A Funky little Monkey.

img_8496I wrote this post last week – just haven’t had a moment to scratch, to finish it up and edit it.  Needless to say, this will be the first, of what I’m sure is many blog posts about being a mum here in Northern Ireland, facilities available for kids and other such things.

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As I look out over this magnificent vista… wait.  Wrong show.

img_8467As I sit here, on this hard plastic throne and listen to the screams of a hugely disgruntled child as his grandmother attempts to drag him from whatever life changing toy he was playing with, as I watch the two poles of ‘human experience’ unfold before my eyes and am impatiently wait for my chicken goujon lunch to appear, I thought, perhaps, that it was high time I wrote my first ‘mumsy’ post from sunny Costa del Larne.

For the record, by ‘human experience’, I mean both the best and the worst.

I’ve just witnessed an older girl, completely unprovoked, grab an older boy by his head and smash his head into the floor of the play area, while he was howling in pain, I, simultaneously, watched a little girl – who had previously been doing some epically good round kicks on those punch bag looking things – take my sons hands over top of an obstacle he was trying to scale, and attempt to help (gently) pull him across.

img_8483While it didn’t work, and I sat for a good eight or nine more minutes, patiently watching him try to figure out how to get his little self, up and over this foam blockade (you can just about make out his wee head over top of the blue foam thing in the picture), he figured it out himself and I gave him a quick thumbs up, before heading over to thank the mother of the little girl, for not raising a face-smashing little wench, but a caring and helpful little girl, a stranger to my son, who tried to help him when she saw him struggling.  I imagined her heart leapt when she saw someone coming over asking if that little girl was her little girl, but instead I got a ‘yeah, she told me’ and a ‘what the hell are you doing over here talking to me, lady’, kinda look.  Screw you.  Ugh.

img_8479While living in the US, we had a few indoor play areas that we loved, nine bucks (ish), unlimited play time, typically an in house café – with varying successes in food provided – and a very happy, exhausted and sweaty toddler at the end of it all.

Coming back to Northern Ireland, I quickly became aware that we weren’t in Texas any more Toto.  The going rate for indoor play here, is around five pounds, which, in ‘real money’ is about $8 before the pound tanked.  Sounds on par, right? Well.  When that $8 only covers 90 minutes, you see, friends, we have a problem.

The problem here is, friends, that I have a boisterous and energetic little boy.  I have a little boy, who could easily burn through three hours in an indoor play area, doing the same thing over and over, and over again, to his little hearts content.  Who would cry, and scream, and protest were I to try and remove him from his fortress of fun.

And then I read about Funky Monkey’s membership.

  • $12 per month (that’s pounds, but I’m on an American computer and can’t figure out where in the name of all things, the GBP sign is).
  • UNLIMITED entry to the center, 7 days a week.
  • UNLIMITED access to activity programmes
  • 10% off birthday parties
  • 10% off at their café

img_8476Not only that? But you can use this membership in ANY of their locations around the north, there’s one in Larne, Newtonabbey, Banbridge, Dondonald…I’m not sure where else.  All I know is that the ‘city pass’ as I’d call it in a Houston context, means that I can use any of their branches under my monthly membership.

Sunday, we took Lewis to the one in Dundonald.  We had Halloween activities planned, but the weather didn’t comply, so we opted to cross the car park from the place we had breakfast and throw him in to Funky Monkey’s for a while.

img_8500I’ve been sick since Sunday, til yesterday (Thursday) and today, we’re back, here at the one in Larne, where we have already made friends with one of the girls who work here, Megan – which, brings up another point, the staff in Funtastics were verging on being rude, even, not just standoffish.  I’ve not found the funky monkey’s crew to be like that at all.  They’re friendly, kind and helpful.

So, my advice to the mums of Northern Ireland? Grab a membership to Funky Monkeys – it’s worth it.  You cover your monthly membership, with less than one trip to indoor play a week.  And, if you happen to see your local blogger sitting trying to wrestle her hot chocolate out of the hands of her toddler? Come say hi.

img_8502But for now? I’m going to enjoy the dregs of this mug, that he graciously left me until it’s time to convince this child that a quick trip to Asda is more fun than those swinging punch bags – when all this Krav mama *really* wants to do, is go throw some combos! 😉

Lewis’ ‘Time Flies’ first birthday airplane party.

The theme for this blog post, guys and gals, is ‘OTT’.  No, no really.

11010629_10155279509765411_8605921233011560039_nBut he’s super cute – and I just couldn’t help myself!

It’s no secret that I’m a Pinterest party person. I love event planning, hosting parties and crafting up a storm to make for an amazing party. Having helped my BFF out for the last five years on my nieces birthday parties, I felt confident that I could take doing one for Lewis by myself.

With the help of our photographer, we narrowed down a theme (I’ll probably use the runner up for next year!)  Airplanes.  She mentioned that she had happened upon a cute plane prop and could totally make an amazing set around that theme.  So we ran with it.

Invitations

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I had bought him a cute flight jacket at a local Just Between Friends consignment sale, wayyyyyy before he was born (Col thought it was cute) and after having gone to the Galveston Flight Museum (and Amazon), I grabbed some patches and send the whole thing down to my trusty seamstress, who turned out a FAB jacket for our lil guy.

