Friday, 17 April 2015

family camp // the olive grove of kangaroo valley {part one}

Recently, our clan went on our annual getaway/reunion (we've been going for about seven years now!). There was quite a gang of us - our parents, the five siblings and our partners and our ever increasing collective brood of children - currently tallying nine! Twenty of us all up, which makes for quite a gathering - our complete family together, as we so rarely are...

Due to David's condition, this year was bittersweet, to say the least. Hastily organised, and not even being sure until the night before that he would actually be able to make it, the time was all the more precious. I was just so grateful that we could be there, together. It was lovely, relaxing and noisy as it can only be with nine children under the age of seven!

We stayed in Kangaroo Valley, in a cluster of cottages nestled in an olive grove. We had the whole place to ourselves, so the kids ran wild and free. We spent our week pottering around the place, thankful to just be together. Eating, laughing, playing, crying, knitting, talking, hiking. It was what we all needed, just to do these simple things together.

Time together more meaningful than my words can convey, so I will let the pictures do the talking.

Feeding the animals at 5pm each day was a real highlight...where we stayed was sort of like a farm stay too, and the kids just loved visiting the animals :)

The seven older cousins, all lined up to feed the ducks. A rare moment to capture them in one space!
The triplets, hanging.
This old tractor was the main attraction for the whole week. 
love x

Dinner time was a chaotic affair, as it can only be with nine tired, hungry children! At least one child was crying at all times. But it was still so wonderful to eat together at this huge trestle table each night.
Good times around the campfire. We roasted marshmallows and damper with the kids, then the adults sat up late chatting around the fire till all hours. Ok, we adults had our own round of marshmallows too!

Early morning bed head and TV. It is holidays after all ;)
Lily showing her little cousin Alaia all the photos on her camera. Love sneaking up on sweet moments like these!
Lily insisted on taking a photo of me with my 'big camera'. In the interest of 'the mum stays in the picture' here I am in all my scruffy camp life glory ;)
David loves bird watching. Three eagles circling up in the sky was enough to lure him out of his cabin in the morning sunshine to glimpse them through his binoculars. :) 
The morning dew weighing down a delicate web.
One family would cook for all 20 of us each night, rotating around so we only had to cook once and then just enjoy the rest of the week. We ate like kings, needless to say.... like when Woz whizzed up this amazing batch of pork dumplings and noodles. Divine!
Me, Alex (SiL) and Anne (sis). My little sister has gotten into knitting and soon enticed Alex and then myself to join the gang. Scarves were knit amidst laughter and a few tears too. It was a fun little project, keeping the hands busy was quite soothing. Turns out knitting is like riding a bike - once you know how to do it, you never forget! I learnt as a child and it all came back to me :)

We celebrated the first birthday of this little cutie, my niece Frankie!

Airplanes with Daddy. 

More to come xx

Monday, 13 April 2015

{give away and review} why we *love* reusable sandwich and snack bags

One of my childhood memories is of my amazing, resourceful mother washing out and pegging up plastic bread bags over the kitchen window sill, to reuse for wrapping sandwiches, cut fruit and so forth. Yes, she was into reusing and repurposing way before it was on trend! ;)

While I may not (yet!) take my environmental and thrifty savvy to quite that level, clearly it influenced me because it has always chaffed me to use lots of plastic bags. Even when my dear kids and their never ending (NEVER.ENDING!!) snack requirements appeared on the scene, I always cringed about using 'disposable' ziplock type bags. It just seemed so wasteful! Just a single use then toss. It didn't seem right. Containers were the easy alternative of course, but they were usually so bulky, they didn't always suit. A couple of years ago I started seeing reusable snack bags coming onto the market and my little heart knew it had met its match! Ahhh, the answer to my predicament! I bought a couple to try out - a sandwich and a snack sized bag, and it was indeed looooove :)

Here's a little list of why our family now loves using reusable bags...

  • Good for the environment, less waste and landfill. 
  • Over time, you save $$$!
  • They are easy to empty/dust out, and if they get mucky, most are dishwasher/washing machine friendly too.
  • Unlike bulky containers, they don't take up as much space in your bag - and once they are empty, they take almost no space!
  • They are a great way to wrap individual foods within lunchboxes too, so you can avoid using cling wrap.
  • A better alternative to your food touching chemical-leeching cling wrap and plastic bags.
  • Oh yeah - they look so cute too :)

A few of the colourful, fresh and modern designs of the Lunchskins range. Aren't they gorgeous!? And so well made too.

These days I usually have a couple of reusable snack bags floating around in my hand bag and nappy/diaper bag, filled with emergency crackers, sultanas, etc. Every time someone else spots us using them, they comment on what a great idea they are - and yes, they really are! Good for the kids - and for adults too of course. Yes, Mama needs her own little snack bag at times...keeps me from getting 'hAngry' ;) Hubby takes some of his work snacks in them too!

A staple 'emergency handbag snack kit' - sultanas, coconut chips and sunflower seeds. 
Perfect for little hands...

A couple of common questions friends ask about reusable lunchbags are...

1) How well does it 'seal' in the food? Does a sandwich stay fresh? Unlike some other brands, Lunchskins has a really strong velcro strip that goes all the way across the opening. If you make a sandwich in the morning, it will keep nice and fresh for the day, but I wouldn't say longer than that. It's not an airtight seal like a ziplock, but it does close up very well. 

