Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Australian Made

Someone was trying to mess with my head! Look at this. Just look!

OCD at the shops

I resisted the urge to FIX IT and left it there. (Proud of myself for that.) However, this post isn’t about Corn Flakes or OCD tendencies, it’s about this green and gold logo:

Australian Made Logo CMYK

Over the years, I’ve become more aware of the choices I make as a consumer, and I’m still learning. What I want to highlight in this post is the importance of supporting Australian Made where possible. I highly back this initiative and it’s my pleasure to raise awareness of it here.

The Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo is the only registered country-of-origin certification trademark for the full range of genuine Australian products and produce.  The logo supports growers, processors and manufacturers in Australia and it makes it easy for consumers to identify genuine Aussie made goods. Below are some of the logo definitions.

Australian Made Logo

Becoming More Aware

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to being a conscious consumer. I process it all in snippets by making small challenges for myself and being open to learning as I live.

Challenge 1

For example, I might challenge myself to buy Aussie made ingredients for baking in a particular week:

Lunch Box

I made pear, banana & oat muffins and bread rolls this week for the lunch box (out of Australian Made/Grown ingredients). Plus there are cherry tomatoes from a community garden in this lunch box and I felt good about that.

Australian Made

Australian Made

Challenge 2

This is another challenge I did with the kids: spot all the Australian Made logos on a shopping trip. It was fun. Pictured below is the Australian Made haul at our last shop.  I have a child who is on a gluten free diet and I’ve discovered an organic gluten-free Australian Made product at Coles that I really like. It’s those little wins that extend your confidence as a consumer and over time, they really do make a difference.

Australian Made

Challenge 3

Browse the Australian Made Website for all kinds of products. This is a great way to do Christmas gift shopping and to become more aware of Australian Made brands.

Challenge 4

Australian Made is running a FABULOUS Our Aussie Logo giveaway at the moment and it’s so easy to get involved.

All you need to do to enter is use the #ouraussielogo hashtag to showcase an Aussie Made product (on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook) and you’re in the running. That’s it! If you’re not using social media, another way to enter is to sign up to the www.aussiemadeclub.com.au (a great way to keep up to date with all that is Australian Made). 

Hunt for a great Aussie Made product, showcase it with #ouraussielogo and by doing that, support a great cause.

The prize is AMAZING: a hamper worth over $1000 with some brilliant Australian Made products.

Australian Made

Hamper contains:

  • Ezy Grow planter box (RRP $169)
  • CoCo Contemporary Connoisseur vine memento sculpture by Rebecca Heartman-Kearns (RRP $60)
  • Britt Bears bears and clothing (RRP $175)
  • Nudus organic, Australian Made lipsticks (RRP $126 [$42 each])
  • Apex Tools screwdriver set (RRP $104.50)
  • Little Innoscents mega pack (RRP $105)
  • $100 voucher for Energetiks dancewear (RRP $100)
  • Arbor Brunswick studs and pendant by Ellinor Maza (RRP $125)
  • Alana’s Pantry Spicy Sauces (RRP $105)
  • The Muesli – classic – 5kg (RRP $106.50)

Ezy Grow

Website / Facebook

1-EzyGrow

CoCo Contemporary Connoisseur

This vine memento sculpture by Rebecca Heartman-Kearns is wonderful!

Website   /   Facebook

ContemporaryCo - Vine Sculpture

Britt Bears

Love. So comforting for little ones.

Website   /   Facebook

britt bears

Nudus Organic Lipsticks

Website   /   Facebook

lipstick

Little Innoscents Organic Baby Skincare

Website   /   Facebook

Complete-Organic-pack

Energetiks Dancewear

Website   /   Facebook

Energetiks dancewear

Arbor Brunswick pendants by Ellinor Mazza

Website   /   Facebook

ArborBrunswick

The Muesli

Website   /   Facebook

The Muesli

Apex Tools

Website

ApexTools1

Alana’s Pantry

Website   /   Facebook

1311 Alanas Pantry

The little choices we all make can make a big difference, and it feels good to be part of that.

More Info

Check out all the comp details here: Australian Made Our Aussie Logo

Join the Aussie Made Club here: www.aussiemadeclub.com.au

Read more about the Australian Made Logo here: About the Australian Made Logo

Coffee is My Little Luxury

Sponsored by Piazza D’oro and Nuffnang

Coffee Love Heart

Someone asked me about the favourite little luxuries I enjoy.

I didn’t even have to think: Coffee, fresh bread and movies in bed.

That rhymes and everything.

Coffee for me is one of those lovely little luxuries I enjoy every day. Every. Single. Day.

My husband shares my love for coffee too. He phoned me the other morning from work, in the course of our conversation he mentioned he had managed to capture a quick ‘cup of joe’ with the words “I don’t know the world starts without coffee!”

As a couple, coffee is something we enjoy together, and we hunt around our city for the best cafés and enjoy analysing the subtle nuances in different coffee blends. 

I’ve enjoyed coffee for a long time now, but I think it’s after I became a parent that my coffee interest went up a notch…and I know why. Enjoying coffee is something I can weave into my day naturally. It’s an interest I enjoy for myself in amongst the busyness of parenting. My love for coffee also is tied up with this blog: it’s not uncommon to find me in a corner of a café somewhere with a computer and coffee in front of me as my fingers tap away. It’s a dream really: the freedom to work anywhere while weaving the things I enjoy into my day.

With growing interest, comes curiosity. What goes into making that cup of coffee I love so much? Just as there are good cups of coffee, there are also those that leave, quite literally, a bitter taste in your mouth. Is it the coffee, the barista, is it art or science, or is the ‘perfect cup’ something that is the sum of these tangible and intangible factors?

When the Piazza D’oro Barista of the Year competition came on to my radar, my interest piqued. I saw an opportunity to get nerdy about coffee; to look for and experience different cafés in my city; to learn more about the golden liquid I enjoy so much. I believe pursuing personal interests in a sustainable way amongst the busyness of parenting is important, and I touched on that very topic in this post.

