Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How Functional Neurological Disorder has affected my weight

My dressmaker nicknamed me the 'incredible shrinking bride' in the lead up to my wedding. I couldn't stop losing weight. In despair she told me to 'stop it' as she could not possibly take in my wedding dress any more!  6 weeks after my own wedding I was a bridesmaid at my friends wedding and the dress, that had been snug at the fitting, hung off me. I had to pin the bodice to my bandeau bra so that it would not move and cause a wardrobe multifunction!

This was post baby number 3, pregnancy number 8, after which I had needed to lose 20kgs.  I jogged at least twice a day and tried to do either pilates, yoga or tae bo in a day as well.

Skip ahead to 2007.  Another baby, 2 more pregnancies. The last one devastating. It left me about 10-15 kgs overweight and sporting a baby jelly belly & no baby to show for it.  Looking ahead to our NT adventure planned for the end of the year, I knew I needed to get back on track or I would come back from 4 weeks travelling terribly unhealthy.  I had jogged & done pilates with baby number 4 up until the day I was hospitalised with pre-eclampsia.  But the last pregnancy had taken its toll on me and I was no longer jogging.

I made a decision to turn things around and started getting up at 4:30am so that I was ready to head out on my jog as soon as the sun peaked over the Moresby Ranges. I implemented all the exercise tactics I had used in the past to get fit. By mid December 2007 I was once again fully ripped.

Sometimes I think people don't believe me when I tell them I got control of my weight again after baby number 4, pregnancy number 10.  But I did.  It seemed even if I let weight creep on, all I had to do was go back to my reliable routine to shed it again.

Skip forward to December 2012.  Post baby number 6, pregnancy number 14.  Although I lost weight while I was pregnant, since having the baby I had put it back on and nothing was shifting it. I promised myself that I would use the Christmas Holidays to shed those unwanted kilos.  Due to trouble sleeping, getting up at 4:30am to jog was no longer an option as I was barely falling asleep from the previous day at that time!

So I committed to walking every morning as soon as I could get out of the house. I had done that when I first started jogging all those years ago and it had been a great starting point.  I stuck to my plan the whole school holidays but by January 26, 2013 I was really sick.   By February 6, 2013 I was in hospital.  My medical condition had gone undiagnosed and untreated for too long, over 10 years.  In hospital for two weeks and on bed rest after my release, any fitness I had gained back was gone. And the worst thing? I hadn't actually lost any weight from all the exercise I had done over the holidays!  :-(

Left untreated for so long, in response to any genuine attempts to exercise enough to lose weight, my body just says NO!  When my stubbornness kicks in and I insist YES the muscle pain is excruciating. The whole body lethargy debilitating.  My children cannot touch me without causing me physical pain & bruising.  

Bottom line: I cannot do any of the things I used to do in the past to lose weight. I have tried. I have tried them all. My pilates that I love SO much, only 15 mins into a session my legs will stop responding to commands.  About the only thing left to me is walking, and I HATE walking. I'm a hare, not a tortise.....!  But then even walking became painful, my right leg, my strongest leg, playing up. At the start of this year (2014) I was walking 7.5kms a day, dragging my gimpy leg behind me. Since my stay in hospital in 2013 two muscles in my right leg have 'switched off' neurologically, and no longer work. So the other muscles bear the brunt of carrying my weight, hence the pain. Also I keep falling into the classic trap of anyone with any sort of fatigue illness; having a high energy day and making the most of it going all out getting EVERYTHING and ANYTHING done, and then laying around whacked out for the next week, barely enough energy to lift your arms to brush your hair, let alone taking a step without tripping over the pattern in the lino....

And still I lost no weight.  I am not a great swimmer, but I tried swimming laps. It was great impact free exercise and didn't seem to bother my leg but sadly I couldn't fit pool trips into my daily routine or weekly budget :-(

I even contacted Michelle Bridges hoping she might take me on as a challenging project.  One of her assistants wrote back telling me to sign up for the program...not quite the result I had been hoping for. I've had offers from local trainers to help me, but they all want me to pay for the sessions without even knowing if they can actually help me achieve any results. Also a lot of them run comparisons and competitions between the participants in their classes. I already see my friends around me starting on their weight loss journey and passing me on their way. I don't think comparing my journey to others is healthy for me at the moment. I'm not the average participant.