2) Does it leak? Again, it's not completely 100% sealed in like a ziplock bag, but the canvas is sturdy and thick. For something fairly juicy like an orange, rockmelon etc it will contain it all just fine. I filled mine with water as an experiment, and it dripped a bit from the corners where the stitching is and would also from the flap at the top. Of course, I don't think anyone is expecting to use them to hold pure water, haha... 

The perfect little sandwich bag. Please note this bread is a small loaf (Burgen bread). Regular size bread fits perfectly too.
This is Eli's serious orange face, haha :)

I started off my 'reusable bag journey' (ha!) with a different brand, which I liked but was open to trying another type. Earlier this year, a friend and I came across these adorable and really well made bags by Lunchskins in one of our favourite online kids stores, Finlee and Me. We bought a couple each to try, and have both been SO happy with their quality, their cuteness,and the very strong velcro which goes along the whole opening flap (the other brand I used only had a small tab of velcro, so it didn't seal up so well). The Lunchskins brand of reusable bags are also BPA and phthalate free and dishwasher safe. They are also hand sewn using certified food-safe fabric. 

The Good Stuff....

Are you getting on board the reusable bag train? Keen to try them out? Or already a fan and want to increase your stash? Well, this could be your lucky day! I am so pleased to partner with Finlee and Me, who have generously offered to give away a sandwich/snack bag set to THREE lucky winners!!

Finlee and Me are a fantastic Australian online kids shop, specialising in lovely and unique goodies for kids and babies - and some things for Mums too! When they offered to send me an item for review, I was keen to add to my reusable bag stash, as with five family members the few I have are always in use! Plus, I couldn't wait to shout my love for these enviro-friendly goodies to the rooftops. You know me, I love to share with you guys about what I'm loving! Of course, I also wanted to share the love around with a giveaway :)

So, there are three chances to win! Just comment below to have one of three chances to win your very own Lunchskins snack and sandwich bag set (valued at $24.95 plus postage). In the mean time, check out the gorgeous full range here.... and be sure to browse around all of Finlee and Me's lovely other goodies too. So many nice things!

PS Use the Rafflecopter app, then enter your competition entry comment (What would you store in your Lunchskins reusable bag?) into the blog comment box at the bottom of the page xx

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions:
Giveaway is for 3 Lunchskins sets (one sandwich bag, one snack bag). One set each for three winners, and including delivery within Australia
Australian Entries only. 
Must leave a name and email address if using an "anonymous" profile that is not linked to a way to contact you if you've won.
Winner will be deemed most creative/interesting response as chosen by me. This is a game of skill, not chance.
Entries close Sunday night, 19th April, 11.59pm 2015. 
Judges decision is final. Winner must respond within 48 hours or prize will be awarded to the runner up. Good luck!!!

**These items were provided for review by Finlee and Me. All opinions are 100% my own... as mentioned, I bought a set of these myself earlier in the year, we are big fans already!**

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

#highlightsreel // enlighten me

Life lately....

Finding joy and just savouring the little moments with my precious family xx

Two little scallywags, post-waterfight. Do their cute faces distract from the grubby glass door?! ;)
Well, well, look who I discovered late one evening, snuggled up on the comfy floor!

My sweet girl stayed up late one night doing a picture for every class mate (20!). And some presents too. I love her phonetic spelling soooo much! :) Xavier, Ms Newton, Hayli, Ben, Grace, Athina.
I made these chicken and zucchini poppers for dinner, and put these little foodpicks in just for fun. Miles thought they were birthday candles and started singing 'Happy Birthday' and held it up like this for ages. Oh, cutie pie!
A little block building challenge inspired by the wonderful An Everyday Story

They took on the challenge with relish, experimenting with different building

Drawing a diagram of their building strategy...
He lies down with Daddy and tries to copy his pose exactly. (he had his arms
up too but I missed it!). Oh Miles. Like father, like son. 
The kids can now do an entire laundry cycle themselves. Everything from putting clothes and detergent into the machine, putting it on, hanging it on the line, and bringing it in, sorting and putting away. I am super duper proud of my independent little people :)
Showing off the empty basket after completing the task. I got them this cute little mini basket of their own :)
Oh Miles. This is how he requests to be tucked in these days. Sleep bag, blanket tucked over, then his fave toys lined up next to him. Hahaahaa! He is so quirky. I need to do a whole post on his various preferred bed time rituals. This kid, he has a lot of opnions ;) These little moments are so precious.
My tired little boy/big Preschooler. Although he is nearing five, he can still easily nap most days. On preschool days he can't so I have found him collapsed like this a couple times recently. Darling boy!
A night out at the amazing Enlighten festival. It has a lot of competition but I think it's now my favourite annual Canberra event. Love this town! Old Parliament House never looked so good!! The projections move and change, so enchanting.
Eli highlights the star he made for the cellophane house inside OPH.
She got 'swiped by a Teradactyl'... well, actually, that's just what she requested from the cool special effects make up artist at Questacon!
Next level cotton candy/fairy floss.... Glow in the Dark!!!!
No, I didn't feed my kids nuclear powered food, haha! It's a flashing rainbow glow stick with plain fairyfloss wrapped around it. Pretty fun huh??! Of course, we just had to let the kids try it :)

The National Library of Australia.
Beautiful 'paper boats' on the lake. They kept changing colour!

The National Portrait Gallery had a series of moving images that were so mesmerising. My favourite!