About Piazza D’oro Barista of the Year

Piazza D’oro (PDO) is a brand I’m familiar with, being one of Australia’s leading espresso brands. PDO’s dedication to providing superior coffee goes back for more than 250 years. I believe the success and logevity of this brand is due to the focus on coffee quality, sustainability and barista training. It’s a marriage of many factors that delivers the total sensory experience in a gorgeous cup of coffee.

Piazza D'oro Coffee

Piazza D’oro Barista of the Year is a nationwide competition to find Australia’s best PDO barista. This brings into focus what a great barista can do when given great materials. When I heard about this campaign, I set a little challenge for myself. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to visit many different cafés around Brisbane and surrounds, just because it’s exciting! You can find pics from my travels on my Instragram feed at @beafunmum.

The best way to find your closest Piazza O’oro coffee café is to download the app, which also acts like a virtual reward card. Did you know there are over 3,000 PDO cafes around Australia?

Piazza D'oro coffee app

The PDO barista of the year competition kicks off 29th September so get down to your local PDO café to nominate your favourite barista. You can nominate by either Instagram or Facebook and doing so puts you in the draw to win a great little city getaway.

1. INSTAGRAM @PiazzaDoroAU

Snap your cup of coffee, tag @PiazzaDoroAU, your barista and the café

2. FACEBOOK facebook.com/PiazzaDoroAU

Snap your cup of coffee, tag facebook.com/PiazzaDoroAU, your barista and the café.

For more details and all the condidtions, head to facebook.com/PiazzaDoroAU

I’m keeping tabs on this competition and hope to fly to Sydney for the finals too! Stay tuned! And coffee! 

piazza doro coffee

Audio Books Save the School Run

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Audible.com.au 

The discovery of audio books took me back to my childhood. I remember listening to stories on my jukebox-look-a-like tape player; it helped me settle into sleep.

Audible.com.au is offering a free month trial (which comes with a free book download) and I was curious. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would use it extensively. But I was mistaken. I would go as far as saying incorporating audiobooks into our life may be one of the best tools I’ve discovered this year for our family. It’s made that much of a difference!

Here is just one example: On a particular Saturday, we spent the morning at home, doing normal jobs like cleaning out the car and that sort of thing. It was raining outside. Come the afternoon, we felt desperate to get out of the house and decided to go for a drive to visit the Sciencentre at South Bank in Brisbane.

For the entire 25-minute trip to the city, there was silence from everyone (that’s four kids aged from 6-13) – except for the occasional giggle. Everyone was listening to David Tennant read beautifully (wonderfully!) from ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ by Cressida Cowell.

I can’t remember the last time ALL the kids were so engaged. Later when we were home again, the kids begged for more of the story and I found them huddled together in one of the bedrooms. That made me happy. 

Everyone was happy and relaxed by the time we got to the museum.

museum - Southbank - Brisbane

Listening to audiobooks has quickly become part of our family routine. Each morning on the way to school, we listen to a little more of the book together (there’s a bookmark function so it’s easy to keep track of where we last were in the story). We are up to chapter 16 already!  The biggest plus for me is this routine makes the trip to and from school more calm and fun. Win!

Enjoying Audiobooks

Below are some of the ways audiobooks fit into family life:

  • Road trips – we do road trips as often as we can and audiobooks are a fabulous travel tool
  • Enjoy a story on the way to a regular event – like school or sports practice
  • Follow along with a picture book you have at home and enjoy it in a different way
  • Holidays – pick a new book each family holiday and make a new tradition
  • Quiet time and before bed
  • Foster a love of books for kids who face challenges in this area (I have a child with dyslexia)
  • Personal development and enjoyment – I like to run, and I have a few business related books on my wish list that I will listen to on my longer runs. Audiobooks make great use of that time.

Why Audiobooks Are Great

Nothing can replace snuggling with your child and reading together. Nothing can replace the enjoyment of feeling a book in your hand and seeing the words jump off the page – creating images in your head.

I don’t see audiobooks replacing regular reading, but simply another way to enjoy the wonder of books and storytelling. Audiobooks fit into our family life seamlessly, making it easy for us to enjoy storytelling on the go. Plus, they are a useful tool for multitasking and making the most out of our time.

Wish List

Below are some of the titles in my wish list.

audible wish list

My Top 6 Picks for Family Reading 

The free trial I accessed allows for a free one-book download and I’ve picked out 6 fabulous audio books family would enjoy as a beginning point:

Top 10 Audio Books for Families

1. The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
          Narrated by Kate Winslet

2. How to Train a Dragon by Cressida Cowell
          Narrated by David Tennant

3.  The Magician’s Nephew  (first book in the Narnia Series) by C.S. Lewis
          Narrated by Kenneth Branagh

4. Winnie the Pooh by by A.A. Milne
          Narrated by Stephen Fry, Jane Horrocks, Geoffrey Palmer, Judi Dench, Finty Williams, Robert Daws,
          Michael Williams

5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomory
          Narrated by Shelley Frasier

6. Swallows and Amazons by Authur Ransome
          Narrated by Gareth Armstrong 

Range and Quality

There’s a wide range of audiobooks available. I downloaded ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ as part of the free trial but also went ahead and purchased two other favorite picture books I found on Audible.com.au for the kids to enjoy.

Are We There Yet? By Alison Lester & Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Audio Books

Audio Books

The quality of the three audiobooks I downloaded is excellent. Crisp, and clean sound. Especially with ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, the narration by Scottish actor David Tennant, is extremely entertaining.

Downloading Books & Using Audible.com.au

1. Join Audible.com.au for a free trial (after this, members pay a monthly $14.95 and get one book free a month)

2. Download the app for your preferred device (I used an iPhone)

3. Browse for your free book under ‘Shop Audible’ and checkout – you won’t be charged for the free book (this part has to be done through the website, not the app)

4. Access your book through the app on your device, download and listen! 

Downloading Audible

Adding books is easy. Simply buy the books on the website, then refresh on the app and the books will be there! Boom!