His first birthday photo shoot was one of my faves, he was a lot more mobile than before, he was curious and yet hesitant to pick things up, so gave us unsure little looks, to make sure he could pick up the planes and letters around.

I ordered them (and the thank-you cards) from Tiny Prints (photo above was the one I used!), I had a coupon for a huge discount, but needed urgent shipping cause I stupidly left it too late.  Tip: schedule your pictures early, and order your invitations early.  BE EARLY! LOL!

Party bags

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I went with brown paper bag ‘suitcases’, in keeping with the travelling/flying theme.  I got the bags and brown card for accents in Michaels.  The vintage travel stickers, and the thank-you tags came from Amazon, and the pilots wings I got from eBay.

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Inside each bag, kids got a little aviator duck, a ‘grab bag’ from Target (either a Planes one, or a Minions one), mini bubbles, Disney Planes/Cars tummies, a foam glider, half a sheet of stickers (I couldn’t get a sheet each, Target was cleared!!) and some white chocolate covered pretzels.

Photo booth

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I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and this OTT first birthday party, was the perfect excuse 😉 I decided to go with a fabric back drop.  I ordered a photographers stand from EBay for $30, it came in a little fold away bag for easy storage, it’s easy to step up and take down (if I can do it anyone can) and it worked out being cheaper, or at least as cheap as making a plastic pipe one from piping from Lowe’s or Home Depot.

For the back ground itself, I wanted a sky-theme, I had grand plans of making a cardboard plane for Lewis and his friends to sit on, in front of it, so I bought two yards of four different colors of fabric, which Col and I tore into 2″ strips one night while watching NCIS.  The clouds are made from $1 clearance tulle Pompoms from Michaels and fish wire/clear thread.

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My props, aside from Lewis’ flight jacket, and a pilot hat from Amazon, were hand-held wooden props that I got from Michaels and painted one evening (glasses, mustaches, crowns, top hats) that were all $1-$1.50 each, but are so versatile that I can use them every year, regardless of the theme of the party!

I ran out of time (and thought I’d have more hands to help) so I ordered an inflatable red airplane from Amazon.

Décor

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Using my ‘old faithful’ cricut, I cut two different banners – out of regular, 12×12 card stock from Michaels.  In their ‘discount bins’, I got some matching twine and in their scrapbooking aisles, I picked up some coordinating clothes pegs, to make my lovely ‘Time Flies’ banner.  The intention was to have a plane pulling the banner, but it just didn’t get done.

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The other, was a Happy Birthday Lewis banner – pretty simple, but cute!

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I picked up 48 WWII foam gliders on Amazon for $8, I didn’t realize there was 48 when I bought them, but, after putting one in each party bag, I didn’t want to waste the leftovers, so decided to do a hall of gliders – stringing them up onto fish wire was pretty bad, considering the string is INVISIBLE, but I think the hall looked cute.

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Even now, weeks later, Lewis LOVES our hall of gliders.  Every morning we go downstairs and from the very top step, you’ll hear him exclaim ‘wow!’ They amaze him!

Cake

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I considered having a cake made by a local bakery, but, in a moment of stupidity, decided to do it myself.  I usually HATE boxed cakes, but, I haven’t find a white/vanilla cake recipe that I love better than the box (I will NEVER buy a chocolate box mix, for example) – if you have one, please feel free to share!

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I went with a five layer orange ombre cake, covered in a light ‘sky’ blue butter cream, buttercream clouds and topped with a Sesame street cake topper (from Amazon).  It was pretty tasty – if I do say so myself, but, unfortunately, most of our guests were seemingly health conscious, and I was left with well over half of the cake! (This totally wouldn’t have happened in my home country!!)

Food and drinks

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The ‘in-flight service’ savoury menu, was pretty simple.  I went with two crock pots of ‘mains’, I had BBQ pulled chicken in one, and meatballs and smokies in a BBQ-tomato sauce in the other.  I had burger buns, with cheese, onions and lettuce on the side.

The sides were a veggie plate, crisps from home, chips and salsa and caprese bites (mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar – I should have made more of those, they went very well!).

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I even put together some cutlery/silverware packets, with Lewis Air labels that my BFF designed for me.

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IMG_4749The ‘in-flight beverage’ drinks table,  had some orange punch (Hawaiian punch and sprite zero), Koolaid drinks and small bottles of water (with personalized labels).

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Our dessert table, was fun! I had my sister pick up a bunch of kiddies sweets from home, my best friend baked some Airplane cookies, I dipped some Oreos and made propellers from M&M’s and Jelly Beans and had some jars of color coordinated M&M’s and Jelly beans.

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I’m very proud of this party, not least of all cause I did it myself, but also cause it came together very well.  I’ve already given thought to his next birthday party theme, and will be keeping my eye out for ‘stuff’ to stock pile for it! 😉

What was the theme for your little one’s first birthday party?

Things to do in Texas: Texas State Railroad (Fall Foliage Brunch Train)

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, we went home to the UK for a few weeks, I’ve been under the weather (before and since), and Lewis is keeping me on my toes.  But, we recently embarked on a fun activity here in Texas, that I wanted to share with y’all, in case you are interested in doing the Polar Express train before Christmas.