Already believing I was eating better than ever before in my life, my only option left was to try the "I Quit Sugar" route and after two months, weight started to move. Not heaps, but enough to encourage me to continue.

And so now here I find myself again at the start of another Christmas School Holiday period. I'm not sure yet how I am going to make the most of it, but I know I am!  I have already returned to my pilates and I hope to add daily walks back in.

No jogging for Ali *insert epic sad face*

So if you see a lady walking around town, accompanied by a gaggle of Freaks, and dragging a gimpy leg, give me a wave and maybe even a honk of encouragement. Because I aim to show you that it can be done. A mother of 6, with health issues, can shed weight and regain a healthy BMI ;-)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Things I hope I'm teaching my children (that my parents never taught me...) Part 2

2. To cook:

Strangely enough my mother believes she sent me off into the world with a foundational knowledge of cooking; she had taught me how to make scrambled eggs & how to bake piklets, scones & cakes, all using packet mixes. -_-

My mother was ahead of her time & steamed all our vegetables, including potatoes (*gag*), all our meat was cooked in a vertical grill but she rarely used any spices so the food was very bland.

I was 12 years old before I'd tasted a cream sauce or gravy & was introduced to mashed potatoes, all because I spent the night at a friends house for the very first time!

Even the salad we ate as children came out of a can. The only fresh vegetable in our salads was tomato.  The rest was all pickled :-/

I didn't know what real cake mix looked like until I saw Pippa on Home & Away making one. It was so firm!  Packet cake mixes are so runny and thin... *shudders*

Even to this day my mother cannot understand why I bake from scratch when she sees it as much easier to tear open a packet. 

Funnily enough though, after watching an episode of Master Chef, I spoke with my children about their favourite food memories and not one of them mentioned any of my cakes or baking. Their favourite food memories were all savoury dinner type recipes. Was not expecting that!  

My favourite food memories are of the party food my mum used to make for my birthday.  The main reason it tasted so good? It was the only thing she ever baked/made from scratch (except for the cake which was a packet mix).

Everything I know about cooking, I actually taught myself once I left home!

But I am confident that every single one of my children will be able to find a recipe, grab the ingredients, follow the method and cook up whatever their hearts desire :-)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Beautiful Scandalous Night

God gave me a vision of a new take on my previous Tree of Life canvases & I absolutely love it!!

My friend showed me a coloured glass bowl she loves and I knew straight away I wanted to make a canvas that incorporated those colours, and would help decorate her new home.  The picture below is a photo I snapped off quickly of the bowl while I was visiting :-)

This project ended up being the quickest that I have ever completed a canvas, even though I employed a new technique!

But the first step was choosing the right colours and layering them correctly.

While that was drying I gathered the lyrics of one of my favourite songs of all time and printed them out in a nice font on standard printer paper. 

Beautiful Scandalous Night


go on up to the mountain of mercy
to the crimson perpetual tide
kneel down on the shore
be thirsty no more
go under and be purified

follow Christ to the Holy mountain
sinner, sorry and wrecked by the fall
cleanse your heart and your soul
in the fountain that flows
for you and for me and for all

at the wonderful tragic mysterious tree
on that beautiful scandalous night you and me
were atoned by His blood and forever washed white
on that beautiful scandalous night

on the hillside you will be delivered
at the foot of the cross, justified
and your spirit restored
by the river that pours
from our blessed Saviour's side

- Chorus -

you carry the sin of mankind on your back
and the sky went black
go on up to the mountain of mercy
go the crimson perpetual tide
kneel down on the shore
be thirsty no more
go under and be purified

- Chorus (2x) -
on that beautiful scandalous night
beautiful scandalous
miraculous night

 Miss 21 helped me to reverse the whole document so that the finished product would have readable lyrics.

Then took my standard Kaisercraft wooden tree that I have used on my previous Tree of Life canvases and, using gel transfer medium, applied the page of lyrics to the tree.  I left it to dry for 24hrs.

I have only used the transfer method once before and that was transferring photos to pine.

Removing the paper was a very delicate task & sadly some of the words did peel off.  I didnt have any problems with the photos peeling when I did them, but my SIL in law did, so in a way I was ready for it to happen.  Overall though the results were very good, and pretty much in line with how I wanted the tree to look when finished.