Downloading Audible

Audiobooks have made a positive impact in our family, and with the free trial available, I recommend everyone to give it a go. Listen to something in the car on the way to school (this is what made the biggest difference in our family), make a new tradition or learn something new, even while you’re making dinner. 

Visit Audible Australia audible.com.au 

audible

When would you most use Audiobooks?

RePin

You can rePin this list of books for later reference by clicking here.

Lego Play & Storage: Brikbag Review

Review Post (see definitions here)

All my children are into Lego, mostly fuelled by my son’s obsession with the stuff. I get it. I too was a Lego lover, and spent many hours on Sunday afternoons with my big sister building and playing.  We used a sheet to play on so pack up was easy.

I recently came across the Brikbag which works on the similar principal to the sheet my sister and I used when were children.  It’s a great product to aid play (Lego or other toy play). In a nutshell, the Brikbag is a play mat that closes into a bag…or a bag that opens into a mat (whichever way you want to look at it!).  

Brikbag Review

Material

The Brikbag is made from durable 100% cotton with chord strings for closure. It comes in a variety of trimmed denim colours and two denim prints. Featured below is the bag in the Yellow Busy City Print.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review - Material

Sturdy material on the back side.

140cm diameter 100% durable cotton Blue denim  - yellow trim - yellow pull cord Yellow Busy City Print on exterior of bag Cold machine wash Packaged in a re-usable, calico, drawstring bag.

Key Features

  • 140cm diameter
  • 100% durable cotton
  • Pull cord
  • Cold machine wash

Brikbag Review

Function

The mat is 140cm wide, which is an ideal size for many rooms. It’s big enough for a child to sit on but not too big so the bag becomes too-bulky for storage.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

There area two pull draw strings which aid in closure. You do need to pull firmly to close the bag.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

The draw strings pull to create a bag.  Due to the thickness of the material, there is an opening in the top once pulled to capacity. 

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

It’s easy to carry upright, but if transporting, I would either put it in a box or wind the long draw strings around the top section of the bag to avoid spillage.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

The bag (with the Lego still inside) fits perfectly into our 8 Brick Yellow Lego Storage Container.  We also have smaller 4 Brick Lego Storage containers for other  Lego.  For larger Lego collections, a crete toy box or tuff tub would work well.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Play

I’ve been watching the kids play with the mat, and it does aid their play.  It helps them find pieces they need to find (without spreading Lego all over the floor) and it makes pack up easier.  All the Lego doesn’t stay on the mat (of course!) but the majority does and when packing up, the kids throw any stay Lego pieces back on the mat or in one of the storage bricks.  

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

This is what the playroom looks like after a couple of hours of Lego play.

Brikbag review

Lego Storage

In a recent post I wrote about sorting and storing toys, I discussed the potential need to look at our how we store Lego in the next couple of years (as our collection grows).  For now, we use Lego Storage Bricks (which look really cool) and the Brikbag fits nicely into the bottom yellow brick so it all looks neat when packed up. Half the Lego stays in the Brikbag (whatever pile the kids are using), and they use the Lego in the smaller bricks on the mat as needed.  The Lego sorter head is a bit of a fail (it looks good but I don’t find the kids use it much) — we keep it though because it looks so funky in the playroom.

All in all, our Lego storage systems are working well at the moment.  In the next couple of years, I will probably move to a draw system as our Lego collection surely increases.

Lego Storage - Brikbag Review

Pros & Cons

Below are some pros and cons I jotted down about the Brikbag:

Pros

  • Good size for play and storage
  • Machine washable (love that)
  • Portable
  • 100% Durable Cotton
  • Makes packing up easier
  • Price – reasonable price: $44.95 (plain) $54.95 (print) 
  • Print designed in Melbourne by graphic artist Rogue Planet (supporting Aussie talent)

Cons

  • Bag doesn’t entirely close up (not necessarily an issue but good to know for storage and travel)
  • Would be great to see some more colour/pattern variety in the future
  • Can only hold so much Lego effectively (i.e. Not a storage solution for large Lego collections. Still great as a play aid in this case).

Available at Brikbag.com.au or check out the stocklists.

More Reviews

Bento Laptop Lunch Box

Contigo Drink Bottles

Lottie Dolls

Thermomix Review

Disclaimer: The Brikbag was sent to me for an honest review. All views are my own.

School Morning Routine (review & giveaway)

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Uncle Tobys

Before School Morning Routine

I bribe myself every single school morning. You see, if I can get out the door with four children by a certain time, it means I have time to stop on the way to school at the local 7 eleven for a $1 coffee (it’s actually really good coffee!).

Ah, school mornings.  I have good systems in place now that help with the rush, but it’s still – always – full on: making sure everyone is fed, dressed in the right clothes, has their lunch box and other items they need.   My ultimate goal is calm, where everyone does what they have to get ready, and we all get to the car in time for mum to get her coffee.

There are other things I do (besides drinking coffee) that help in the morning, particularly when I know I have a busy month coming up.  One is making sure breakfast is easy and making sure there is plenty of variety for the kids to choose from. 

Three out of four of my kids love porridge, especially during the colder months.  I personally like to make it with regular oats but realistically, on a school morning, it takes too long and my kids tend to eat at different times.

That’s why I like Uncle Tobys Quick Sachets because it’s a win-win situation at our place. 

The kids: The kids love the oats: they can decide on different flavours and they are ready fast!

Mum: Oats give the kids that full feeling which is important at the start of the day. I also appreciate the portion size sachets, the minimal mess and how the products are made from wholegrain oats with no artificial colours and flavours.

