Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sleep sack and bunnys

Our little darling has started the cutest evening routine. After dinner, bath, play and books the clock reaches 7.30pm; time for bed. If we mention the words 'sleep sack' she squeals with glee and races down the hall to collect it!

Oh it is funny seeing her pull it from the end of her cot, gather up the folds and make her way back to the lounge. Here the sleep sack is thrown to the floor and she busies herself laying it out (with assistance from Daddy). With a big grin she lays herself down ready to be zipped in.

I'm unsure where this started but it is rather a sweet way to end the bedtime routine. Her favourite part comes next; she shuffles down to the very bottom hidden from view and loves to be swung around. Giggles and squeals escape the sack as it swings around the lounge. Pure and simple joy.

Eighteen months is such a fun age. Cublet's vocabulary is growing each day; new words tumbling from her lips. She can brush her teeth and loves to help out in the garden/around the house. She delights in saying 'ta' for please and 'tank you' for thanks, mostly because she receives such high praise for her lovely manners from us and people she meets.

Diggers and butterflies remain at the top end of her favourite things. She is developing a love for dinosaurs 'di di' and bunnies too. We spend a lot of time playing dinosaurs and hopping around the house.

I found a sweet pair of tights with bunnies on the knees. It is hilarious to see her feeding or offering them a drink...'sssurp sssurp' she says! If you ask where the bunnies are she lifts her skirt high and shows them off ever so proudly.

She has her first set of big girl pj's for winter, a softer than soft pink checked flannel pair. Excitingly her feet now leave the ground when she jumps. The swimming instructor has deemed her competent enough to remove the arm bands. It is quite crazy to see her independently paddling around the pool with her little foam backboard. She has mastered pouring water from a cup after much practise in the bath.

We fill in the day with lot's of outside time; running, jumping, climbing. Inside we play 'babies', she tucks in her baby and says 'nigh nighs'. It is funny to hear her snoring noise that her sleeping babes all seem to make. Puzzles with handles are becoming easier despite her fiery temper sending pieces flying if they won't co-operate. Oh my darling it will take some serious training to channel that fire.

It has been a rewarding and exhausting year and a half. We are more in love with our munchkin with each passing day. How can the time be passing so quickly though?!

Busy and most wonderful Easter

Easter this year was pre booked with all sorts of fun. To kick things off Mr Fox and I had tickets to the concert The Eagles of Death Metal. Mae was tenderly looked after by her Aunty Emma and Uncle Roman. By all accounts they all had a great night full of giggles together.

It was lovely to sneak out to a gig; just the two of us. It was a loud and crazy show, a little overwhelming for a tired couple! We  realised that those kind of nights out are best for the weekends (not a Tuesday!) and that we are not as young as we used to be. Sigh. Plotting dinner and a movie next time.

Our cars seem to be playing tag when it comes to problems. After fixing the ignition and window on the Honda my car decided to have brake and timing issues. This was thankfully fixed with a morning at the mechanics so it was rather hilarious to have a flat battery on our trip north.

Ever hopeful to miss the infamous we had the car packed and set off by 7.30am on Good Friday morning. Anticipating a coffee break after Warkworth, bags under our weary eyes and a happy little traveller in the backseat we hit the road.

The dead battery saw a long stop in Wellsford before we got a jump start from some kind motorists. The rest of the drive was uneventful and we were all relieved to see our friends when we pulled in mid afternoon.

Hihi Sunset fro the deck.
Our adventurous friends have brought a 16 acre block on a hill overlooking a harbour in Hihi, Doubtless Bay. The beautiful and warm Bay of Islands makes for an idyllic setting. The property had been left to become rundown and overgrown.

These friends of ours hardworking. They have already cleared gorse and draining the land closest to the road. The pocket of native bush is beautiful and has it's own resident male brown Kiwi whose call we were delighted to hear one evening. It is magical place; a setting just right for an Enid Blyton novel.