Once fully dry I sealed both the tree and the canvas, but separately.  Then I attached the tree to the canvas & it was done!  From start to finish the piece took me 3 days. :-)

But best of all.....my friend LOVES IT!  And she saw straight away that the colours matched her bowl!  How awesome is that??? :-D

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Crispy Choc Peanut Slab

Hi this is Lyssa, commonly referred to here as 'Miss 21' and this is my recipe.


Chang's Original Fried Noodles 100g x 4
Nestle Plaistowe Milk Chocolate 200g x 4
Smooth Kraft Peanut Butter x 8 Tbs
Rainbow Chocolate Chips

Melt the chocolate and peanut butter together, either on the stove or in the microwave, until combined & smooth.

Add noodles straight to your chocolate mixture. I crushed my noodles ever so slightly. Mix until noodles are fully coated with chocolate.

Line a 21 x 31 cm baking tray with greaseproof baking paper. Use a tray with larger measurements if you desire a thinner slice.

Pour mixture into prepared baking tray. Even out gently with a spatula.  Top with rainbow chocolate chip sprinkles.

Refrigerate until set. Mine only took a couple of hours. When set cut carefully. It is quite sweet so completely up to you how large or small you cut your servings. :-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ahead of Her Time...Part 1

I have been thinking a lot about my mother lately and the realization that has come to me is that she really was a woman ahead of her time...possibly out of place even. If she had be born into another family, about 20-30 years later and in another country she could have rivaled Martha Stewart. But then she probably wouldn't have been my mum.

Why another family? My grandfather was very strict, the details I wont go into, & the result is that my mother has never really been one to put herself forward or promote herself to others. She knows her own achievements and is happy to bask in her own glow requiring praise or confirmation from no one. It is almost secretive the way she operates. That way she is not exposed to unwanted comment or criticism I guess.

Why another country? Well...I guess just because Martha Stewart is American & I associate being American with having the confidence to back your ideas & dreams. Australians do too, now, but we are a young country compared to the US so we have been slower as a nation to fully jump on board with people having marketable qualities.

If my mother was a young woman today with avenues to easily share your work with others such as Pinterest etc,  options to sell your work to the world such as Esty, I think her life would have taken her on a possibly more self satisfying journey.

As it was in the 80's my mother was considered a bit of a strange creature compared to other women where we lived. She wasn't interested in exercising the new found freedom of working once your children went to school. A brilliant woman she had been denied an education by her father. In today's world she could have returned her attention to her education as her small children grew, but in the 80's, living in a remote location, no internet as we enjoy today, that was not an option.

She seemed happy to be a homemaker in the full sense of the word, during the middle of an era where homemaking or stay at home mothers were no longer valued. If you didn't have your own job you were an appendage of your husband. She struggled to have her identity recognized in this new age. We've only just seen a turn around in those attitudes as we ended the Naughties. Its pretty cool these days to be a stay at home mum who flourishes in her role as homemaker & homeschooling mums are everywhere. With so many tools at our finger tips the one on one time teaching your child is an advantage & a luxury, not a handicap.

In this series of blog posts I will endeavor to share what an amazingly talented woman my mother was (is) & how confined she was by her times. If only to show us how 'easily' our own goals and dreams can be achieved in today's world. Sometimes you don't know where you are until you have seen where you've been. I aim to share with you just one woman's humble story.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lemon & Cumin Lamb

This is my go to marinade for lamb chop night!

But you can use it on any cut of lamb.  Mutton steaks were really cheap when my boys were little & I used this recipe all the time. Delish!

Simply marinade your lamb cut of choice in olive oil & cumin. The amounts really dont matter. Enough oil to coat your meat & a generous amount of cumin. You want to know it's there.

An hour or more is great, but honestly this can be done right before cooking, its that easy.

Sear the first side of your meat in your pan.  When you've turned your meat to cook the second side, squirt lemon juice straight into the pan, over the meat (watch out! It spits!)

Continue to cook until the lamb is as you like it.

That's it.

A winner every time.... ;-)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Who's in Charge?

As a former Morse & PPP facilitator I frequently witness a classic parenting error with young children & it's a very easy trap to fall into.  Occasionally it even slips into our own family lingo but I see it the most when out and about at playgrounds and as such & I find myself biting my lip with the effort not to interfere.