I’ll give one small example of how a simple breakfast can help in the mornings. One of my daughters has sensory issues and some food texture/taste can bother her.  With the oats, we’ve worked out how to make them exactly the way she likes (using less milk to make it thick and not sloppy) and she prefers the finer texture of the quick oats.  You can see her bowl on the right there (not the way I like to eat porridge but she’s happy). 

Before School Morning Routine

This is what we have is in our pantry at the moment.

  • Creamy Honey
  • Original
  • Fruit Variety Pack 

There are nine flavour varieties and you can check out the entire range here: Uncle Tobys Oats Quick Sachets.

Uncle Tobys Oats

The kids used the boxes as a house on our DIY Play Tablecloth.

Uncle Tobys Oats

I’ve been doing school mornings for 8 years now and an easy breakfast is one of the five steps I’ve pinpointed over the years that make mornings smooth.

1. Wake up early enough 

If I could give just one tip for a calmer morning, it is this: get up earlier.  Oh, it hurts to even write it but it’s true.  Everyone needs time to wake up, warm up and get ready. Most mornings, I set my alarm for 5:30am and I start waking the kids up (if they are not already awake) from about 6:00am.

2. Have a routine

My older children develop their own routine now. For the younger children, they appreciate a sequence guide to follow.  I insert a table into Word, and then together, we go through clip art images to make up their own personalised routine chart to stick on their wall.

Morning Routine Chart

In the past, I have also done up printables with morning / afternoon tasks the kids can tick off for the week.  (You can print these PDF files if it’s helpful – just click on the image for the printable PDF file).

Morning_Tasks Chore Chart

 

afternoon_tasks Chore Chart

Tip: Laminate and then use a whiteboard marker to tick so the kids can rub it off and start again the next week.

3. Easy Breakfast

The bowls/plates and a variety of breakfast options are in an easy place for all to reach.  They help themselves and then put the bowls in the sink when they are finished. 

4. Use systems

I’ve developed different systems that help keep things organised for school, from where the shoes are kept to keeping the uniforms out of the bedrooms. The systems aren’t perfect, but it helps to keep the house running. You can read more about how I organise my kids for school here: Organising Kids for School.

5. Have something to look forward to

All the above is great, but I tell you, it’s the thought of coffee that gets me motivated at 5:30am in the morning!  Making this little thing for myself part of the getting-to-school routine has made a huge difference.

School mornings don’t always go to plan. There are still missing socks and knotted hair, but I’ve learned to create the type of mornings I aim for by doing a little planning, facilitating the needs of the kids and giving myself something to look forward to.  It’s about that balance.

I want to give one of you something to look forward to.  What a treat it would be to experience a sunrise in a hot air balloon of a morning instead of making lunches!  Thanks to Uncle Tobys, I’m giving away an experience gift voucher (that you can use for a variety of lovely things like hot air balloon rides and massages). Details below. 

To enter

This awesome giveaway is for a $200 Red Balloon voucher (something special for mum) and ten packs of Uncle Tobys product (for the entire family to enjoy).

To enter, answer this question in the comments: 

What’s your version of a dream school morning and how could Uncle Tobys Quick Sachets help?

Terms & Conditions

Open from 12:01 am AEST on Monday 21 July 2014 and will continue until 5:00 pm AEST on Friday 1 August 2014.

Read the full Terms & Conditions here.

Review: Lottie Dolls

Lottie Doll Review

Today I’m reviewing a play doll I’ve come across recently and thought worth sharing (because they are adorable and the attention to detail is fabulous!)

What are Lottie Dolls?

Lottie are adorable play dolls developed with a positive take on childhood in mind.   She does not wear makeup, jewellery or high heels. She loves to dress up in pretty clothes but is equally happy to be active, outdoors and getting muddy.

The creators of the doll worked with influential British academics to create a doll body that is realistic and based on the actual proportions of a nine year old child.   It’s great to see a positive doll like this come on the market for the 3 – 9 year old age group.

Inspired by strong characters like Jo from Little Women, George from The Famous Five and Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, Lottie dolls encourage girls to enjoy their childhood, in all its facets.  The message behind the Lottie Dolls is be bold, be brave, be you

There are currently 12 dolls in the range and I’m showcasing 2 in this review.

English Country Garden Lottie Doll

Lottie Doll - English Country Garden

Pirate Queen Lottie Doll

Lottie Doll - Pirate Queen

Key Features

  • Launched in August 2012
  • Niche age group: 3-9
  • 18cm tall, portable and easy for little hands to carry around
  • Childlike body – doesn’t wear makeup, jewellery or high heels
  • Stands on feet (with shoes)
  • Finely detailed clothes
  • Easy to dress and undress
  • Hair is soft and doesn’t tangle and knot like other doll hair
  • Bendable knees with ball socket hips and arms
  • Presented in a giftable, illustrated and collectible doll box bag, with minimal plastic packaging.
  • Won 19 international awards, including 5 Oppenheim Portfolio Platinum Awards.
  • Recommended Age: 3 Years +
  • Dolls RRP $24.95
  • Accessory sets and outfits RRP $14.95

Accessories

I was impressed by the Lottie Doll accessories (sold separately). They are fantastic additions to play and I was thrilled with the quality of the items.

English Garden Lottie Doll

The English Garden Lottie Doll accessory pack is a picnic basket with rug, 2 plates, 2 cups and 2 cupcakes.

Lottie Doll - English Country Garden Accessories

Lottie Doll - English Garden Queen - Accessories

Pirate Queen Lottie Doll

The Pirate Queen Lottie Doll accessory pack comes with a treasure chest, coins, flag, map. (The sword, hat & books come with the doll)

Lottie Doll - Pirate Queen Doll -- Accessories

Lottie Doll - Pirate Queen Doll -- Accessories

Box

There is an attention to detail quality with these dolls that goes right down to the collectible play box with minimal plastic packaging.