Col and I have been married for five years as of October, the traditional gift is wood, and, after having bought him his record player (affectionately named ‘Maggie’), I wanted to find something for us to do together, to mark the occasion.  As many of you know, we love our little getaways, a weekend here, an overnight there, we love exploring Texas and think, as a state, it has so much to offer.  To get to the train ride took exactly three hours from Houston (though, on our way TO the train, it took five hours, an hour in traffic, an hour stopped for lunch, plus the three hour journey – yawn!)

We went up the day before, spent the afternoon in the hotel pool (the Hampton inn and suites, if you’re interested, was excellent, and we’d go back without question and, while I’m at it, grab a delicious pizza in a restaurant called ‘Switch’).

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For those of you who say that Texas doesn’t have a ‘fall’ season, you’re wrong.  I just saw it, out the window of a hundred year old steam train as we traveled across East Texas ‘Pineywoods’ forest country.  You pay $55 per person, you board the train at one of two Victorian-style train depots at either Palestine (where we boarded), or Rusk.

They ask you to be there almost an hour early, to pick up your tickets from the ticket desk – don’t groan – that gives you plenty of time to watch the steam engine come out of her little shed, down the track and connect to the carriages, and to take pictures of the train, the depot and the surroundings, it’s very picturesque.

Once on board, we found the table with our family name place card, took a seat, and enjoyed a delicious platter of fresh fruit, fruit dip, orange juice, apple juice, water and coffee, as we waited for the train to disembark the station.

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The journey through the trees was glorious, the sun shone, the trees were a multitude of colours, and the atmosphere onboard, was excited anticipation.  The family carriage, was filled with both adults and kids alike, I was amazed to find linen table cloths, real glasses and cutlery on the tables and fully uniformed staff ready to wait on us hand and foot.  It was a real experience, we even traveled through a rainbow – which was pretty darn cool!

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As we approached our one and only stop at Rusk, Texas, they brought us slices of quiche (bacon or veggie), with a side salad and some dressing (in hindsight I should have ordered a third portion because Lewis decided he loved it and ate a chunk of mine and Col’s!)

We disembarked for our forty-five minute pit-stop, watched the engine disconnect, and pass the carriages to reconnect.  In Rusk there are bathrooms (though the lines were seriously long, I’d say just go on board the train whilst no one is on board!), the men’s bathroom had a koala care station – which is definitely worth noting for those with little ones, as many restaurants, even ‘big name’ restaurants don’t have facilities in even the Women’s toilets, let alone the men’s.

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There is a gift shop for you to peruse and some nice grounds if you’d like a wander around.  When we got back on the train, there was a platter of crackers, cheese and tomato/cucumber waiting for us and about half-way back to the Palestine depot, they brought out a selection of muffins and cinnamon rolls.  Informing us that we could ‘pick two’ (and then offered us a cinnamon roll separate), Col had the blueberry muffin and the mini lemon and poppy seed muffin, I chose the banana nut muffin and a mini lemon and poppy seed and we picked up a cinnamon roll to share.  What we actually ate, on the other hand, was half the cinnamon roll, Lewis and I shared the mini muffin and Col had his mini muffin – so much food! (We bagged the two larger muffins to take home with us on our journey home).

The thing that surprised me on this journey, other than the food being really tasty (for some reason I always expect those type of things to be quite Ming), was the service, the servers on the train were exceptional – better than many of the restaurants I’ve been in lately.  They were friendly and warm, interested (mostly in Lewis, obviously!) but not imposing, efficient and generous (one lady even gave me some diet coke and offered more if/when I fancied it).  They definitely added to the whole experience and were full of smiles the whole time.

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We both loved this experience, it was romantic, fun, different and we got to see a part of Texas that, previously, had been uncharted for us, and the train was pretty damn cool – I won some serious wifey points to boot.

Their 2015 calendar includes a romantic Valentine’s night dinner and an Easter train ride – both of which sound fun.  If Lewis was a little older, we’d take him on the Polar Express Christmas train ride for sure!

Y’all should check this train out, really – it’s worth it!!

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Joanne’s turquoise and yellow, ‘Owl’ Baby Shower

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It’s been a long time since this party – and, even longer since I’ve done any party planning.  But, when Jo told me that she was pregnant – I immediately claimed the planning of her baby shower – y’all know that I just can’t help myself! So, Jo picked a colour scheme (turquoise), I picked an accent color (yellow – I was going to pick lime green, but I figured that people would then think she was having a boy, so I went with something a little more gender neutral, though, as it turned out, people still thought ‘boy’ anyway!) and I asked her if she had any ‘animal preference’, and after a little thought, she chose ‘owls’.  Not only that, but we decided to theme the food around an ‘afternoon tea’ type menu, I created a Pinterest inspiration board, and got planning.