The parent talking to the child:

"Is it time to leave the playground?"

"Shall we go home now?"

"Do you think its time to go?"

"Should we go home and have lunch now?"

"Are you going to sit in the high chair and eat now?"

etc, etc and so on.....

Sound familiar?  And the childs response 99% of the time?  


And then the parent starts to cajole & negotiate or flat out says "Well I think it is time to leave so lets go!" 

Cue tantrum.  

Or, worse, the parent relents, listens to the child & says "okay, 5 more minutes and then we need to go." The kids runs off with a huge grin because they have got you all sewn up....

There is no point asking a child a question, if you are not going to accept the answer.  It gives them a false sense of power that is shattered the minute you reject their response.  And if you accept their response, you have basically put them in charge of your household. Except they're kids. They need parents for a reason. To guide and decide what's best for them.

So many parents are experiencing unnecessary battles with their children & they've done it to themselves by handing their kids the power.  When you ask a child a question, then disregard their answer you are teaching them a lesson and it's not good a good lesson. Their wishes don't matter, their desires don't matter. You asked their opinion on something but obviously didn't like the answer because you are doing something else....

I'm going to give you a very extreme example now, and there were a lot of other bad parenting dynamics going on, but I hope it highlights more clearly the error.  
I was watching "I'm having their baby". A young woman has two children already and wants to give her soon to arrive baby up for adoption. She sits down with a 2 year old and a 3 year old and says "Mummy wants to give the baby up for adoption, so another family will raise it. What do you think about that?" The question is beyond both of them but the 3 year old does manage to say "it's a stupid idea, its our baby!" 

Then the mother is talking to the camera in a cut shot saying "I don't care what they think. I'm going to do what I want to do. Its not their decision, its mine!"  

EXACTLY So why was she asking them what they thought in the first place?

1. Huge amount of pressure for an adult let alone a child to be expected to make a decision like that. 

2. Maybe she was hoping they'd be all excited and say YES! but they didn't so she did what she wanted anyway.....

Like I said, very extreme example.

A less extreme example. I assisted a childrens leader running a rehearsal for a Christmas play.  After running through the play once she asked "Shall we practice that again?" And there was a resounding chorus of NO!!!!  And the leader says "Well I think we should." Cue moans. Next run through. "Shall we do it once more?" NO!!!  Are you seeing what I'm saying??  

Why is she asking? The kids answer doesn't matter to her.

You are in charge.  If you are ready to leave the playground, pack your child up and tell them its time to leave. If you want your child to sit in a high chair and have something to eat, make it happen.  If you want the children you have been placed in charge of to run through a play again, YOU tell them that they are going to rehearse it again. The direction can still be delivered nicely; its not mean to provide instruction.

Any choice you give a child should be simple and either choice must be something you can follow through with.  

Show them two outfits and say "pick which of these two you want to wear".  

But otherwise don't ask. Tell. They are baby people...they are not adults.  

Children are being asked hundreds of questions a day by their parents, when they cant possibly be able to compute all the possible answers and what they mean. What they actually need is guidance. They need to be given the answers at this stage of their life.

I broached the subject with a dad once. He said he didn't like telling his child what to do. I told him to consider it more as guidance than just saying "do this".  It still didn't sit well with him.  But to me parenting is telling your child what to do, over and over until they get it.

I'm the first to admit every body is different. Children respond differently based on personality etc. Parents have their own experiences & motivatuons that guide their decisions. 

But, if you are having a bit of a power struggle with your toddler, at least take a minute to listen to how you are speaking to them. The answer could be as simple as stopping asking their permission about everything you want them to do....

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fit, young...Pneumonia??

Once thought to be something that only struck down the very old & the very young, we are seeing more and more fit, healthy, young people being diagnosed pneumonia.