Little Easter bunny
The few days we had there passed quickly. The guys kept busy on the chainsaws and diggers. The digger had an unfortunate ditch crossing and ending up on it's side, very stuck in the drain. An afternoon of digging could not budge the wretched machine and a bigger digger was called in to pull it out.....just like the Little Yellow Digger  book!

Little digger stuck

We visited the local markets and nearby town of Mangonui where we were treated to a large ray gliding past and a school of small fish. The nearby beach was explored and we collected seaweed to nourish our friends garden. We played the Settlers of Catan boardgame in the evenings and ate far too much good food,

It was with much reluctance that we packed the car and headed towards Auckland late on Easter Sunday (this time with jumper leads at the ready in the boot!). It won't be long til we return to Hihi and the cosy house high on the hill. The trip has fueled our desire to get our rural patch.

Our Monday was to be a recharging day before Mr. Fox had to head back to work but we ended up getting a 'Do Little' seat for the bike. It wasn't what we had in mind for a bike seat but after a trail run we are pleased we went with this option. Mae loved it. I'm sure we will be able to have many family outings around Auckland's cycle ways with this gadget.

Trying out the Do Little seat

Monday, March 28, 2016

A sweet visit from Southern Friends

Busy weeks mean posts have to wait. Keeping lists of blog ideas/thoughts set the intention to record memories here. Bullet points and notes that jog my memory when I sit down to write. Bringing the photos and thoughts together....preferably with a hot coffee and solitude!

One such note has reminded me to document one of our favourite weekends of 2016 thus far. Our sweet friend from our Uni years came to visit. Her little family moved to Auckland around the same time as ours and we enjoyed many fun times together. When they moved south we really missed them (we still do of course). 

At the beginning of the month they ventured North for a catch up. My goodness their girls had grown and are such a delight. It was a full weekend, packed with all the good stuff. Lots of laughs, playing and so much chatter. 

Mae was thrilled to be spending so much time with her little mate Noah and her two new friends Arleigha and Caylee. After a relaxed BBQ here the first evening we spent time exploring Auckland. 

Inflatable world was a first for us; I think the adults had as much fun as the kids. As we went early in the morning there was a good half an hour with the place to ourselves! Lots of running and jumping on the bouncy castles and slides.

Fun at Inflatable world

No fear! 

We had a quick trip through Kelly Tarlton Aquarium. The girls loved the playground and gift shop the best funnily enough. I could spend hours in aquariums. We finished off the day with a picnic at Western Springs. The kids played for hours in the playground while the grown ups took turn supervising and grabbing a bite to eat.

The girls watching the Elephant Sharks at Kelly Tarlton Aquarium

Mae and her wee mate Noah

We miss our lovely friends already and so loved their time here. Having our children play together is such a surreal and beautiful dream. Here's to more time spent with friends and our little ones creating special memories together. 

Kitekite Falls, Piha. A morning walk together

Completing the Kitekite Falls walk has been our list for ages. With no plans for Saturday morning this weekend we took the opportunity to tick it off. The walking tracks are so much quieter before mid morning so we set off right after breakfast.

Happy walking buddies
The track is a loop from the car park at Piha with lots of interesting history along the way.  A mostly easy, smooth track with a little scrambling required just before the base of the falls. The Kitekite falls are much bigger than the Fairy Falls and the is a big pool that would be perfect for a swim. We are planning to pack our togs next time.

A little weary from the walk. The base of Kitekite Falls.
 There is an optional steep track that leads to the top of the falls that is worth the effort (and huffing/puffy/sweatiness!). The bush opens out into a clearing where the water meanders from pool to pool before hurtling over the edge. Very majestic.

Top of the falls

There are the deep cut outs in the rock, marks of the Kauri logging and the dam created to move the logs.  Not really safe enough to let our cublet run around up here as the rocks are slippery so after a short time admiring the view we set off down the hill for morning tea.