Lottie Doll - Box

Size

Lottie Dolls are 18 cm in height.  They are a lovely size for small hands to hold and carry around. To give an idea of where they sit in terms of height compared to other popular dolls, they are somewhere between a Skipper Doll and a Kelly Doll.

Lottie Doll - Size

Hair

The Lottie Doll hair is of high quality and it feels lovely and soft.  There is less rooted hair per cm compared to some other dolls of this head size, however the hair is beautifully glossy; so shiny! — which means it sits straight and it doesn’t seem to tangle easily. 

I absolutely love the fringe on the Lottie dolls. If you look closely, you can see that it’s feathered and not exactly straight which gives it that carefree quality.

Lottie Doll - Hair

Face

Sweet-sweet face with big eyes reflective of classic Japanese anime.

Lottie Doll - English Country Garden - Face

Lottie Doll - Pirate Queen - Face

Clothes

The attention to detail in the clothes is just WOW.   For example, on the English Country Garden Lottie Doll, there is a bow at the back, on the socks and the front pocket. Adorable! The clothes are easy to put on which is another plus. Another thing that stood out to me with the clothes is the interesting colour combinations and mixed variety of textiles (like chord) – wonderful!

The only negative I found with the clothes is the velcro details (particuiarly on the English Country Garden Dress) don’t appear to be very strong. The flowers/strawberries on the front of the dress are actually removable (which is fun) but I found them not to attach very strongly to the dress.  The back velcro holds fine, but I would have liked it to be made from a little stronger velcro.

Lottie Doll - Clothes

Lottie Doll - English Garden Queen - Clothes

Lottie Doll - English Garden Queen - Clothes

Love, love, love this outfit! I took the green sash off Grace, the Pirate Queen Doll, to show the cute little buttons on the cord shorts. The textures are fantastic! I didn’t have the same issues with the small amount of velcro on this outfit.

Lottie Doll - Clothes

Posing

One of my favourite things about these dolls is they can stand on shoed feet without assistance so kids can pose them in play.

Lottie Doll - English Country Garden - Posing

Lottie Doll - Pirate Queen - Posing

Movement & Flexibility

This is something I look at carefully in dolls.  In my experience with buying dolls for my kids to play with, too much flexibility and the dolls don’t tend to be durable for play and then not enough flexibility and they aren’t as fun to play with.  The Lottie dolls have a good balance of flexibility.

  • Head moves side to side (not up and down)
  • Arms are fixed and move up and down (no jointed elbows)
  • Bends at waist (to sit down)
  • Legs splits easily front to back
  • Legs open side to side
  • Bendable knees (a click bend)

Lottie Doll - Movement and Flexibility

Just look at those boots!! Gorgeous!

What do my kids think?

Here’s a few snaps of what my girls got up to playing with the Lottie dolls.  They are captivated by them and the dolls have been a catalyst to many happy hours of play. I noticed how the dolls fit to beautifully in the children’s hands; they held and played with them like the dolls were special treasures.

Lottie Doll - Play

Lottie Doll - Play

Pros & Cons

Below are the pros and cons I noted down about Lottie Dolls

Pros

  • Adorable looking
  • Age appropriate 
  • Great quality
  • Durable
  • Body shape represents the niche age the doll is designed for
  • Positive message about childhood
  • Great size for play and travel
  • Cute quality accessories
  • Glossy and soft hair that doesn’t tangle easily – excellent quality
  • Stands up without assistance 
  • Good flexibility
  • Easy to dress

Cons

  • Velcro on clothes not overly strong
  • Less hair / cm than some other dolls (but this doesn’t affect the look / play quality of the doll)
  • Some branding/style noticeably not Australian (eg. English Country Garden, Branksea Festival) –  not an issue in itself but possibly not as relatable with the stories of the dolls.
  • Lottie dolls are available to purchase in Australia however, not widely. Many Toys R Us sell them (instore and online), you can get them online from Amazon. Find a full list of all retailers here.

Range

There are currently 12 dolls in the range. They are available from Toys R Us (just search for Lottie Doll on the website), Amazon, and from selected stores.

Lottie Doll Range - Review

What I’d love to see

I’d love for Lottie to include a boy range too!

http://www.lottie.com

The Lottie dolls are a wonderful addition to the play doll range with the focus on encouraging kids to enjoy childhood in all its facets.  The attention to detail and high quality of the dolls is what makes them stand out to me.  Lottie dolls have that collectible quality and yet the neat size, quality accessories and good design makes them a fun play companion. Last word: Adorable!

More detail can be found on the website www.lottie.com

Other Be A Fun Mum Reviews

Bento Laptop Lunch Box

Contigo Drink Bottles

Disclaimer: The Lottie Dolls were sent to me for an honest review. I was not paid and all views are my own.

Driveway Safety

Brought to you by Nuffnang and NRMA Insurance

After our fourth child came along, we needed to upgrade to a larger car.  My husband was keen to get a four-wheel-drive (4WD) because we love exploring this beautiful country as a family.  

I had reservations.  It wasn’t that I was against the idea of a 4WD as such, however I was concerned about visibility.   According to research done by NRMA Insurance, the reversing visibility index (how well a driver can see out of the back of a car) for some 4WDs is poor unless the vehicle has a reversing camera installed.

When my husband and I decided on a new car, we arranged for a reversing camera to be installed. As you can see from the picture below from our driveway, the camera provides good visibility of what’s behind the car.

reversing camera

This video by NRMA Insurance addresses this very issue and the role of reversing cameras.  It’s interesting and so important for families where kids often play in the yard. Take a look:

I believe being informed is important when it comes to road safety. NRMA Insurance provides many research-based articles and information on the NRMA Safety Hub plus there are images from the online Crashed Car Showroom demonstrating the technology and safety features behind of modern day cars.

Drive safe!

NRMA Media Hub

More

Check out the NRMA Safety Hub for helpful and interesting articles.