I myself had it in November last year. Prior to that both my boys had it together in April of 2011. Both chronic asthmatics, it was not fun at all.  My youngest sons chest was described as listening to a 'train wreck'. But for our family it started long before that.  In 2010 my then youngest Miss Maggs had pneumonia at 10 months old & she later passed it onto her dad, my husband. He was very very unwell.  Largely because the first time he attended the hospital he was sent away with a Ventolin inhaler & told he was asthmatic....he's not....2 days later, during which time he barely moved off the couch, moaned constantly during his fitful sleeps & could make crackling & popping noises (like popping candy) simply by opening his mouth, I sent him back to the hospital with firm instructions not to come back without antibiotics. He had bilateral pneumonia. Not long after my next youngest daughter caught it as well, and quite randomly, my SIL who lives over 500kms away from us, caught it also!

Upon hearing a friend has now caught pneumonia my husband told me his surprise that a man at work continued to attend every day with the same sickness....because he said it wasn't contagious...

It is folks....it is....although some people may dispute it the fact is a minor technicality. Semantics if you will. Pneumonia itself is not contagious, but the BUG or bacteria that causes it is!  For example if you have a strain of the flu, you can pass that flu onto others which in turn can give them pneumonia.

This is from a UK NHS website, the original page can be found here.

Catching pneumonia

The germs that can cause pneumonia are usually breathed in. People often have small amounts of germs in their nose and throat that can be passed on through:
  • coughs and sneezes – these launch tiny droplets of fluid containing germs into the air, which someone else can breathe in  
  • touching an object and transferring germs onto it – someone else can touch this object, and then touch their own mouth or nose

My husband caught it from our baby, simply by continuing to kiss & cuddle & comfort her when she was unwell. :-/

There are some situations where a person will not have caught pneumonia from another person. For example Aspiration Pneumonia. This is where a person has breathed in a foreign object including food or even smoke.  Aspiration Pneumonia is very common with the sick or elderly as food can be inhaled while they are eating, particularly if they're eating in a laid back position. You know when food goes down the wrong hole because you're trying to talk/cough/laugh at the same time? Yeah like that. If breathing in an object leads to a bacterial infection, THIS is then contagious.

Do some reading yourself and you'll discover it's a lot more common than you may think it is.

And it knocks you around for a long time afterwards. A very tiring illness.

If you know someone who is sick with pneumonia, bring them some chicken soup by all means, but leave quickly & Aquim up to your elbows after you visit them! ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Healing.....Part 1

I have one favourite poem that sticks with me always.  With all the reading & English lit I had studied in life I did not hear this poem until 2006 or thereabouts.  

Over the years, when I had suffered my miscarriages I had read plenty of new age type verse that did bring me levels of comfort & I even shared them with others. One of them I used for my SHIVER exhibition piece as I blogged here a few years ago.

Sometimes God sends us people. Sometimes He sends us words. Often He sends people with words.  This was the case for me.

I was raw & hurting but forcing it deep down inside, believing I was hiding my pain from the world.  Getting on with life and caring for the children.  I had lost pregnancy number 10, baby number 11.  Even now I cannot go into what was happening for me at that time. The door to those memories is locked. That in itself is a blessing.  My outside fa├žade was a busy mum of young children. Inside it felt like voices were screaming. I felt frumpy.  We'd lost our little one at nearly 20 weeks. That leaves a few more body issues behind than just a regular early term loss.  I remember shocking my family by coming home from a shopping trip with all my beautiful waist long hair cut to my scalp.  The younger kids cried.

I wasn't getting out much to hang out with people. My friend asked me if I was angry with God. Her question made me angry.  I snapped "I'm not angry with God. I just need time to be alone with Him."  And that was true. But possibly after all this time, I was a little bit angry.  So much loss. So many dreams of little ones that were not meant to be....

My daughter invited me to hear her Oracy at school. Its a bit of a big deal at the high school.  So I dragged myself from the comfort of my nest and walked over to the school.  I hated being around people during that time. As a very private person, I never spoke about our miscarriages like other people do. In fact to this day we never 'announce' when we're having a baby. We let people figure it out for themselves but we don't aid anyone's guessing until 30+ weeks. Up until then we let people believe I'm getting chubby.....

So I'm sitting there in the hot room, feeling awkward and isolated & finally my daughter comes on.  I cant remember if she did her other pieces first or after her poem. It really is a blur.  I just remember her starting to recite her poem.