Decor

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I think it’s safe to say, that the piece de la resistance of the baby shower (clearly a stroke of genius on my part ;)), was ordering this masterpiece from my good friend Lindsay.  Not only was it a gift for the expectant mother, but it was so beautiful, that it was our centerpiece and was a very functional part of the décor.  For those of you interested, Lindsay makes these, ‘cupcakes’ and pacifier clips (and can ship them), her page can be found here on Facebook, ‘Chicky babe creations’.

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Aside from the typical matching coloured table cloths, cutlery, napkins, cups, my new love of patterned paper straws and my homemade dollar store food label chalk boards, decorations were sparse – I would have loved to do more, but I ran out of time (and had a little person in tow).  I picked up some paper lanterns (which my lovely hubby strung up around Jo and Mark’s living room for me) a banner to match the baby shower sign that we stuck in the front yard to let people know where the shower was taking place and some matching ‘streamers’ to hang next to the lanterns.

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Games, guestbook and favours

IMG_3789We didn’t embark on a lot of ‘typical’ American baby shower games.  For us folk from the UK, we tend to want to reign it in, nothing OTT, nothing involving chocolate bars being melted in diapers etc.  So, I chose a few interactive games and brought along a small prize for the winner of each.

There was a ‘guess how many lemon drops’ game, a ‘say baby’ game, and a set of four baby shower games by Fisher Price that I got here, on Amazon.  A word scramble, a word search, a baby animal name game and baby shower bingo (I filled in each of the bingo cards myself to make it a fair fight!) I wasn’t sure how they’d go down, but everyone took them seriously, their sense of competition took over, and you could hear a pin drop when the games were handed out.  It was good fun!

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I saw this guestbook idea on Pinterest, with links through to Etsy stores, charging $35-$45 for various forms of this canvas.  As much as I love Joanne, I wasn’t paying that for it, and thought, hey, I can make that – and I have all of the necessary stuff, on hand in the house.  So make it, I did.

I LOVE how it came out.  I started off the ‘leaves’ with a few blank fingerprints, for those who didn’t want to get their fingers messy, and, when everyone had signed it, Lindsay and I went over the tree again with our fingerprints, filling in some extra leaves and making it look a little fuller.

IMG_5219For favours, I kept it simple.  I got a box of chocolate truffles from Costco, some tulle circles and ribbon from Hobby Lobby and got to work.  It was quick, easy – and, a yummy favor for people who came to the shower.

Food

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Since Jo is from Northern Ireland, I wanted to incorporate elements of a traditional ‘afternoon tea’, with elements of Texas/America – considering she’s about to have an American baby, I thought it was fitting.  My own contributions to the food side of things, was limited, I’d had surgery less than two weeks prior to her shower and wasn’t up to doing a lot of manual labour.  So for food stuffs, I enlisted help and delegated different elements of the menu to close friends who were only too keen to help. IMG_3847 Let me just note, we had WAY too much food.  Even if everyone in attendance had taken home a doggy bag (which we should have made them do!) there still would have been way too much food.  It all looked rather impressive though! IMG_3849Quiche (two fillings), sandwiches (egg salad and ham and cheese), whole wheat scones, white scones, veggie tray, wheaten bread and pasta salad.

Dessert and drinks

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I had planned on making a delicious Victoria sponge, but time got away from me – I’m claiming ‘Newbornitis’ for this one – there are only so many hours in the day when Lewis is sleeping, and, instead of the sponge, I made some Northern Irish tray bakes.  There was no shortage of sweet treats!IMG_3841 Fruit tray, Trader Joe’s frozen macaroons, caramel squares, coconut squares, biscuit cake, Butterfinger slices and Reeses peanut butter cup slices.

IMG_3839For drinks, we kept it juicy – orange, lime, lemon, raspberry lemonade and cranberry – all from the ‘Simply’ range.  Truly simple (open and pour) and refreshingly delicious – I haven’t yet found a ‘store brand’ or another name brand that is comparable to the Simply range, so, why bother? LOL!  Joanne also had tea, coffee, water and diet coke on hand, for those who didn’t want to partake in the fruity juices.

This was one of my favourite baby showers, EVER!  The group was a nice size, the morning was fun – there was no cooking in a hot oven on the day, there wasn’t much for me (as organizer) to do other than the original set-up and it was nice and laid back – plus Joanne sent me a beautiful bunch of flowers to say thank-you 🙂

I had a few other ideas for this baby shower, a candy bar, serve the fruit in mason jars, Oreo baby rattles, a balloon and streamer back photo backdrop, messages for the baby/parents on a twine washing line, tissue poms – the list goes on.  But I did what I could and I think it looked fab – and Jo loved it, so it mustn’t have been too bad at all 😉

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Pregnancy: I can’t believe it, it’s finally me!

Disclaimer: If I seem more concerned with the party details than how freakin’ awesome my friends are in this post – please excuse me, I don’t mean to be – I can’t help myself, I LOVE a great party and I got some fab ideas from what my girls put together for me – it was an EPIC baby shower and I really do have the best friends in the entire world.  To say I was overwhelmed by their generosity is a gross understatement, these girls are like family to me and I know bubble will be showered with loved when (s)he gets here.

/disclaimer.

Phew!

It felt like a dream, a dream that I’ve had for a long, long time, and, like most dreams, it passed by in a hazy blur.

