28 February 2014

Things I'm Loving: Magic moonlight, Microwave corn, Cicada Skins and Cuddles

I wholeheartedly believe that no matter what is happening in your life, there is always something you can be thankful for..no matter how simple it is.

Revolutionising corn
A while back I'd read one of those 99 life hacks to make your life easier posts. You know the really clever ideas to make your life easier and you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. I remember seeing one about microwaving corn still in it's cob and thought that was one I'd be keen to try. And then promptly forgot about it - as you do. Then recently when I read Angela Noelle's clever post about 5 things smart people do at 5, it reminded me all over again, so I finally got around to giving it a go.

If you are weak wristed like me, shucking a cob and then trying to cut it into quarters as a little extra to accompany dinner is near on impossible. Halves I can manage, quarters not so much. The fact that you just throw the whole shebang in the microwave and four minutes later cut the end off (which is now quite soft) and the whole thing just slides out is like poetry people. If you haven't tried it, you really must.

The only OTHER way I'll ever eat it now is on the BBQ lathered in this stuff which is a wonder in itself!

Worth the mozzies
Last week there was a couple of stunning nights when the full moon rose. Normally I try and take a shot through the window upstairs and I'm ALWAYS disappointed with how they turn out. This time, I told myself to get my a into g and actually take the tripod out across the street to try and get some shots. Was it worth the 3 mozzie bites I got after about two minutes which forced me to race back inside and swap jandals for running shoes? Hell yeah.

I'll admit there's so much more I have to learn about manual settings and night photography but I was still pretty pleased with the few decent shots I got, even if my feet were itchy for the next few days!

Without a brain tumour, I'd never have won a gold medal
Do you remember this moment back in 1984?

OK so I was only seven but I still do, I used to love watching the ice skating at the Olympics. And this tiny guy at 5 foot 4 stole everyone's heart when he won a gold medal. But he's remembered more now, for the health challenges he's had to overcome. His thoughts on his life and his faith are truly inspiring. Sit down with a cuppa, it's worth it. Very, very inspiring.

Who's the bravest?!
Loving how Noah isn't scared to pick up cicada skins, or live ones for that matter. I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to this. I've had too many times when cicadas have flown at me and got stuck in my hair which totally gross me out. Noah's been busy collecting the skins for a class project, and it's the perfect time of year for it with them all hatching in abundance in the last couple of weeks. It's been a deafening cacophony around the city this past couple of weeks, much more so than I remember last summer. He was making fun of me because I didn't want to touch them or pick them up. But I had the last laugh when he the saw a mid-size spider on the door and was too scared to touch it or get rid of it. I calmly picked up some toilet paper, grabbed it inside the paper, and got rid of it for him. I said we all have our own fears to face and that we shouldn't make fun of others if their fears aren't the same as ours. I think the point was taken!
Meeting Maia
Later today we are heading up to Hamilton to see our family, and in particular our Melbourne based brother and sister. And I for one cannot wait to set eyes on this wee poppet for the first time! Prepare yourself Maia, cos Aunty Meg has got three month's worth of cuddles in store for you!.

Here's how you can join in this week:

Link up below with your blog post telling us what you're loving, and grab the Things I'm Loving button below for your post too. Don't forget to share the love by visiting all the other lovelies who have joined in - the linky is open till same time next week!

26 February 2014

5 great ideas for Creche and Sunday School: Noah's Ark

When working with children in the age 2-5 category, you always have to bear in mind the different abilities of the ages and aim for something that will be fun for both the very young and the nearly school-age which is always the first challenge!

The session I did with Noah's ark was a big hit with the kids. Let's face it, it was always going to be when kids are fascinated with animals - so a whole theme devoted to animals is always going to be a winner.

We started by reading this fun rendition of the story 'All Afloat on Noah's Boat'. Look for a copy at your local library or you can buy from Book Depository here. This book has been in our family for years and it's got great rhyme and rhythm throughout.
I also let the kids tell the story themselves using this great magnetic storybook version of Noah's Ark and they all took turns putting the different people and animals on the pages as we went along. We were given this book as a 1st birthday gift many years ago and it has been a firm favourite since. You can find a copy here.

