Ava and I have been going to St Andrew’s Playgroup for the past 18 months and it is a lot of fun. It is great for Ava to play with kids of all different ages in a very casual environment and it is wonderful for me to sit down, have a cup of tea and a chat with the other parents in the group.
This year I joined the committee to be a part of something and it is kind of nice getting out once a term to attend the committee meetings; eating brownies and drinking tea while we all get carried away and the 1 hour meeting turns into 2 and a half. Working from home can be quite isolating and it is important for me to make connections in other ways otherwise I will go a little batty. I also knew that I had a skill to offer, so at the beginning of the year outlined a plan to design a new logo, build the branding and improve community awareness of our wonderful organisation. With the help of an amazing publicity and fundraising subcommittee we have achieved far more than that and the committee as a whole have been phenominal.
Despite some roles in the committee have not been filled, this group of parents have achieved amazing things and it was all recognised last week when we were awarded the Ministers Award for Innovation and Excellence at Playgroup’s Victoria inaugural Playgroup Awards.
This award was presented by Minister for Children & Early Childhood Development, Wendy Lovell who said “St Andrew’s was saved by an inspirational group of mothers who worked hard to strengthen the playgroup’s links with local maternal and child health nurses and new mothers groups. These mums understood the importance of playgroup not just for them but for future families – for the friendships and support that happens at playgroup.”
For me she got it spot on. I am so proud of these people and have been thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it.
The awards night was held at the Arts Centre in Melbourne and was so much fun. We were thrilled to be finalists and felt that it was a wonderful acknowledgment of our efforts and yes, it was another reason to get out of the house mid-week and leave our children’s bedtimes to the husbands. So when we sat down after the award for our category was given to someone else we just relaxed a bit. Our co-ordinator Jane, relieved not to have to give her speech, drank her champagne and Ange and I gave our attention to social networking, giving the rest of our group a positive story on facebook before we broke the sad news. Then our name was called out and I don’t think there was a person in the room who wasn’t aware to the shock we were in at receiving the award, it was such an amazing feeling.
(please excuse the low grade yet hilarious phone pics from the night)
The night was ran beautifully. There were roaming comedians on entry, Dave O’Neil was MC and there was such a high calibre of presenters including the author of ‘Raising Boys’ and ‘Raising Girls’, Steve Biddulph. It was enlightening to see how many different people are involved in Playgroups Victoria and the playgroups themselves. There are many different playgroup models and it takes some dedicated individuals to keep them running.
Oh and there were also goody bags with lovely bath towels, Eco Store soaps and Baci chocolates.
Going to visit friends I like to (if I can manage it) take something to share but when that person is an amazing cook it can be a little nerve-wracking. Rather than trying to impress, I just try to do something I would like to try myself or use the ingredients I have around me. This particular time I had a good stock of limes in the house and I was in the mood for cake, so decision was easy. And yes, I know they look like lemons but I assure you they were limes.
The shopping list
125g (1/2 cup) sour cream
1 tsp finely grated lime rind
60ml (1/4 cup) lime juice
150g butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
170g caster sugar
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
2 tbs water
1 lime, thinly sliced
…and what to do with it
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line the base and side of a 20cm (base measurement) springform pan. Combine sour cream, lime rind and 2 tbs lime juice in a bowl.
- Use an electric beater to beat butter, vanilla and 100g (1/2 cup) sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream mixture and combined flour, in alternating batches. Spoon into pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, stir the water and remaining sugar in a saucepan over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, brushing down side of pan occasionally with a wet pastry brush, or until golden. Remove from heat. Carefully add lime slices and remaining lime juice. Swirl to combine. Cool for 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer cake to a wire rack over a lined tray. Spoon over hot syrup and lime slices.
Last week I introduced you to Mel Riddell and shared the amazing photos she took of Ava (see here). Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend a day working with Mel as her assistant. This was a great experience. Although I had been on photo shoots for work in the past they were usually for packaging, products or strangely enough, cemeteries. So this time it was a lot of fun to see the transformation of the models – their hair, makeup and wardrobe all being attended to. There is a lot of preparation behind the scenes for a relatively short time behind the camera.