- By Henry Lawson

A lonely young wife
        In her dreaming discerns
        A lily-decked pool
        With a border of ferns,
        And a beautiful child,
        With butterfly wings,
Trips down to the edge of the water and sings:
        ‘Come, mamma! Come!
        ‘Quick! Follow me—
‘Step out on the leaves of the water-lily!’
        And the lonely young wife,
        her heart beating wild,
        Cries, ‘Wait till I come,
        ‘Till I reach you, my child!’
        But the beautiful child
        with butterfly wings
Steps out on the leaves of the lily and sings:
        ‘Come, mamma! Come!
        ‘Quick! Follow me!
‘And step on the leaves of the water-lily!

        And the wife in her dreaming
        Steps out on the stream,
        But the lily leaves sink
        and she wakes from her dream.
        Ah, the waking is sad,
        For the tears that it brings,
And she knows ’tis her dead baby’s spirit that sings:

        ‘Come, mamma! Come!
        ‘Quick! Follow me!
‘Step out on the leaves of the water-lily!’

The room seemed to loose all its air.  Sweat broke out of my forehead.  I was listening yet I wasn't listening. My face felt frozen in a smile, like a gargoyle, as other parents watched me watch my daughter. Her oration was beautiful. But those words were cutting a path to my heart!  I slipped my sunglasses on & tried desperately not to let the pooling tears fall. I thought it would be almost as embarrassing for Lyssa as for me if I started crying. No one would understand.  Those words!  Those words felt like they were torn from my own grieving mind.  "AH the waking is sad, for the tears that it brings..."

Yes the waking was very sad. 

My daughter came into the audience to see me & I croaked "you could have warned me" and walked out.  I felt bad about that afterwards but at the time I was consumed by my own grief.  She'd been practising for weeks and not once shared the poem she had planned to recite.  I wished I had been given the chance to desensitize myself!  

After I finished crying at home I looked the poem up myself. I read it again & cried.  Another day I read it again & cried.  Time moved on. I read it again & felt sad, shed a tear. My hair started growing back.  I returned to jogging & the baby weight started to drop off. Slowly, slowly I could feel the healing.  The start of it had been as bad as having a bucket of ice water thrown over me. But looking back it was what I needed to get me moving forwards again. 

Not to say there weren't times when I was dragged back to that sad place, suddenly, unexpectedly. Like in 2008 when I broke my wrist and had to pick up the xray films and in the packet was a sheet of still shots from the ultrasound when they discovered my baby had passed away.  Completely random & out of the blue. But again it gave me a chance to cry, reflect, pick up & get on with life again.  We need that chance to process what has happened to us, as hard as it is to do so.

And now as my 9 year old approaches book week, and I am told that the theme for their class is poetry, I can share this beautiful piece with her, and I feel absolutely OK. :-)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Hat!

Miss 21 found a very well presented tutorial on YouTube (via Pinterest) on how to make your own party hat. 

You can view the video here.

We had to watch it through twice to fully understand the components and how the whole thing fit together but that was because the picture in our mind of how it should work was different to the reality.

While we made the hat we also had the video playing on the TV screen & we paused & rewound as needed until we were finished. 

I didn't take as many photos during the process as I should have as I was feeling a little stressed out that day, but I took a couple which I'm glad of now.

But once you watch the video you'll get the gist of where we were at in these pics :-)

Adding the final decorations was probably the hardest part as in the video the stems have soft wire to bend but everything miss 21 brought home had stiff nonbendable stems :-/

 As you can see Miss 21 was very happy with the results :-)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Lalaloopsy Dance Party!

For Miss 9's birthday I knew straight away that I wanted to do a Lalaloopsy Doll theme.

Now just to fill in a gap; my mother has been making my childrens birthday cakes since about 2002. Because I know how wonderful it feels to prepare for a party without the added task of making the cake, I in turn have been making birthday cakes for other children on their birthdays. So I know how to make a decorated cake, but my mother is more experienced.  Well after Miss 5's birthday she hung up her apron.

It was probably biting off too much at once, taking into account the new task of cake making, but I didnt just have an idea for what cake I wanted to make. I had a THEME!  Lalaloopsy Dance Party!  Miss 9 had previously held a dance party at night. This one was going to be during the day so that we could all appreciate the costumes, and save myself a laser light hire... Not satisfied with the work load already I decided I should make my 3 little girls costumes myself so that they would be unique.  Hubby couldn't stop shaking his head at me....anyway....