Much to Mae's delight a Monarch butterfly settled on the grass by our picnic table. Her favourite things at the moment are diggers and butterflies. This one looked a little tired/old/sick so was resting on the grass. Miss Mae spent a good while saying "bella bellaby" to the wee creature.  What a treat for her to observe one so closely.

Little butterfly

After a week or two of lots of socialising it was theraupeutic to spend time in nature. The quiet coolness of the bush a calming balm to our weary souls. It will be a track we will revisit. There are a few other tracks that are nearby that we wish to explore too. With plenty of parking and restrooms it is perfect for exploring the Waitakere Ranges.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sweet Pea cardigan and other unfinished knits

So I have been working away at the sweet pea cardigan,  reaching the hood a week or so ago. The further into the project I get the quicker it grows. There has been some gnashing of teeth accompanied by some muttering when I have had to frog back a few rows.

I have to come realise I need full concentration when knitting this particular pattern and to avoid it completely when I am tired.  The little peas that nestle in the pods were a little flat. I have figured that by working them a couple of extra rows they sit nice and proud (You can see the flatter peas on the first pattern repeat). How pleasing it is to be able to nut out a solution for oneself.

Slow and steady progress. 

My little helper has been assisting my efforts to tidy my knitting supplies. Always happy to play with yarn and find new places to pass the time while I fossick. I sent a couple of bags of scratchy or not-quite-the-perfect-colour yarns to the charity shops. Along with a reasonably large pile of knitting patterns. Most of these I had collected before I knew of the wonderfulness that is It is so much easier to have favourite patterns stored in a digital format. 

In the process of making space I uncovered a unfinished knits. Forgotten projects; gifts incomplete and blankets needing a few more hours of love. So with the best intentions I will endeavour to plug away at these over the winter months. 

It is always much harder to return to a knit once the initial excitement has faded. I'm always impressed by those who work on project at a time....such restraint! One gift that I am working on completing is a scarf for my sister, cast on more a few years ago as a Christmas present. 

Soft cream merino yarn alternated with a dusky pink. The same simple pattern as I gave to my Mum.  I aim to cast off before her birthday and will add buttons if she wishes. A delight to knit, soothing yarn that slips easily from one needle to another. Why it was abandoned I'm not exactly sure but I have my suspicions it was when we moved house. Between this and the cardigan I will be occupied for the next month or so. I have promised myself I will get these two done before buying wool for a navy cardigan for Mae. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Tiny Happy Modern Bonnets

When I need to soothe my heart and quiet my thoughts I turn to the garden or crafting. While experiencing my pregnancy loss I was told to take it easy but to be honest all I wanted to do was throw myself into a physical job in the backyard. To order a mountain of mulch to spread about or hastily paint more of that fence. To move and sweat.

Instead I followed the doctor's orders and found relief in making. In the still moments between putting Mae to bed and chores I sought out my projects The more I created the more whole I felt. The repetition of stitching, cutting and sewing was meditative.

The Modern Bonnet pattern in Melissa Wastney's Sweet and Simple Handmade book is beautiful. Mae has several in her winter wardrobe made by my Mum and her friend on one of their crafting afternoons. The bonnet is a both a good fit for little heads and darling hat. The ribbons ensure that small hands can't tug them off. An uncomplicated project that I could finish without frustration.

Magnificent floral...a little hard to make the first snip!

In my stash I had some softer than soft flannel that I knew would be snuggly as the lining. A dusty purple and checks in white and black. For the outer, the pile of fabrics I chosen from Mum's crafting cupboard called to me. There is surely no better way to use it up than to adorn sweet babes heads. Old fashioned florals in deep colours, imbued with extra specialness knowing that my precious Mum had once selected and pondered projects for each piece. I cherish the knowledge that her hands once held them. Perhaps a little too sentimental for some but a comfort to myself.

The pattern is easy to follow and a joy to sew. It doesn't require much fabric either so it's a great way to use up smaller pieces.  After making a couple and having thoroughly enjoyed myself; I cut out more. In all I have made approximately twenty little bonnets. A few lined in soft tarten with black outers and of course more florals! Each needed ribbons too, so it was fun to select co-ordinating ones from my collections. Happily I had black velvet ribbon for the darker bonnets.