It was a beautifully sunny day and the studio space was very cool. I really enjoyed a day of doing something so different from a normal day at work for me, it kind of felt like work experience all over again and I revelled in the newness of it all. So if anyone else out there has a unique opportunity for me, and want a helping hand for a day, let me know.
Back in November 2011 I shared my thoughts of shopping with global issues in mind in Christmas with a Conscience. One of the featured companies was the ever impressive Toms. Ava has since grown out of her little red pair of Toms shoes and has another lovely spotty pair on the go at the moment, but now Toms have launched Toms Marketplace bringing even more great ethical companies to the forefront.
The Marketplace has included some of the same companies I feature in ‘Christmas with a conscience’ such as Krochet Kids International and Out of print but have a bag of others that have beautiful products and are supporting amazing causes around the world. Here are a couple of my favourite things.
Tegu make gorgeous magnetic wooden toys in Honduras and as well as offering well paid jobs to the local community they also provide training, enabling their employees to grow and develop their skills as managers and craftsmen they are also focused on sustainability. In 2012 Tegu planted a phenomenal 983 trees for every one tree they harvested.
Made from reclaimed timber sourced from furniture makers and flooring manufacturers LSTN have both a beautifully sustainable product and as a company they have a huge impact. For every pair of headphones sold, LSTN helps restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
Denik believes in the impact art can have. The proceeds from the sale of their books goes towards supporting artists and building schools all over the world.
Rose and Fitzgerald work to foster meaningful economic development in Uganda. They collaborate with local artisans to create lovely homewares, utilising their traditional skills to create contemporary products.
Mel Riddell is a beautiful friend of mine who also happens to be an amazing photographer. Mel does amazing portrait work, which is her passion and recently we were lucky enough to have her take some beautiful photos of the gorgeous Ava.
It was a lovely day and as Mel mentioned in the post on her blog, it really was more like a playdate than a photoshoot.
Mel is an inspiration, starting her photography career after having her daughter, Sophia. She has amazing skills and I never grow tired of looking at her work, it is stunning. Mel, her creativity and focus were a huge catalyst for me in starting this blog and getting creative again after Ava was born. Thank you Mel for being a lovely friend, a great support and for the fantastic photos.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. I wasn’t sure what to expect, a friend who had been to others told me that they were really quite inspiring and I should come along, and I thought “oh yeah, that sounds nice” in a kind of non-committal way. So it surprised me when Mia Freedman got up to speak and had me hooked immediately.
The Telstra Business Women’s Awards has been running for 19 years and it celebrates the amazing achievements of business women around Australia. As well as recognition and prize money the process gives applicants a chance to analyse their careers, gain new business and expand their business network. I have heard it refered to as a ‘business health check’. They cover the following categories; Business Owner, Business Innovation, Community and Government, Private and Corporate Sector, and Young Women in Business awarding women in each state before the national event to be held next month. But this night had very little to do with what these successful women are awarded and although it is celebrating their achievements, to me it was more about what they were giving to us as an audience. There was an amazing list of finalists and speakers all with such outstanding stories, it was inspiring and overwhelming all at the same time.
Mia Freedman, the founder, publisher and editorial director of Australia’s leading women’s website Mamamia.com.au, spoke about her journey through business which was impressive, but what made her speech connect with me was its honesty. Sharing the wonderful ‘Highlights reel’ of her career but also the ‘not so glamorous’ side that is the reality of starting your own business. Listening intently, I did my best to store her words of wisdom in my memory bank, despite the fact that the champagne had already gone to my head (I am a total lightweight these days). To be honest about her story was very deliberate, not just my interpretation, she didn’t want to add to the intimidation that comes with those ‘reach for the stars’ ‘be the best that you can be’ speeches. The honesty in Mia’s speech and the reminder that we are all human, made everyone elses speeches that evening mean so much more. We can all benefit from role models that share their truths.