NRMA Showroom Social Hub

Relevant Post

Teaching Road Safety to Kids from a Mum’s Perspective

{Giveaway Week} A School Term Supply of nudie Juice

A huge thanks to my giveaway sponsors this week.  You can still enter my other two giveaways this week here and here. I’ve left my favourite giveaway to last: win a school term’s worth of nudie juice. Would be a great head start to term 3!

Sponsored by nudie (S1 post)

I paused at the juice popper aisle in the supermarket, looking for juice to include for a picnic.  I stood there for a while, scanning the rows, looking for a product with 100% juice. Like juice-juice; made from fruit and not from concentrate.  Juice is one of those things that I’m particular about buying. It just has to be real fruit juice otherwise it doesn’t make sense!

Then there’s nudie juice: I’ve known about the nudie brand for a while – and the kids love it – but it had gone off my radar, I think because the packs of juice (6 pack) are kept in the cold section (at Woolworths).  Plus, I didn’t realise the juice can keep in the cupboard for 9 months and so I’m excited about that and want to raise awareness about why nudie juice is great. 

nudie juice

nudie juice

Here are some key things I’ve learned about nudie juice:

  • It is nothing but 100% fruit juice (NOT from concentrate)
  • It has NO added sugar
  • It has NO added preservatives, flavours or artificial colours
  • It contains 2 serves of fruit in every pack (1 serve can count towards a child’s RDI of fruit according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines)
  • It is found in the chilled section at Woolworths (but can also last up to nine months in your cupboard…so it is definitely worth stocking up on!)
  • There are 4 delicious flavours to choose from:
    • nothing but 2.6* oranges
    • nothing but 2.5* apples
    • nothing but tropical juice
    • nothing but apple & blackcurrant juice
      *on average, give or take a few
  • Both the apple and orange flavours are made using 100% Australian fruit

 nudie

More info here.

There’s also a fun learning opportunity for kids here too and nudie have fun colouring in pages children can download and enjoy.

nudie juice - colouring inDownload here.

In the lunch box

Recently I wrote about our family food values, and one of the things I’ve been working on is making more food from scratch (so I know exactly what has gone into the food) and learning about what is in the packaged food I buy. The quality of some food items (like juice) is more important to me than others.

When it comes to the lunch box, I see it as a great opportunity to pack in nutritious food. I don’t always buy juice for the lunch box; it’s about balance and I like whole fruit too. However, when I do include juice, the kids love it: on sport days or just to mix things up. Plus I find juice is quick and easy for those stages when kids are so busy, and sometimes find it hard to get through everything in the lunch box.I had to include here that my kids think the nudie straws are fantastic! They are fun because they extend. Check it out (click below to play).


 

Below are some recent lunch boxes I made for my kids. The key to building great lunchboxes is to think about how to utilise food in three sections: Freezer, fridge and pantry. I make as much as I can beforehand and freeze. So for example food items like, zucchini fritters, zucchini slice, quiche, scrolls, muffins, slices and fruit balls can all be made ahead of time and then it’s as easy this on a school morning:

  • Freezer: Pull out food items directly from freezer
  • Fridge: Include fresh items (like vegetables; can cut up the night before)
  • Pantry: Anything extra from pantry (like crackers/juice)

Done. Lunchboxes I’m happy with (and the kids too!). 

Lunch box ideas - nudie juice

Zucchini Fritters & Salad

Crackers

Blueberry & Coconut Muffin

Cherry Tomato

kids nudie nothing but tropical juice

Lunch box ideas - nudie juice

Cheese Twists

Apple Muffin

Avocado

Strawberries

kids nudie nothing but 2.6* oranges

Lunch box ideas - nudie juice

Cheese & Vegemite Scroll

Boiled Egg

Raw Carrot Ball

Carrot Stickskids

nudie nothing but 2.5 appl

Lunch box ideas - nudie juice
Zucchini Fritter & Ham Sandwich

Cheese & Cherry Tomato

Crackers

Blueberry & Coconut Muffin

kids nothing but apple & blackcurrant juice 

 ************************************

Winning. Happy all round.

Giveaway

**Giveaway ended. Congratulation Melissa Virtue**

A huge thanks to nudie,  I’m giving away a school term’s supply of kids nudie juice (96 units).  All you need to do answer this question in the comments below:

How do you select what you include in your kids’ lunchbox?

Terms & Conditions:

1. You must be an Australian resident and over 18 years old to enter

2. You must provide a valid email address and entries are limited to one per household

3. Giveaway period is from 9:00 am AEST on 27 June 2014 to close at 9:00 pm AEST on 4 July 2014.

4. Prize includes a ‘term’s supply’ of kids nudie juice (96 units)

5. The winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours of the competition closing and announced on this blog post.

6. The winner must contact me via reply email within 72 hours or the prize will be re-drawn.

7. The winner agrees to have their contact details passed on to the appropriate promotion agency or brand representative who will send out/organise the prizes directly.

8. Entries will be judged on merit and creativity. 

{Giveaway WEEK} Downtown Abbey, Friendship & Jarrah Hot Chocolate

This week on the blog, I’m doing giveaways!  The first giveaway, Win a Year’s Supply of Radiant, is still running and you can find details on how to enter here.  Next up, I have something more glamorous and delicious than the washing.  It started with a busy couple of weeks, a friend and Downtown Abbey.

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Jarrah

So what has Downtown Abbey have to do with hot chocolate? Well, nothing really. But I do have all these gorgeous hot chocolate flavours in the pantry at the moment for this write-up for Jarrah: frothy classic, white chocolate, hazelnut, extreme chocolate, mint and orange.

When I was a teen, I remember my mum keeping Jarrah Vienna Cinnamon Coffee in the cupboard and I had forgotten about it until now (I loved it).  Such a pleasant memory! It’s interesting how tastes and smells can take you back somewhere in your past so strongly.