Lastly we made a Noah's ark mobile craft and talked about God's rainbow and His promise never to flood the Earth again.The original idea for the craft was sourced here. What you will need:

A piece of A4 card for the ark

Noah's ark mobile
Source: Joyful Jewish

Fold the card in half and make the shape of an ark with the top of the ark on the fold so that you can put animals on both sides as it will hang in the air. You ideally want the shape of the hull of the boat look symmetrically opposite to the rainbow.

Print pictures of Noah (I used an image I found on the Internet and copied it multiple times onto a sheet that I then cut out for the kids to stick on). You can download my template here.

Use the template below or download from here to print off and cut out enough copies of the dove so there is one for each child.

Foam animals (I bought a container for $6 from The Warehouse and there are still loads left to use again another time)

Little Hands Foam Animals

Use this template to print a picture of the rainbow or download from here. You'll need two rainbows per child so you can cut out and double side them onto a piece of card. 

Let the kids stick Noah and the foam animals to the ark and the dove onto the rainbow. Put a string through the top of the ark so it hangs and also tape it to one side of the rainbow. Then hang somewhere where you can admire and remember the amazing promises of God! 

Noah's ark mobile
Source: Joyful Jewish

There will be 4 more great themes and ideas in the weeks to come!

25 February 2014


Project 52: A portrait of my children once a week every week in 2014.

On the hottest day of the summer so far (better late than never) we seized the moment and hit the beach down at Oriental Parade after school. It was the stillest, sunniest afternoon, and I cannot remember ever seeing the water as clear as it was on this day.

Noah: my first water baby. You came into this world through water, and you'd spend all day in the water given the chance. You never feel the cold and love any opportunity to get wet whether its a swim, a water fight, a sprinkler under the trampoline or just soaking your head with a water bottle on a hot day. I love that you pointed out to me the glitter in the sand under the water and excitedly showed me when you caught the 'gold' in your hands.

Mylo: your water confidence has grown immensely over the past year. Starting swimming lessons has helped a lot, and following in your confident, older brother's footsteps has too. Here you are celebrating the amazing feeling of swimming in warm water with the glorious harbour a stunning backdrop for this unscheduled afternoon together. You even managed to convince your mama (who is not usually a great fan of swimming unless the water is at least 30 degrees!) to join you. I'm so glad I did.

24 February 2014

When you want to crawl under a rock......

Picture the scene. It's Saturday morning, still quite early, and I'm at Pak n Save Kilbirnie with Noah doing the weekly shop.

I've just passed through the fruit and veg area and I'm heading down past all the meat. I get to the end of this row, lost in my own world and suddenly a girl with a pamphlet stops me and says: 'hey we're giving away some free Inghams frozen chickens if you can shoot a hoop with Irene van Dyk'.

Ah, no pressure right?! She's only THE most famous netballer around, and there she is standing right there. Wowsers, she's tall. I look up at the free standing netball goal they've brought in for the occasion and think 'golly me when did those goals get to be so tall or have I shrunk?'

And I'm still blaming it on the fact that I got a little star struck standing next to this amazing sportswoman, but do you think I could shoot a hoop to save my life? No sirree! It could also have a lot to do with the fact that I never was very good at netball either. So TEN shots later and I STILL hadn't managed to get a goal despite it bouncing off the rim a couple of times.

And a crowd was gathering.

The longer I tried the more wayward my shots became. The next thing you know, I'd managed to lose the ball behind a whole stack of boxes filled with toilet roll. Oh the shame of it!

At this point I suggested it might be nice to give someone else a turn.

The girls from Inghams took great pity on my extreme embarrassment and gave me a voucher for a free chicken ($13) despite my ineptitude.

And if I wasn't already feeling embarrassed enough, the fact that as I walked away a middle aged woman and a 10-year old kid both got their balls in the hoop first time sealed this as one of my most embarrassing public moments ever!