With an uncertain, potential/likely move in our future, I was informed by a number of my nearest and dearest that I couldn’t leave the USA without having a baby shower.  Baby showers are something I’d brand as “inherently American”, we don’t have them at home and I’d only ever been to one “in-the-flesh”, on a trip to Iowa, before we moved to Houston.

In the last four years, I’ve hosted two baby showers, and attended at least three more.  To say they are a cultural staple here is an understatement.  They are almost a holiday in themselves. Each time, you go, you bring a gift, you’re genuinely happy for the expectant mother, but you secretly smoulder with a little bit of jealousy, “Some day, it’ll be me”, you think.  Some day.  The longer you try to conceive, the more showers you go to and with each one, the jealousy grows and doubt creeps in, you start to wonder, WILL it ever be me?

So, when my friends graciously offered to host one for me, I got so gleefully excited that I grabbed the opportunity to have a morning all about bubble and I, with both hands – hey, call me selfish, but you would have grabbed it too!

True, my shower, at almost 19 weeks pregnant, is considered VERY early here in the US, as most wait for a much larger bump and try to strike a balance between being near to due date, whilst also being on the “right” side of “beached whale”.

We, however, opted for very early, over “not being here to have one at all” and, after listening to me complain for years about trying to get pregnant, I owed my girls the delight of a baby shower, to celebrate the huge achievement of conceiving our wonderful little bubble.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over this whole wacky fertility journey, is to not take procreation for granted, babies truly are little miracles, and they should be celebrated at every opportunity – and celebrate we did!

I got to pick the theme, and, with a quick “gender neutral baby shower” search on google and Pinterest, I fell in love with a “What’ll it bee?” Bumble bee theme, with yellow, black and white as a colour palette

999303_10152357496329689_687815991_nBeyond that, I was done, my girls took over and my only job, was to show up.  For a control freak, I was momentarily panicked to give up any semblance of control, especially since Shelley tormented me – just a smidge – by hiding the guest list on Evite, so I didn’t even know who was coming until they all started to show up!

And, let’s just take a moment to talk about that EPIC ‘diaper cake’ that my girl Lindsay over at Chicky Babe Creations put together for me – no, you can’t have mine, go get your own! 😛

Where do I even start? Their creativity was beautiful, from the welcome/goodbye signs on the front door;

photo (17)photo (8)…to the yummy food, (Tray bakes, pasta salad, chicken salad sandwiches, fruit, cupcakes, punch and lemonade)

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…their choices of games, (‘The price is right’ – aka guess the price of the baby things, name the baby and leave advice for the baby/parents) It needs noting here that I’m SO grateful that I have tasteful friends (no chocolate microwaved in diapers here!) and wasn’t advanced enough in my pregnancy to have my bump guess-tim-ated – cause that could have just been awkward! LOL!

photo (1)1000353_10152357520319689_434060136_n…their adorable favours, (Honey sticks – cinnamon, peach and original flavour)

photo (11)…and their gifts (everything from baths, to books and from toys to diaper bags – I got it all!)

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it was everything I could ever want in a baby shower.  It was an amazing experience and I was totally spoiled rotten!

Since I hadn’t yet had my Gender scan, the group were intent on determining the gender of our little bubble, and so, with the help from google and very complicated, scientific methodology, following very strict instructions, we did three things to determine the gender of bubble;

1. Ring on a string

1454875_10152357590329689_757424988_n2. Pick up a key

1450172_10152357592339689_2052190513_n3. Populous vote

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And it was unanimously decided that bubble is a girl – we’ll re-check that logic soon enough at our scan.

There was something very magical about the whole experience, some of your bestest friends coming together to celebrate this tiny, fragile life that you’ve played a part in creating.

1394406_10152357520844689_1034236861_nConsidering the emotional drain you are put through during pregnancy, it made a huge difference to my attitude, my mood and my well being to be surrounded by such love and celebration.

It reminded me that fear and anxiety side, we have waited for this, worked for this and deserve this and we shouldn’t feel guilty for being happy during this time.

At the end of the day, you only have your first child, once and I feel like my first 19 weeks of pregnancy have been spent so caught up in the anxiety of “what if’s”, panicking at every twinge and filled with terror other peoples horror stories, as well as the political minefield of reproduction, that I honestly haven’t enjoyed it all that much, and that makes sad, cause I deserve to enjoy it, damnit! (Though does anyone *really* enjoy pregnancy? Discuss.)

Thankfully, I have some great friends who showed me the light, who told me that it’s ok to be happy that i’m growing a tiny little person in my tummy, that bubble should indeed be celebrated and shouted from the rafters, and those wonderful friends threw me a shindig just to prove it!

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Most of y’all can’t see this, but I wanted to keep Shelley’s blog post about my shower handy.

And no, you can’t have my friends – go get your own 😉

Ladybug party for little miss Eve!

Everyone knows I love a good party, and aside from occasionally, momentarily entertaining the thought of starting my own party planning business, when a friend mentions the word ‘party’, I’m all over it.  It’s bad, honestly, I mean, a friend told me last night that she was pregnant, and after my congratulatory squee, the first thing I said to her, was ‘I have dibs on your baby shower’ LOL!

