November 25, 2010

banana pikelets

Delicious, filling, kid friendly and moderately nutritious.  Ollie, who's not normally a fan of pancakes (I know!) snaffled these up and asked for more.  I modified this recipe.  Next time I think I'm going to try substituting the plain flour with wholemeal and adding some golden syrup in place of some of the sugar.

2 cups plain flour (250g)
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter (40g)
1 1/2 cups milk (350ml)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup caster sugar (75g)
2 mashed, sweet, ripe bananas

Melt butter.
Sift the flour and baking powder (or use 2 cups self raising flour and I prefer to give it a good stir with a whisk).
Whisk together the melted butter, eggs, milk and sugar and add to the flour mixture, beating out any lumps.
Stir in the well mashed bananas.
Drop tablespoons of the mixture into a moderately hot non-stick frying pan, turning when bubbles appear on the surface of the pikelet.
Eat hot out of the pan or warm or cold, with butter and jam and cream. Or just as they are.

November 23, 2010

deeks and his new haircut

The weather's getting hotter.  Poor long haired Deacon suffers in the summer so we usually get his fur clipped a couple of times, giving him some welcome relief from his normally gorgeous, long, shaded red coat.

Last Friday was his first clipping of the summer and these photographs were taken on the afternoon of his pampering.  Doesn't he look smart?  The blue bows lasted about an hour (well, they were compromising his machismo, somewhat), but the poor nervous soul, who doesn't enjoy being groomed hid under the chair in Max's room for a lot longer than that.  Aw Deeksie, you'll thank us come Christmas.

November 22, 2010

max's first day

This morning, I spent my first ever morning away from Ollie and Max when they weren't being looked after by their pa.  I should say, however that they were with Sue, the lady that has looked after Ollie since I went back to work when he was 9 months old, and for all intents and purposes, Sue is as close a member of our family than anyone, and certainly nobody else knows Ollie as well as she does.

So it was with some nerves but with a lot of comfort that Will and I drove Ollie and Max up to Sue's house this morning so that he could start his day care journey and hopefully be accustomed to his new environment by the time I start work again in just under two months.  We're doing what we did with Ollie and easing Max into his new routine, building up from a couple of hours to a full day with Sue by Christmas.

Today would have been his first day with Sue regardless, but a couple of days ago I was asked to attend a meeting in town with a new client this morning.  I'm not due to go back to work until mid January and there was no obligation to attend but I thought it might be a good idea to have a trial childcare/work drop off and also to distract me from the hand wringing and fretting I was no doubt going to do if I'd just come straight home after dropping Max off.  And we're trying to save money so a trip to the shops was out of the question and it's impossible for me to read a book or watch a movie without thinking about the housework.  Anyway, I agreed to attend the meeting and while it stopped a bit of the hand wringing, I fretted nonetheless and was visibly tetchy when the hour long meeting turned into two hours and then three and I was very glad to get out of there and ring Sue from the nearest payphone to check on both boys before getting in the car and picking up Max while his brother slept peacefully in his cot at Sue's.

When I got there, Max was sitting up, playing happily, and I got the most adorable little smile from him when he saw me.  He didn't complain and want to be picked up straight away, he carried on playing while I talked to Sue about their morning together, which in her own words was 'a reasonable success'.  I had been worried about Ollie too, but he seemed to take it in his stride, and was big brotherly enough to recognise the change in his normal routine at Sue's as being positive.

I knew it would be alright, and there's a way to go to get him into a routine that he and Sue (and the other children) are happy with, not to mention Ollie might well start objecting to his little brother invading his time with Sue when he realises it's permanent, but for now, I'm relieved that this initial hurdle is over.

Going back to work is going to be really, really hard.

November 18, 2010

brush strokes and a new perspective

Ollie brought his first paintings home from day care yesterday.  They are so beautiful!  I love the colours, the glitter, the dog eared corners and the way they make me imagine him clutching a paintbrush, concentrating on making his mark.  Sue, the lovely lady that looks after Ollie at her home said he was engrossed and demonstrated again that when he's doing something he's interested in, his attention span is quite amazing.

When we got home, we reflected on his day:

me:  Ollie, I love your paintings
Ollie:  (nodding earnestly) paintings!
me:  Did you like painting?
Ollie:  haha (nods)
me:  What colours did you paint with?
Ollie:  (pointing at blue and green) Boo.  Geen.

Ollie loves to scribble and it's a joy to watch his skill develop.  He hunches over the little table and actually holds his crayon in quite a grown up way (rather than clutching the crayon in his fist).  My next project for the boys is to organise a little craft area that goes beyond the butcher's paper taped to the coffee table to encourage Ollie to express himself in this enlightening way.