Despite this, I do think its actually healthy from time to time to find yourself in an embarrassing situation, to remind us that we're all human and we shouldn't get too over confident in our own abilities. There always a moment waiting right around the corner to bring us right back with a thump to earth.

And there are some things in this life that we were born to do but clearly being a netballer is not my calling!

Do you have an embarrassing story where you just wanted to crawl under a rock and die? Do share!

21 February 2014

Things I'm Loving: Ten

I wholeheartedly believe that no matter what is happening in your life, there is always something you can be thankful for..no matter how simple it is.

I'm hijacking Things I'm Loving again this week because I need to celebrate TEN. It's our ten year wedding anniversary today. So this post is dedicated to this amazing man that I have been married to for the past decade.


It's ten years today since I walked up the aisle with you:
  • while a landslip nearly closed the road and turned a 45 minute journey into a 4 hour journey
  • while outside hurricane force winds were buckling the ranch sliders around us
  • while houses down the road were busy losing their roofs
  • while our marquee in the garden nearly blew away several times and the lighting caught on fire
  • while a water main burst and flooded the lawn around us
We made our forever vows to the distinct sound of tent pegs being knocked deeper into the ground outside to try and prevent further disasters.

There were so many things that weren't 'right' about the day. So much that happened was outside of our control. It seemed as if getting married was the easy part. And in part, it was. I'd never been surer of anything my whole life.

So today, celebrating TEN, here are TEN things I love about you:

I love how well you take care of our family.

You are one of the most considerate and selfless people I know. You never just make plans to do something you want to do without checking what other plans we might have. And when you do go out or away for work, you've already thought to cook us meals in advance and made life as easy as it possibly could be without you there. You have such a nurturing nature and you always make sure your family is well provided for.

I love that you are such a good friend.

You are one of the most loyal and caring people I know. You have so many friends and I don't think I have ever heard anyone say a bad thing about you - perhaps they wouldn't knowing that I'm your wife but still. I love that you still keep in close contact with your friends right from primary days and that those bonds are still strong despite the fact they are half a world away. I love the fact you go out of your way to help your friends. You are always there with a listening ear, slow to judge and quick to forgive.

I love that we share a love of exploring new places.

Whether it's a Blue Spring just down the road, a deserted beach hut in the Maldives, an amazing winter wonderland in the Swiss Alps, the bright city lights of Melbourne, or the glorious desert under Arabian skies, I love how we have embraced and made the most of our travels together, and I hope that we have many more adventures to come in the years ahead.

I love how you take responsibility for your own health

Even more than that I love how much that has changed in the time I have known you. I will be forever immensely proud of the massive changes you had to make to take control of your future and your determination to live a changed life for the rest of your life.

I love all the funny memories we have made

They might not have been so funny at the time, but we can look back on them now and laugh heartily. And oh there have been some doozies. Remember in Crans Montana in Switzerland where I threw all my toys and very nearly threw myself in the frozen lake after a long and difficult day journeying halfway across the country just to find a good place to snowboard?

Remember in Rome where I got off the bus and you got trapped on there carrying all our passports and money - how I just calmly thought I would just walk to the next bus stop to find you while you were busy freaking out and yelling expletives to the driver (who must have been wondering what this crazy foreigner was on) to stop the &*$#! bus?

There are so many more I could write about, but these ones immediately spring to mind and can still make me laugh some 12 or so years later!

I love what an amazing Daddy you are.

Your boys adore you. And with good reason. They have the best Daddy in the world. One who is never too busy to rough and tumble, have a nerf gun fight, jump on the trampoline, take them swimming, clean up their poop, teach them new sports, play board games, walk them for miles to get them to sleep, and generally just LOVE on them. You do more than your fair share of parenting, getting the boys off to day-care and school every morning, so that I can then spend the afternoons with them. You never complain that actually you probably have the rough end of the deal, you simply get up each day, get them ready and out the door on time. All the while leaving the house spotless for us to enjoy (and immediately mess up most of the time) as soon as we get home.

I love that you look for the good in me.

