the tea shop is closed, you're stuck. Unless you climb in your car and you can find a shop in about a 3 km radius either towards Durbanville or if you head towards Tygervalley Shopping Centre.
*  Not on the top of my list of things to do in Cape Town but lovely nonetheless.