The birthday gal!

So, when Magz informed me that the theme for my adorable little Goddaughter’s (yes, I may be biased but how can you argue with pictures like that?) birthday party was going to be ladybugs, I was on it in a heartbeat.  As always, I went straight to Pinterest and did some research and together, we threw a fan-dabi-dosy shindig that I simply MUST share!

The birthday girl, all kitted out!

Eve’s outfit was ADORABLE! We’ll start with her ladybug hair clip and her tutu, they were made by the lovely Lindsay over at Chicky Babe Creations and the T-shirt, was made by the newly discovered Polka Dot Pair (I found the shirt on Pinterest and Magz ordered it through her Facebook page).

Door-Wreath

My first attempt at making a wreath, it was pretty easy, relatively cheap (I used a 40% coupon at Hobby Lobby for the foam wreath, the tulle was on 40% off, the flowers came from the 99c store as part of a bunch and the bugs were pretty cheap in Michaels).

The decorations started outside

Favour table

Cookies for favours…

Favours came all the way from the fine state of Iowa, from my friend Amber the cookie lady (go here, for her blog on them).  They were DELICIOUS! And, as you can see, they were super cute!  As soon as she gets talked in to setting up a cookie-shop business, I’ll let y’all know!

Banners up the stairs

Magz had the genius idea of turning the rug into a huge lady bird!

Red and black cutlery in a bug pail with bug cups!

Banner for the fireplace and bug balloons!

Magz printed one photo from every month of Eve’s first year and ‘pegged’ them to a piece of ribbon and attached a bug (like those on my wreath) to each end.  It was amazing to see how much Eve has changed from month to month and from birth to 1 year old.

Cute bug-bites!

For food, Magz and Sam did a yummy bbq, but they had some snacks and sides that are worth noting.  Starting with the above ‘bug bites, Ritz crackers, cherry tomatoes, chives and a dip of your choice, creamy garlic, yoghurt and pesto, whatever flavours you’d like to add to the bites.  They are quick and easy to make and they definitely have a great ‘bug’ visual impact.

Bug apples!

Red apples, a few spots of peanut butter and raisins (or, my preference, chocolate chips), another quick, tasty and relatively healthy snack and very cute – yes, I know I’m saying that a lot!

No kids party is complete without jelly!

Chocolate ‘spots’ and a melted chocolate bug ‘head’ – easy and tasty!

Party table – before the bbq was ready!

Bug pretzels!

One of my favourite parts of the party planning, though they were time consuming and a pain in the butt to make.  Next time, I’d use black melts (if they exist) but otherwise they were a hit, even with the birthday girl!

Happy girl!

Cake!

The cake is a work of art! Though all of Miss Emily’s cakes are EPIC! For those of you who haven’t seen, check out her giraffe cake here, for Magz’s baby shower, and her elephant cake here, for Heather’s baby shower.  I keep trying to talk her in to opening a cake shop, but she won’t hear of it!

Little Eve was spoiled rotten, and once she’d opened her presents, she wanted to play with all of them, all of the time! It was very cute 🙂

Mummy giggling with the birthday girl

The Madden family!

Tugging on Uncle Col’s beard!

Mummy and Aunty Las with little Eve

It was a FAB party, we played pass the parcel, enjoyed great food, great company and little Eve was surrounded by love, cake and toys!

Getting kisses from Aunty Las and mummy

I got love for you, if you were born in the 80's! (Part II)

Before I undertook planning for Col’s 80’s style party, I’d always placed a large cloud of judgement over the 80’s.  I’d always mocked Col’s music and never given it much time or attention.  I was born in the 80’s, so I was a child of the 90’s.  I loved space hoppers and the Turtles, Tamagotchis (plural cause inevitably you lost it or dropped it), Cabbage Patch kids (complete with birth certificates and convoluted names), the Power Rangers (we had Power Ranger wall paper), Polly Pocket, Pogs, and I loved Trolls – especially the ones where you pushed the stomach and their eyes lit up.

I played with my Talk Boy (I can only imagine the stuff I recorded on that thing), Dream Phone (while dreaming of my prince charming), Supersoakers (which, I was never really fast enough for and always got drenched), that pogo ball thing that you clutch between your feet and bounce around on, my spirograph and almost killed myself numerous times on my rollerblades.

My favourite movies included Home Alone, Sister Act (who doesn’t love singing and dancing nuns?) Speed (Keanu Reeves was my first major crush), Clueless (like totally!) and My Girl (are you noticing a Macaulay Culkin theme developing here?)

The music I listened to? The Backstreet Boys (Back-Street’s back, Alright!!) Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera, Shania Twain, Will Smith, All Saints, J’lo, Ace of Bace, Hear’say, Steps the list of pop acts, one hit wonders (and acts that no one can remember when asked) that ‘trended’ in the 90’s is endless.

But, as great as the 90’s were for me, they just had no personality.  I don’t think any other decade had the personality that the 80’s had.

And y’know what? I had to search for a list of music and movies, they weren’t on the tip of my tongue -and I lived through them!  You say 80’s to someone and it’s all there in a nano-second, a streaming list of pop-culture references, quotes, fashion faux-pas that were perfectly acceptable back then.