Four await cooler temperatures and will be worn by Miss Mae. One is heading off to Australia for my sweet friends handsome new nephew. The others have been squirreled away for babes yet to be born. Charming gifts to welcome little ones.

Modern bonnets from the Sweet and Simple Handmade Book.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Family adventure to Fairy Falls in the Waitakere Ranges

Not long ago we set out to walk to Fairy Falls near our place. We walked in from the bottom of the track at Mountain Road but you can walk it from Scenic Drive too. It is a steep track that is boggy in places. There are a few places where you have to rock hop across the shallow stream. A little hairy with Mae up in the backpack but achievable nonetheless.

My favourite adventuring companions
After about half an hour of walking we reached the base of the Fairy Falls. You can hear the falls before you see them and when you walk out into the clearing it is rather magical. Water cascades down a series of pools. Sunlight dances on the droplets making teeny rainbows. Mae was very pleased to have a run around and explore. We even spotted a little eel in the pool, hiding by a log.

Happy to be exploring
Taking in the beauty of the falls and imagining little water fairies

We climbed to the upper most pool and peered over railings to falls below. By this time it was mid morning. Hungry and thirsty we made our way back down to the smooth rocks for a picnic lunch. Mr. Fox and I taking turns to eat while Mae played by the water's edge.

After a while she stopped for a few bites of egg sandwich and muesli bar. On the walk back her blinks grew slower and "winky" won. Her wee forehead sunk beneath the top of the pack, rocked to sleep by her Daddy's hiking.

Happy on Daddy's back as we look back down over the falls

It was a quick little trip but a perfect escape from suburbia.  Only a few kilometers from home but feels like you are far from the hustle and haste of life.  We hope to be ticking a few more of the local tracks off over the next few months. The cooler days of Autumn are perfect for exploring. The Waitakere Ranges are such a big part of why we love living out in West Auckland. Here's hoping Mae grows to share that love; so far it's looking promising. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Best places to buy Second Hand in West Auckland

It has taken a few years of visiting op-shops in the western suburbs of Auckland to find my favourites. The ones that have clean and good quality stock with helpful staff.  I am keen on thrifting and living lightly but don't like to spend long at the shops.  I check out my favs before buying new.

Now that cublet is a little bigger I try to buy for the next season (and size) coming up. I keep a running list on my phone of bits and pieces she might need in her wardrobe. This system comes in handy for clothes/craft supplies for myself too. It helps me focus and remember exactly what I need to purchase.

The following stores consistently have a good turnover of quality stock.

In Henderson I tend to visit the St Johns op shop, SPCA op shop, Restore and the Hospice op shop. These all have great clothes for little ones and the Restore shop has brilliant furniture and home wares too.

When I am looking for clothes for Mae I always go to the huge SaveMart in New Lynn. This place has a huge selection of clothes at decent prices. There is a huge rack of togs most of which are nearly new. Recently I got some great winter gear here including a brilliant pair of lined, waterproof overalls.

The New Lynn Salvation Army Family Store is a real treasure trove for furniture. We got Mae's beautiful mid century drawers from this shop but it is super busy so I recommend getting there early in the day for a browse.

Finally if you are looking for a directory of op-shops in New Zealand this one is really comprehensive. It is a fantastic resource when you move areas (or if you are on holiday and fancy a quick hunt).  I'm curious to know if you have any favourites?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Pregnancy Loss

It seems that pregnancy loss has become more talked about. It is not such a hushed topic. The past few months we have been dealing with our own pregnancy loss. The joy of becoming pregnant sadly turned to disappointment at our 6 week dating scan.

Alas the pregnancy appeared to have ceased at about 5 weeks and there was no little baby to be found on the screen. The next week was filled with blood tests and anxiety though in our hearts i think we knew that this pregnancy was not to be. Another ultrasound confirmed our fears and we were referred to the Early Pregnancy Clinic at North Shore hospital. A supportive and kind team that gave us our options.