Jarrah Hot Chocolate

Getting back to Downtown Abbey.  It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks. There’s not really anything extra happening here, but I think it’s just the end of term and the kids are tired and the wheels are falling off.  My husband is away and while I wouldn’t say I’m lonely, my morale is a bit low.

I texted my friend (me: blue, she: grey) and this is how it went down.

text message

We are both are only just starting on Season 1 of Downtown Abbey (we are a bit behind – ha!) and so we lounged on the sofa talking about the elegance of the fashion, the fascinating politics and etiquette of the period and analysing the characters and their position in the household.  A much-much appreciated break in the week, I can tell you!

The fashion in this period drama is absolutely stunning!

Downtown Abbey

Downtown Abbey Fashion - Season 1

Downtown Abbey Fashion - Season 1

Downtown Abbey Fashion - Season 1

Downtown Abbey

Later I pulled out the hot chocolate.   I’ve enjoyed having a stash in the pantry.  Just the other week my sister was here for the afternoon, and I made her up a mint flavour.  “What is this? It’s divine!” she said.  I felt happy to see her happy.  My hero-of-the-week friend decided on the white chocolate one.  I like the classic best.

Jarrah Hot Chocolate
I sent my friend home with her own stash of Jarrah hot chocolate flavours to trial, and challenged her to write me a spiel about how she went.  And…go:

“I try to make healthy food choices, I really do. But I’m not gonna lie to you, sometimes I feel like chocolate…sweet, creamy, rich chocolate. My weak times are like clockwork…it’s either 10am with my coffee, 3.30pm after school drop off or 8.30pm when my dinner/bedtime duties are over.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think having a small sweet treat is totally forbidden, but if I had a snickers every time I felt like it, I’d be reversing all the progress I’ve made with my fitness this year. 

So, here’s what I do, when those sweet cravings hit, I trick my brain into thinking I’ve satisfied them by drinking a Jarrah hot chocolate. Seriously, I don’t know how they are 99% fat free…they taste so good!

There are even different flavours to suit every mood! Just substitute the first option for a Jarrah with less calories!”

 Ha! Love that girl! Here’s to friendship, to period dramas, to hot chocolate, to memories.

friends

About Jarrah

  • Low in fat and calories, Jarrah drinks are a convenient and delicious hot beverage and contain no caffeine.
  • Delicious range of flavours – classics including Frothy Classic, White Chocolate and Extreme Chocolate, as well as exciting chocolate flavours including mint, hazelnut and orange.
  • Convenience – portion controlled single serve sticks. Easy to carry in your handbag, or to have stashed in your drawer at work. Just add hot water for a creamy, hot chocolate drink!
  • The Jarrah range is proudly made in Australia in our Rowville Victoria factory – the drinking chocolate range proudly supports the Australian Made certification.
  • Available at Coles and Woolworths and leading independents.
  • RRP $5.40 per 10 pack
  • Head to the Jarrah website for more info.

Giveaway

**Giveaway now ended. Congratulations Jill Macmullen**

Hello giveaway.  I have 1 prize pack of the full range of Jarrah products: that’s one packet of each flavour (RRP $47.40) plus a mug so you’re all set to go.

To enter, in the comments below, tell me about that time of day when you need to regroup.  For me it’s 2:30pm, just before I get the kids from school. I usually take a quiet moment before the afternoon craziness!

Giveaway open 9:01 am AEST on Tuesday 24 June 2014 and end 5:00 pm AEST on Friday 4 July 2014.

Read the T & Cs here.

{Giveaway WEEK} Doing the Washing: Win A Year’s Supply of Radiant

Almost school holidays! Whoo hoo! And…it’s giveaway week on the blog.  I have three awesome things for you this week and first up, a chance to win a year’s supply of Radiant as part of the Radiant Return campaign. Read on for details on how to enter.

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Radiant

Managing the Washing

Just the other day, I recalled to my sister the time I walked into the laundry and was greeted with this.

Managing the washing

Ha! Makes me laugh to this day. The dryer stopped at that very moment when the princess towel was pressed to the front. Gave me such a fright, I can tell you!

I’ve written about the laundry on the blog quite a few times.  Not because I’m good at it, but the opposite.  The washing is my least favourite household chore. I dislike (intensely) every stage: the washing, the drying, the folding, and the putting it away. However, over the years, I have developed a pretty good system and I wrote about it here.

If there is a lazy an efficient way to do the washing, I’ll find it. For example, I hang school uniforms out straight away on a rack so that I don’t need to iron them. All the uniforms are kept on the rack (out of the bedrooms) and the children use them as they are needed. 

What I look for (in clothes washing detergent)

When it comes to washing powder for clothes, I tend to flit between my favourite brands, and Radiant is one of them.  Below are some of the key things I look for:

  • Performs well in cold wash.
  • Can mix colours: I’m a throw-it-all-in-together kind of gal (In most cases, I usually throw in whites too.
  • Smells nice: especially for my gym clothes as I find many detergents don’t work well to deodorise clothes.
  • Cleans individual items well in large loads. I use a washing machine with a 10 kg load capacity and with 6 people living in the house, 90% of my loads are huge.

Radiant Return

I’m testing out radiant products as part of a Radian Return campaign (which I’ll explain further below).  

Radiant is available in 3 variants, Brilliant Whites Sharper Colours, No-Sort and Sensitive. Each variant contains Colour Guard technology which is how Radiant keeps your colours newer for long.

Radiant Review

The Radiant Return campaign is a series of (funny) tests done by 2 best mates.  This is what they did:

They purchased clothes from regular shops, did all kinds of torture tests on the clothes, like rugby in the mud, paint ball playing and finger painting with kids.  Then, the pair washed the clothes at home and returned the garments to unsuspecting retail assistants.  Approval was obtained from the owners of the shops, but the shop assistants had no idea.  Such a clever and humorous way to test a product. Below is one of the episodes. 