The girls!

The guys!

Everyone knows the 80’s.

Most people miss the 80’s, especially given, in comparison, the drab and blah that ensued in the decades that followed!

Col’s birthday party was a success, everyone had a great time travelling back in time to a decade that many of them lived through.  The decorations, the costumes, even the sweeties and drinks were spot-on.  80’s food, however is a little hard to pin-point, but I think as long as you have cheese, pickled onion and pineapple on a stick and some vol au vents you can call it good!

My gorgeous little God daughter and I!

Theresa and I - rockin' the 80's look!

The Ribauls!

The Bartons!

The Grants!

The Andrews!

The Bridges!

The Van der Waals!

For the rest of his birthday weekend Col dominated the McMaster household, he subjected me to a number of movies (Ferris Bueller, Glengarry Glen Ross, Star Trek IV, Friday and an episode of Red Dwarf!), we enjoyed a nice Birthday lunch in the Olive Garden followed by our first Comedy Sports Rec League show.

My present to him is a weekend away in New Orleans (with a pit-stop in Baton Rouge to see the State Capitol), neither of us have been, it’s about a 6hr drive…I’m not sure when we’ll go, possibly March at this rate, since we both now need to be in Texas until the end of March at least and I’ll need some form of commiseration that I can’t go home! 😉

One thing’s for sure though, watch this space, you’ll undoubtedly hear aaaaaaaallll about it when it happens 😉

The birthday boy and I!

A Whale of a time! Ok…so, an Elephant of a time, but that doesn't have the same ring to it!

Saturday 15th October (yes, I’m so far behind I need to date the days that I’m writing about!) was a busy day in the kitchen, it was a pre-Baby shower day, so that meant only one thing, it was an ‘athon’ day, cleanathon, cookathon, bakeathon… I had my work cut out for me!

By the end of the day, I was so exhausted, and so short on time, that even the thought of getting showered and dressed to go to the Aeros game, brought tears to my eyes.  Thankfully, my very understanding husband, agreed to try out the Aeros webcast, we ordered Chinese (from a new Chinese) and plonked in front of the game…ok, sort of, I still pottered about while the game was on, but I at least plonked for our dinner!

Gift table ready to go!

It's a girl!

The game didn’t do much for my nerves, we lost during penalties (which, in itself sucks cause I HATE OT and penalties!), while I cleaned the kitchen and started to set up decorations etc, Col made a diaper cake (yes, my husband pitched in and helped with the baby shower stuff and I love him forever for it!)

Hubby's diaper cake topped with our Singapore Flyer elephant gift

By the time midnight rolled around, the Grand Prix coverage was starting, and I’d gotten to a point where I could sit and wrap presents for Heather and baby!

Sunday was the big day!

It was only my second ever baby shower, and this time, not only did I have a theme to work with, but, I had a gender, everything was PINK!

This baby shower was a lot less stressful than the last one, I think I’d learned a lot from Magz and Sam’s baby shower, it was smaller – Heather and Jeff haven’t been here very long, so they don’t know a whole lot of people, and, I learned that it’s quite ok to delegate some responsibilities to other people.

Cupcakes!

Dessert/sweet/drinks table

My delegating, was pretty substantial, more than I’d ever delegated before, so it’s definitely progress, firstly I had Amber do all my graphics (as always), signs, cupcake toppers etc, then I put in a request with Emily to do the cake.  She’d done such a fantastic job of Magz and Sam’s cake, and cakes are something I’ve not dared to attempt!

Cake! Courtesy of the lovely Emily!

Next up, Ana Maria offered to do the favours, she saw mine at Magz’s baby shower and said she’d love to do something similar.  They turned out EXCELLENTLY!  I love the little pink baskets, I had to ask her where she got them so I could go and pick up a few for Christmas presents!

Favours - courtesy of the lovely Ana Maria

And finally, I did accept a little help with the food!

Food table!

Ana Maria brought the veggie tray, Magz sorted the fruit and Coronation chicken, the quiches were store bought *gasp* and the rest of it was all pre-made the day before, it really did take a weight off my shoulders and meant I could enjoy myself too!

As a result, there was less ‘on the day’ prep and it meant that we could hang out with friends instead of cooking around people!

Ana Maria with Juan Diego and Danny

Jeff taking pics in the background!

Present time!

Julie and Alison

Elephant!!

The happy couple! <3

My buddy Heather and I <3

I was worried she’d think I went OTT on the party (she’d given me strict instructions not to do too much!), thankfully, though, she loved it all and couldn’t thank me enough!

While I’m on the subject of thanks, both Heather and Magz got together and plotted a special ‘Thank you’ gift for me, for doing their baby showers.  Magz got me a ‘500 cupcake recipes’ book and a ‘how to start your own event planning business’ book and Heather got me an apron and a gift certificate for a spa pedicure – I’m psyched! They both also wrote the sweetest messages EVER in their cards for me – I was very touched and may have even shed a wee tear!

''I got new boots boots!''…ok, not boots, but trainers!

The last week has gone by in a blur, four Body Attack classes within the space of five days almost killed me (but it didn’t!!)