There are so many stories I could share from the evenings speeches, it sounds cliché but each women spoke about their work with such passion. From tampons to dairy farmers the motivation which drives these women is so varied and something the winner of the 2013 Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year, Sadhana Smile said which made me happy, was that sometimes the thing you are passionate about is just putting a roof over your child’s head. I loved that our driving force to succeed in business doesn’t have to be a global cause, it can be practical.
There is so much to be gained by listening to the stories of others and I suggest you go to the Telstra Business Women’s Awards website and watch some of the speeches. It does not include the wonderful talks from Carolyn Creswell or Mia Freedman but a plethora of outstanding business women from around Australia. Natalie Collard winner of the Community and Government Award, is one that I recommend, her dedication to dairy farmers struck a chord with me, as did her friendly and genuine manner.
Cake Stands are a gorgeous way to carry your wedding style through to the smallest details. They are beautiful, useful and something you can keep for your life, to remember your special day. I found this amazing collection of cake stands on Etsy when I decided I needed something for our family’s special occasions.
Above are two beautiful vintage stands, the first from freshpastrystand made from vintage plates would be beautiful as part of a high tea theme and the second, with it’s lovely ruffled rim and lovely textures, is from BarkingSandsVintage.
Vesselsandwares makes personalised cake stands which are made to order enabling you to pick your colour, include your names and the date of your wedding, such a gorgeous memento. Vintage glass is always a lovely find and can be mixed beautifully with other glass items, this and other glassware can be found at Wicksteads. If you are having a more rustic wedding then a slab of wood might suit your style perfectly, but you do have to be careful not any piece of wood will do DaliasWoodland finish their cake stands with a foodsafe worktop oil, this is something to keep in mind if you are using something to serve you cake which is a little out of the norm.
Another maker of sweet ceramics if dianeziegler with her beautiful cake stand with lace imprint and silver base. And then there is the craftsmanship of AbbyTPottery, with the two little lovebirds a simple crisp clean white iced cake would look very nice on this stand.
Throughout my life, drawing, painting and general craftiness came before books. Instead of reading a book before going to bed I would fall asleep surrounded by pencils and paper – I still have a piece of wallpaper from my childhood home, where my bed use to be, which has squares coloured in with crayon. So it is fair to say that I am not a natural book-worm but I have found that I am loving books more now more than any other stage of my life.
Although I don’t have any time to sit down and read a novel these days, I am catching up on all the reading I missed out on when I was younger. Ava is my avenue for this. Ava absolutely loves books and will happily spend hours reading. Sitting in her room ‘reading’ her books, showing her dolls the pictures and telling them the stories, acting out the books she knows best and of course handing us book after book to read for her.
Here are a few of our favourites, some that we just keep coming back to and others that we have just recently discovered.
Immi by Karin Littlewood is a book I happened to come across a couple of years ago and I am in love with it. It is a simple little story that departs from the real world without being completely fanciful. Even though it is set in a ‘cold white world’ this story is about warmth and the happiness you can bring to people without even knowing it. For me it was remembered with ease, making it a great story to tell Ava when the lights are out and no book is required. The illustrations are gorgeous fitting perfectly with this dreamy story.
Another book that has been a long time love for Ava and me is Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. I was immediately drawn in by the amazing illustrations by Jon Klassen. His use of space and gradual inclusion of colour with the impeccable text tells the story beautifully. This sweet story with its gentle message is a delight to read night after night, as has been requested by Ava. I don’t get tired of it, no matter how many times I read it.
Gus Gordon is an amazing Illustrator and story-teller with a wonderful sense of humour. Wendy is a little package filled with all these elements. I read an interview with Gus recently where he said ‘I love collage’, and it shows in this book, he uses numerous media to create his beautiful illustrations incorporating stunning typography. It captures the old school circus days, the glamour of being a celebrity and the longing for home and a more humble life. It is hard not to love this Evil Knieval inspired character.
Today we have no plans is more my favourite than Ava’s. While she does like it, it is me who requests this one for bedtime reading sessions. I love the work produced by this Melbourne-based team illustrator Anna Walker and writer Jane Godwin and I really found a connection with this story and my approach to chaos in a child’s life. We don’t have a week quite as busy as the characters in the book but it is enough for me to relish the pajama wearing, no plan days, which I think need to be a little more frequent the smaller your child is. Other books by this wonderful duo are All through the year, and Starting School.