We scheduled surgery but thankfully the pregnancy ended naturally at nearly 8 weeks (it was not painful or scary as it can be sometimes). This too had to be confirmed by ultrasound and lab results.  

I have been recovering physically and emotionally over the past few weeks. Now that my body is returning to normal and I feel well again it almost seems like a dream. We believe that this much wanted baby must have not formed due to a problem and nature stepped in early. Alongside the grief was much relief that it was an early miscarriage, physically I am ok and that statistically it is unlikely that this will happen again. We were uplifted by the kind words and gestures of friends and family. Something to be ever thankful for.

There are some good resources out there that I accessed when processing my own feelings. This interview on the Practising Simplicity blog helped along with the material given to me at the Early Pregnancy clinic. Our GP was incredibly helpful too. I found talking with friends therapeutic and threw myself into crafting projects where I could escape from the sense of loss for an hour or two.

Though common, indeed very common pregnancy loss is a trying time. By opening up here I hope that a story shared may just help another woman one day. And in the meantime reflect on a little light that won't yet shine in this world.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Autumn is gently arriving...........

As the calendar flips from February to March the season officially becomes Autumn. You can feel the first whispers of cooler nights and turning of leaves. Summer is heat and humidity is giving way to a crisper air. Long rain showers have given the garden a proper drenching and it is looking refreshed.

Watery fun

Fence at entry finally painted
We have made the most of the warm afternoons with walks and outdoor water play. It has been a little quieter round here of late. Although there has been plenty of things to do. As Mae has become older (18 months in a couple of weeks!) we are attending more activities; playgroup, Mainly Music, story time at the library. She so enjoys the other children and extra fun.

Our orchards first fruits

Just this morning she has been chasing butterflies in the garden as I hung out the washing.....crying out "bella bella" to them as they fluttered just out of reach. It was one of those joyful moments that feels like you are exactly where you have always wanted to be and blessed beyond measure.

My sister and partner have just visited briefly. My Dad and his partner are here in Auckland for a days. Our cup is full and it is with a happy heart that I can enjoy all this family time.

Train rides with Poppa

One particularly hot morning was made special with a trip to Auckland Botanic Gardens with Aunty Emma. Cublet enjoyed leading the way through the paths and trails. Emma and I enjoyed a catch up despite the sticky heat.

Incredible sculpture 

Enjoying the childrens' garden
Climbing, always climbing

Finally the empty patches in the garden bed are filling up as I plant out the crops for cooler months; lots of spring onions, mixed brassicas and curly leaf kale.

We celebrated picking our first four apples with quiet jubilation. It was a special moment to record. Our girls chubby hands plucked the fruit from up high in her Daddy's arms. Dreams coming to fruition; blogged about here when Mae was new.

Sunshine in a jar (or two!)........

An abundance of tomatoes has our freezer laden with pasta sauce and soup ( I think about 18-20 litres!). 

Inspired by the Wattle Seed Collective community on Instagram and a little desperate for another way to keep on top of the never ending tomato crop, I tried making semi-dried tomatoes for the first time too.

A slow and satisfying task that filled the kitchen with yummy smells. The jars are not lasting long as the dried tomatoes are super sweet and very moreish

Sweetest semi-dried tomatoes
I combined a few recipes I found on the Internet and here's what I did;
  • Preheated oven to 100 degrees Celsius on fan bake
  • Washed and sliced the tomatoes
  • Roughly tore rosemary and thyme
  • Combined the herbs, tomatoes, garlic cloves  in a bowl with a splash of olive oil
  • Spread out on oven trays (tomatoes skin side down)
  • Cooked until semi-dried (mine took approximately 5-6hrs)
  • Spooned into sterilised jars and completely covered with olive oil. 

It is such an easy way to preserve a glut of tomatoes. The result is so delightful that it is sure to become a late summer tradition and much anticipated treat in the pantry.