And Max, dear little Max.  He's had a mouth ulcer under his tongue for a week now (I think from his new little bottom teeth) which has affected how he's been eating and consequently he's been waking many times in the night, hungry.  Thankfully, he's now feeding much better during the day and he seems to be happier, but the most remarkable thing of all is that he is now sitting up, largely unaided, and has a fresh, new perspective of the world.  I think he knows it too and is pretty happy with his new skill.

He still has wild hair.

November 17, 2010

a royal wedding

I am a huge fan of the British Monarchy and I'm a sucker for all those documentaries about Queenie and her family.  To say that I am excited about the upcoming nuptials is an understatement.  I adore the romance of it all, the regalia and the sweetness of little William giving his mama's ring to his love.  I may have to sew some red, white and blue bunting to adorn the house and garden for the royal wedding party I'm going to have next year, even if I'm the only guest.

(Image from here)
Aah.  I loved the ring then, and I love it now.

November 15, 2010

days like these


It wasn’t a weekend I thought I’d have anything to say about, but the more I think about it, the more I reflect on what’s truly worth documenting, and the more I’d say this weekend was as memorable as any other I’ve had in a long while.

After the chaos of last weekend’s birthday party and a week of more emotional ups and downs than I care to experience again for a long while, it was somewhat of a relief to approach the weekend with no plans and enough prior organisation to be able to actually relax, rather than running around trying to get things done and be places.

Saturday morning saw the return of Ollie’s swimming lesson, which we’ve missed for three weekends now due to snotty noses, the Noosa triathlon (which I never did write about) and Ollie’s birthday party.  It was a well timed break, as Ollie’s been less than enthusiastic about his swimming lately, not so much about being in the pool, but about having to be told what to do (nothing new there, then).   We’ve even ended lessons early, letting him tell us when he’s had enough, instead of making him go through the nursery rhymes and monkey-monkeying when he’d rather not.  But he seemed to enjoy swimming on Saturday, and after his lesson he had a splash in the mushroom pool, a little wading pool with mushrooms that spray icy cold water, pretty good fun for what ended up being a hot, sunny morning. 

And then we came home and hung out in the garden.  Ollie helped pot one of the many houseplants that need repotting (he really did help) and seemed to love it.  Max watched from his shady spot under our sweet jacaranda and I took a few photographs, lamenting the coming end of spring and the glorious green and floral display that is our garden.  

An impromptu visit from his Great Aunty Anne, possibly Ollie’s favourite person pretty much sealed the Saturday deal, especially when Will’s cousin Ben came with her, giving Ollie the perfect opportunity to show off his toys, practice giving ‘respect’ and shaking Ben by the hand. 

Sunday was almost as good, but we didn’t sleep well, as Max has an ulcer in his mouth that is preventing him from enjoying his food and so he’s hungry, all the time, drinking only milk.  Poor little guy seems so forlorn, but I guess we have to accept that it will take time for him to feel better and it’s not so bad now that we know what’s wrong.  Ollie handled a trip to the bakery, a visit to the doctor with his brother and the dull task of grocery shopping in his stride and even seemed to enjoy his meals.  And I can't quite believe that the boys both slept for over two hours and lunch time, and even more unbelievable is that I took a nap too.  

So, none of this seems terribly exciting, important or noteworthy, but it all happened without a tantrum, without tears and with the kind of enthusiasm and sweetness that I crave with my boys.  Maybe it's because we didn't let the expectation of a tantrum ruin what we wanted to do, or maybe Ollie's just realising it's actually a lot of fun when he tries to communicate with us.  Or maybe it was just a one off great weekend.  Either way, it’s days like these that make it.

November 7, 2010

party time!

We've just finished a weekend of birthday partying.  The threat of bad weather remained just that, and we had beautiful clear, blue, sunny skies.  We held the party indoors anyway (the forecast was for showers and a thunderstorm) and our little house didn't feel so little once we'd moved the furniture around, put up my bunting and opened up the doors and windows.

The house looked so colourful and the we made just the right amount of food, cake and party bags (paper lunch bags, tied with string and filled with home made cookies, a Matchbox car and stickers) and every toy was scattered around the house with little people's sticky fingers on and in everything.  The food was delicious and home made (cookies, birthday cake, sandwiches, fruit, corn chips, avocado dip and salsa, obligatory chocolate rice crispies) and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, kids and grown-ups alike.  It was just how a party should be.

And Ollie?  He had a blast.  He was a little over excited when the first guests arrived and a bit miffed with his favourite truck being so popular with his cousins, but he soon settled down and handled everyone playing with his toys and taking over his territory remarkably well, especially since he decided not to have a nap before his guests arrived (yikes!).  Ollie even seemed to love the chorus of 'Happy Birthday' and was pretty happy with his birthday cake, not to mention the cookies he managed to consume.  There were a few moments in the afternoon when I caught him sitting quietly, playing with his cars, noise and activity around him, in his own, happy little world.  Max was a good little guy, too.  He's had a couple of unsettled days (teeth?) but seemed to take the 30 or so mainly new people in his house in his stride (although the balloons did make him cry).  His kind eyes and sweet, calm temperament were a predictable hit with everyone.  