First step; create Pinterest board! Easy! My Pinterest page for this party can be found here.

Miss Almost 21 & I spent a stressful hour at Spotlight trying to choose suitable patterns that were marked 'easy' (I haven't sewn in a while but Im sure its like riding a bike yeah?) while Miss 2 lay on the floor on her back, wailing & pushing herself across the floor with her feet.  So once we got home the thought of going back for material was like 'I don't wanna' so I raided the vastly reduced selection in my sewing cupboard. (I gave a whole tub of material away in the last 12 months...stupid, stupid...)

I found everything I needed for Miss 9 & Miss 5's outfit and the only material shopping I had to do was for Miss 2.  The pattern suggested bandana material and quite randomly, I had some! Yay! One less thing to find.

With school holidays approaching it was my best chance to knock out the costumes. Not everything went according to plan but I got them all finished at the end of the first week school returned. That worked out to about 3 weeks of sewing every other day.

The cake I had chosen seemed relatively easy except for the fact that I didn't want to use premade fondant. I wanted to make my own, but had never done it before. I used a very easy recipe from online. It can be found here.

Firstly I made a double batch to practice & used the practice fondant to make a stack of coloured fondant buttons, of which I needed 2 for the eyes but I made as many as I could because they were the backup plan for my cake if anything went wrong. I would just cover a round cake in buttercream icing & coloured buttons if all else failed. The recipe said the icing could last several weeks if stored correctly. I kept the buttons in Tupperware containers divided by layers of baking paper.

I baked the cake the day before. To mix things up a little bit I used a red velvet cake recipe and the layer of icing under the fondant was cream cheese icing. I was hoping it wouldn't be too sweet. That was the main reason I chose cream cheese icing over buttercream.

When I was ready to decorate the cake I made a fresh double batch of fondant & separated it into 3 portions; a large portion for the face (thanks to being made of marshmallows the fondant was already a beautiful pale pastel pink!), a very small portion to dye a darker pink for the cheeks, and a final large portion to dye yellow for the hair. I considered dying the hair blue but I had already decided I wanted her to have blue eyes so I made the cake doll blonde like Miss 9 :-)

It worked out really really well. To make up for some of the extra tasks I'd given myself the party food itself was very simple. Hot dogs & potato chips. It was a dance party after all. Everyone danced. Everyone had a blast playing the games.

I was a really really great morning & the cake was delicious! It wasn't too sweet, which had been a worry point. The kids ate it all up no dramas :-)

It was a party filled with coloured curled hair, lots of frills & ruffles, polka dot balloons, dancing & even a mermaid!

Thank you to my MIL who helped keep me focused & stay on track. She played with the kids so I could sew, helped me with a difficult part of the dress my tired brain couldn't figure out, and put her hand on my shoulder & said "relax" when she could see I was struggling to hold it together. :-)

A Slightly Different Art Journal

I had really wanted to give my daughter something sentimental for her 21st. My own parents had given me earrings & a mizpah charm which was engraved on the back. I wanted to give her something like that. My husband wanted to give her a practical gift so we purchased her a brand new laptop. She had only ever received hand me down computers.

A friend of mine came up with a wonderful gift idea for her daughter who was turning 18 & she was kind enough to share the idea with me.

Remember UP! ? Ellie has an adventure book which later becomes Karl's. My friends idea was to give her daughter her own adventure book. 

I went in a slightly different direction with the adventure book. I wanted a scrapbook that would be my daughters, captured some of her past & present to take with her, with 'the future' being soley hers.

I found a suitable journal straight away from The Scrapbook House. It was a good quality art journal. Due to a few things going on at home though I packed it away for a bit...and promptly forgot about it!

With about 10 days to go until party time I suddenly remembered it again. Panic stations! I could only work on it while my daughter was away at her night job. So I sat up every night she worked, until midnight, in order to get it finished. 

And then like the complete dumbo I am, on the day of her party, I was so caught up in hosting the perfect party, I forgot to give it to her! :-/ 

Anyway I remembered at a time where some of her close friends were still hanging around watching her unwrap her gifts. So I gave it to her & she 'got it' straight away & was very happy with it. 

I am very proud of what I made. I still need to add some journaling but over all this was a win. The finished result matched my vision :-)