But, thankfully it didn’t.  Not only did I endure all four hours of high impact cardio – while nursing a pretty badly injured calf muscle, I enjoyed it *gasp* I know! Me, enjoying exercise, who’da thunk?!

After talking to a personal trainer friend of mine (Sharon) about my injury, she agreed that perhaps my footwear wasn’t the most supportive or the best kind of footwear for the kind of exercise that I’ve been doing…

I mean, it’s not like Body Attack is a lot of jumping up and down or running around or anything…oh…wait…and it’s not as though my trainers are years old and so worn down that I can feel the ground through them…oh…wait…

In short, we needed to go shopping for new trainers.  I’d done a little shopping on my own, but with limited results.  I had an idea of the shoes I wanted, but they were out of my price-range (I mean, I didn’t want to pay $130 for a pair of shoes that I may not put to good ‘use’, you know what I mean?)

Instead, Col suggested we check out Katy Mills to see what we could find.  After a lap around the shops (and a momentary pit-stop at the 75% off sale in Bath and Body Works)

As you can see, he's thrilled!

We found a shop where I picked up a couple of pairs of trainers (they were B1G1 50% off, the best deal we’d seen on our rounds!).

Asics gel-cumulus 12

Asics GT2160

So far, I’ve only tried the GT2160’s at a few Body Attack classes – and I love them!

Ok, they didn’t magically make my calf any better, but they did help (and, from what I can tell, have stopped my right calf muscle getting buggered too!) and they are seriously comfortable.  More than that, they have also enabled me to be more active in class, I can now bounce around a little more without the impact of slamming my feet on the ground, hurting as much or being as ‘body shaking’ as it was before.

Lesson here – ensure you have correct footwear on when attempting to exercise.  Trainers DO have a shelf-life and you can do more harm than good, wearing trainers that are ‘past it’.

Aside from my Body Attacking, last week was filled with lots of baby shower planning – with only two weeks left to go til the ‘big day’, I’ve been using most of my free time to doing bits and pieces for the shower.  I can’t share much of it with y’all at this stage, but I’m excited that it’s now so close.

I can’t wait to host the party for the Maddens, I’ve had a lot of fun planning this shower for them – as I’ve said before, it’s my first time.  Though, I’m pretty sure, when it’s all over and done with, giraffes will be the last thing I want to see 😉

Heather’s shower, in October, will give me a rest from giraffes and hopefully make me sick of the sight of elephants – however, one baby shower at a time, eh?

I also started a Christmas list last week, yes, you can all say I’m crazy, but those of you who know me well, know I started shopping for this Christmas, on Boxing day (26th December), last year!

I’m an organised person, what can I say?

Aside from the exercising, crafting, planning and organising, the only other points of interest last week are two lovely lunches I had out with some friends.

Wednesday, I met the lovely Deb for a tasty French style lunch at La Madeline.  La Madeline is a restaurant that my friend Amee (who’s just moved to Singapore) loves! It was a lovely wee catch-up, I’ve not seen her for ages!!

Thursday morning, Col dropped me off at Magz’s house on his way to work, from there, Magz and I went up to the Trotter Rd YMCA for our workout, and then it was off to Kenny and Ziggi’s for a lovely lunch with Tracy.

Kenny and Ziggi’s is a New York style deli, phew! it took two days to read through the menu alone!

Gordon Ramsay would have a fit!! It’s huge!!

The portions are HUGE, which would be a great thing, though the food isn’t particularly impressive – at least what the 3 of us had wasn’t great.  I had the fish sandwich – and, although the bread roll was delicious, the fries were good, the fish tasted like it came out of a bag in the freezer and it wasn’t, even half the size of the huge roll that I got – so, for the most part, I just ate bread.

Maybe I chose the wrong option from the ENORMOUS and overwhelming menu…but how would I know given that the thing’s huge!

The menu was bigger than Magz!

After lunch, we picked up some Crave Cupcakes.  If you haven’t tasted these cupcakes – go, today!! They are DELICIOUS!! Magz got me a box of them for my birthday and they are simply DIVINE!

We were picking up a few for us to share with the lovely Heather, when we went to her house for the afternoon.  The three of us played with her dogs, ate cupcakes (washed down with a tall glass of cold milk) and watched The Devil Wears Prada.  It was a fun afternoon!

Col picked me up and we had, what turned out to be, a disgusting Chinese for dinner, we’ll definitely not be going back to Spicy China – which makes me sad, cause that’s where we get curry from (and they’re the only place we’ve found that sells chips!) But their awful service was unforgivable.

Col’s meal was clearly microwaved, it was tough and chewy (so chewy, in fact, that it was impossible to chew!!), he called them and they ‘cooked’ a replacement order which he had to go and pick up, and they gave it to him with no rice.  The replacement was no better.  GRRR! It was gross! What a disappointment!

The only other thing that’s happened in the last few days, was that Col booked our flights to Singapore! yay! I’m excited!!!

I got an email on Friday from Airfare Watchdog, it contained a great price for flights to Singapore.  Col did some research, turns out it was over $1000 cheaper than the flights we were looking at, and he made it happen!

We leave on September 15th and we can’t wait!!!