Sometimes you have a lot to put up with. I can be bossy, a perfectionist, an over-organiser which leads to me nagging you multiple times about doing something just because I want it done now. I can nit-pick about the little things, correct you just because I know I am right and don't want to let it lie. I love that most of the time you just brush it off and get on with loving me anyway. And the times where you don't and you justifiably lose your cool, it's always a bit of a shock! Which then means an opportunity for me to learn that hey actually there are boundaries and I need to learn better not to overstep the mark and push you too far.

I love your positivity.

There's not much that gets you down. You are the cool level head that complements my slightly more fiery up and down nature. You definitely help me keep perspective and when I'm tempted to throw in the towel or lose the plot. You always look for the good in situations and people and often help me to see them too. It's a very rare thing to see you grumpy (unless the kids are acting up!) and you are a ray of sunshine that lights up the room when you arrive home to us all in the evening.

I love how much you enjoy food.

For you, food is something to be savoured and enjoyed, not just a means to an end to stay alive. I love that you cook us amazing meals night after night and put up with my sometimes feeble attempts to cook the dishes you know off by heart. I love that you don't give me (too much of) a hard time for how messy the kitchen ends up when I am cooking and baking. I take my hat off to you, how you manage to cook and wash up all before dinner is on the table - I don't know how you do it. For a guy you're pretty amazing at multi-tasking in the kitchen. I love that you have embraced my healthier eating lifestyle and that you encourage me to keep churning out the healthy treats for us to snack on in the evening so we don't reach for the chocolate.

I love how well you love me.

If I'm honest, it also needs to be acknowledged that you are way more romantic than me. You will often surprise me with flowers or chocolates when you know I'm having a rough time with work or my health, or when you want to congratulate me when something has gone well. I love that you are so thoughtful, and I wish I was more spontaneous and thoughtful instead of being too grounded and practical most of the time! The You Complete Me blog post you secretly arranged with Paisley Jade for me to find on Christmas Day is only one example of the incredible thoughtfulness and love you have shown for me unashamedly in front of the watching world.

I pray that this is just the first decade of many together. And if I close my eyes, I can fast forward and imagine us at our golden wedding anniversary in 2054. I know you'll still be a pretty spunky 76 year old even then.  Surrounded by our family and looking into your eyes I'm still thinking that marrying you was by far the best decision I ever made in my life. So.....let's meet there?!

Here's how you can join in this week:

Link up below with your blog post telling us what you're loving, and grab the Things I'm Loving button below for your post too. Don't forget to share the love by visiting all the other lovelies who have joined in - the linky is open till same time next week!

19 February 2014

3 reasons to edit your phone photos with Snapseed

If you're a big Instagrammer like I am, then you'll have often felt a bit restricted by the simplistic nature of the editing functionality within the Instagram app itself with only a dozen or so filters to choose from. That's why I choose to edit my phone photos with Snapseed

Snapseed is not to be confused with Snapchat of course - they are completely different apps. I honestly believe Snapseed is one of the best mobile phone apps out there for quick but punchy editing that take your photo from good to grrrrrrreat!

From this to this.

It's a very simple app to use, so here's my top 3 quick and easy edits to really make your photos pop:

1.  Tune up your image (brightness, ambience and contrast)

Use the Tune Image button. Tap on the screen, then scroll up and down to get options for brightness, ambience, contrast, saturation, shadows and warmth. Once you are in the individual tuning function, scroll left and right to add or subtract brightness, ambience and contrast etc.

As a minimum on every picture, I always brighten the picture, add a bit of ambience and a slight pop of contrast.

2. Add a bit of Drama

Some pics look great with a bit of drama added. My favourite edit is to add about 50% Filter Strength and a little bit of Saturation, but it depends on each picture how much looks right. Just play with it till it looks right. To move the Filter Strength up and down just tap on the photo and scroll up and down.


3.  Add some Center Focus

There are a number of good edits within this filter, I usually just try each one and figure out which one looks best for the individual picture, but my favourite edits are Portraits 2 and Old Lens. If you tap on the screen, you'll get a center dot that you can move around or make the vignette around the outside more or less intense.

Then Save to your photo library and post into your Instagram feed a shot with a lot more oomph!!


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