AGAIN! by Emily Gravett is our newest favourite book. We just read it last week and it was an instant success and was the catalyst for writing this post. It had Ava in fits of laughter, promptly followed by hiccups (which is what always happens after too many giggles and while this is not ideal at bedtime it is so worth it). It is one of those books where expression comes easily, it is cleverly written and there is an event which took us truly by surprise. My suggestion is to not look at it too much before reading it so you can be surprised too. Ava loves this book and laughs every time we read it, we talk about it while playing, inserting lines from the book into our conversations when appropriate, which is not difficult “AGAIN! AGAIN! AGAIN!”. It is so much fun!
When we go to the library we have a fairly indiscriminate way of picking books, if we pick it up and it looks vaguely interesting we take it home. I rarely read them beforehand and hardly ever put a book back on the shelf. We get some pretty interesting books this way, like the magical ones in this shortlist, some peculiar ones that have us scratching our heads, others that only ever get read the once and everything inbetween. When we get home and read a new batch of books together it is a new experience for both of us, something so lovely to share. It is this way that I learn about what Ava really likes rather than choosing books I think she will enjoy. We just read everything.
There is something about the colour pink that seems to capture some girls in a trance. It is a feminine, affectionate and romantic colour and although it is so closely related to the colour red, which stimulates aggression and passion, pink has the power to relax and actually create physical weakness.
Pink is a colour of happiness and has the power to remind us of carefree childhood days. Brighter pinks can give us energy, igniting confidence and encouraging action and paler pinks are relaxing, calming and have been linked with nurturing and maternal instincts.
Knowing all this, you can see why girls are naturally fall for the colour pink. Even a blue lover like myself can be drawn to the prettiness of pink and I must say I had so much fun planning this imaginary pink wedding. If I was a pink girly girl, my wedding would look something like this.
There are so many stunning pink dresses out there, this beautiful blush dress was spotted on Burnetts Boards. Pink and the organic style of Ginkgo Leaves, one if my designs that can be found on Berry Blue Design.
I love the simplicity of this elegant white cake I spotted on Wistful Weddings with the flower cake topper tying the colour in with the overall theme. That gorgeous vintage pink dress is by Posh Girl Vintage and the image of the beautiful bouquet is by photographer Lane Dittoe
Balloons can be used to great effect in wedding photography. These lovely Iced biscuits would be a nice way to make your own wedding favours or even a sweet addition to a candy bar (from Style Me Pretty) Pink Lemonade would make a unique centrepiece for the table, the recipe can be found on I am Blessed and those stunning vintage style shoes can be found on Lyst.
Some other facts about the colour Pink:
- The color pink has a masculine association in Japan.
- The color pink was not recognised in chinese culture until they had contact with the western world and the Chinese word for pink translates as “foreign color.”
- Pink makes us crave sugar and as a result it has the power to make pastries (and other sweet food) taste better when they come out of pink boxes or served on pink plates.
- Pink does not exist! (well it does, just not on the light spectrum There is no pink light)
Colour Facts were found on Sensational Color and Empower Yourself with Color Psychology
August was a glorious month. I had my birthday and was completely spoiled. Daragh, Ava and I had a wonderful day at Docklands in Melbourne, having a lovely lunch and such a fun time ice skating. It had been so long since I had been skating and although the hire skates were terrible I was able to get into it. Ice Skating is one of those things that gives me a cheek ache from smiling, I love it.
The beautiful flowers in the top image are from the amazingly talented Jaclyn Roma. If you live in Melbourne and want to go Ice Skating check out The Icehouse and that delicious Jaffa Cake is from Ivanhoe Cakes. It was a flourless orange cake with a chocolate ganache, I highly recommend them.
Although I had been unbelievably busy throughout August, I managed to balance it with some wonderful family time and it just seemed filled with the optimism of things to come. I really do hope the rest of the year carries on this way.