After the boys were bathed and in bed, Will and I ended the day with a quick tidy up and a well earned early night, and thankfully our boys let us sleep until the morning.  And today, we spent the day slowly opening each of the very thoughtful and generous gifts from Ollie's friends and family.  My feet still ache and I'm knackered from the build up to the big day, but it was all worth it.

November 4, 2010


Finally, a finished project to write about.  It's taken a week of dedication to self imposed deadlines to complete this very festive, homemade fabric party garland.  I'm an inexperienced sewer so I didn't embark on this with any level of skill, but I did know what I wanted it to look like and that's always a good start.

I used this fabric bundle from Purl Soho, which I bought a little while back.  It is a collection of 52 fat eighths of fabric, enough for the coloured bit of their colour wheel quilt.  Though it's stunning, I didn't want to make the quilt, but I knew I could do something with all that fabric as I have an affinity for all things colour ordered (our vinyl, cds, books and dare I admit to it, my wardrobe is all ordered by colour) so I convinced myself to buy the bundle.  I'm glad I did, because a few weeks ago, I was lying in bed, not able to sleep, frustrated with my lack of progress in getting to know my relatively new sewing machine and decided I needed a project to mark Ollie's second birthday.  And so it came to me that a party garland of every colour of the rainbow would look brilliant in our green garden, or against our white VJ walls.  I had the fabric, I just needed to get on with it.  So I did!

Cutting the fabric was the most time consuming part of the process, but I like repetitive, meditative labour, and a couple of hours over a couple of evenings saw the triangles cut and ordered.  I managed to get two flags out of each fat eighth, but these are double sided so that the garland should look good from any angle and added to the colour wheel bundle from my own stash.  (I saved a small scrap from each piece of fabric and I'm thinking of making a permanent mini-garland (with ribbon rather than bias tape) for Max's room.)

I sewed along the longer edges of each flag to prevent the raw edges from fraying too much (I think a little fraying will look nice over time), and I used a pale grey thread (I couldn't find any invisible thread, but the grey is hardly visible).  I realised half way through that I should be chain piecing them together rather than doing them individually and once I'd had this epiphany (I am a beginner) I zipped through them and the flags were all ready to go.

I made some bias tape, double folded (in half lengthways and then raw edges folded into the middle) and pressed it, ready to sew to the flags.  I had some cute blue binding leftover from Ollie's quilt but it was a little wider than I needed it to be and there wasn't quite enough.  But, I did have enough natural muslin to make the 20 or so metres of tape that I needed and before too long, it was done and ready to use. I pinned the flags to the tape and started sewing last night and this afternoon, sewed the last couple of dozen flags onto the tape.

I couldn't wait to hang it, so while the boys were sleeping, I haphazardly hung it in our dining area, took a shaky snapshot to email to Will at work and sat back to admire my handiwork.  I am very happy with the end result and it's better than I had envisaged it.  Our house is now ready for a party.


Before they disappear, here are some photographs of the blooms on our jacaranda tree, which we planted just after we moved into this home four years ago this month.  It's the first time the tree has blossomed; we've waited and waited and finally, it has added some beautiful colour to our garden, giving us that final nod that summer is well and truly on its way.

I will miss the jacarandas when we leave Brisbane.  But I won't miss the summer.

November 3, 2010

new tooth

Little Max has a tooth!  I didn't think I would be as excited as I was to discover the tiny little white tooth, but it was so lovely to see our little boy reach his next milestone.  He's yet to sit up for more than a short moment and doesn't like spending much time on his tummy, so it's going to be a while before he's mobile (he'll know when it's time) but he's definitely growing up, reminding us that while we're lavishing attention on his louder, bigger brother, he's there too.  Cute as a button.

November 2, 2010

another journey around the sun

Oliver James Downes:  Two years old.

Ollie's birthday was the most brilliant day I think I have spent with him in a very long time.  We chatted about this and that, we played chase, we read stories, we ate our meals with enthusiasm, we played with our new wooden workbench and a new orange car and I got more spontaneous hugs than I could count.  Ollie's dad spent a couple of hours with him in the morning before work, setting up his workbench and chatting to his nanni and nanna on Skype, and while the boys were asleep at lunch time, I started planning his birthday party and spent more than a moment reflecting on the incredible day I gave birth to Oliver.

It was a day that reminded me that in between the chores and tasks that can't be ignored, it can be so much fun to hang out with Ollie (although he wouldn't let us sing 'Happy Birthday' to him) and I forget this all to easily when I'm struggling to juggle everything and Ollie's having a bad day.  It was so refreshing and energizing to have such a positive day with Ollie, made even more special because it was his birthday.

He's just a normal, crazy haired kid with good days and bad, and I don't think I'd appreciate him nearly as much as I do if everyday was easy.  Happy birthday, Ollie.

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