Testing it

My test was far less dramatic, although I might argue that my everyday washing can be messy at the best times (no special circumstances needed)!  Stains and soil in a regular wash at my place vary hugely, but there is always something: dirt, mud, grease, butter, milk, berries, sauce, toothpaste and unknown substances.  I decided to test the products by simply going through a regular dirty clothes basket at my place (whatever was there at the time), and washing the clothes how I always do (in big mixed loads).

Pictured below are a few clothes items I pulled out with spots. I threw all these clothes in together with a regular load, including the light coloured shirt and the pink jeans (which are new and have only been washed once before). 

Conditions: 

  • For this test, I didn’t treat any of the clothes with pre-stain before washing (sometimes I do) because I wanted to get a gauge on how the detergent worked.
  • I use a Fisher & Paykel Cleansmart – Top Loader 10 kg Washing Machine
  • Washed in a large regular load with mixed colours (as this is how I usually wash)
  • Cold / Normal wash
  • I used the Radiant Powder Capsules in this load (1 for normal loads and 2 for large loads like mine) – LOVE these, mainly because I find no matter how careful I am, there is always liquid/powder spill build up around the machine.
  • Washed my smelly gym clothes in this load 

Radiant

Four Items of Clothing

Below are how the clothes came out.

radiant test 1

radiant test 2

radiant test 3

radiant test 4

Personal Results

I was really happy with how the detergent performed.

  • Stain removal: The only stain that didn’t totally come out was the dirt/grease on the pink jeans (this was sitting for a few days).  Usually, I would do a pre-soak / treatment on this type of stain before washing. I was surprised the berry stains came out! Very happy.
  • Smell: The smell of all the clothes (including my gym clothes) was lovely and fresh.
  • Colour: No colour transfer (or discolour on light colours).   Note: I can’t comment on fade/colour preservation because I didn’t set up the test for a long enough period.
  • Efficiency: I used all three variants of radiant and they all worked well through a large load.  I particularly enjoyed the casuals (however, probably not the most economical variant), because they are so quick and easy (and mess free).  

Anything that can make my job easier in the laundry is a good thing!  A good all-rounder detergent is one thing that makes a difference to the overall work load in dealing with my never-ending washing pile.

For more information about the products, visit the Radiant website. www.radiantreturn.com.au

Giveaway

**Giveaway ended. Congratulations Natalie Stoute**

I’m giving away 1 year’s supply of radiant away.  I wish I could win this myself! Entering is really easy: for your chance to win, tell me about a time when your colours were destroyed and could have benefited from a bit of Radiant Colour Guard? in the comments below.

Giveaway open 12:01 am (AEST) on Monday 23 June 2014 and will end 5:00 pm AEST on Monday 30 June 2014.

Please read all terms & conditions here.

Win: Sacha Drake Grecian Convertible Maxi Dress

Sponsored (S2 post)

Sacha Drake Grecian Dress with belt (silver)

Sacha Drake Convertible Grecian Maxi Dress & Deco Knot Belt

This dress is like a dream!  I absolutely adore wearing it. Rave-rave-rave.  

I was introduced to Australian designer Sacha Drake back in 2011 by fellow bloggers Louisa Claire (she looks smashing in this striped dress) and Nikki from Styling You (who is looks gorgeous in the same dress).  The Sacha Drake brand was established in my home town Brisbane in 2002, and I love discovering and talking about amazing Aussie talent.  Sacha is a genius, GENIUS, when it comes to dressing woman’s bodies of all shapes and sizes.  I’m a huge fan, and today I’m talking about the convertible Sacha Drake dresses, and you can win one, just in time for Mother’s Day, YAY!

At the recent Digital Parents Conference on the Carnival Spirit Cruise Ship, I wore the dress (different ways) to the dinner functions (picture here).  It doesn’t really need ironing so it’s the perfect dress to throw in a bag when travelling.  Each time I wear this dress, people comment at how gorgeous it is.  When I was at the conference, I even had someone stop me in the lift to ask me about it.

It’s how the dress falls in waves around your body; it makes you feel feminine, elegant and strong.  When I wear it, I find myself celebrating the joy of being a woman; the way the dress moves and fits my body embodies the beautiful balance between sensitivity and strength.  I feel a dreamy smile appear on my face and a softness come to my step like I can walk on the clouds. Ah, what a wonderful dress can do, yes?

Convertible

Below is some of the ways I wear the Grecian dress, and there are still, many-many-many other ways to explore (check out the video further below for more ways to wear the dress). You can twist and wrap the pleated straps to create different looks that contour your body without the clinging factor. Another great convertible dress to look at is the Sacha Drake Ultimate Black Dress which is even more versatile and can be worn more than 20 ways. 

L to R:

1. Cross over front/back with belt (thin straps), silver drop earrings, silver bracket

2. Strapless, twist feature over bust – with Kellie Christie Button Necklace (another Brissy designer) 

3. One shoulder – long emerald green dangly earrings

4. V neck cross over – single jewel on circle wire necklace, drop earrings

5. Strapless casual style – with a heap of silver bangles

6. Cross over front/back (thick straps) – with nothing by my wedding ring

Sacha Drake Grecian Convertible Dress Review

Favourite

You can adjust and wear this dress for the occasion (dress it up or down), your mood, and for your body shape. Below is one of my favourite way to wear the dress, either with thick cross over straps (as shown below) or with thin straps and a belt (as the first image).  I have broad shoulders and more of a column body shape so this style works well.

Front / Back

Sacha Drake Dress - Front & Back

The Sacha Drake website has a body types guide to use then when you shop, each garment displays the relevant shape icons so you know if it will flatter your type of body.  As you can see on the icon guide below, this particular dress is suitable for all body shapes (including pregnancy) .

Sacha Drake Body Shape guide 

How it works

The dress is all one piece and made from luxurious pleated polyester jersey that feels delicious on your skin (designed and made in Australia).  There’s the strapless dress section, with perfect soft falling pleats, and two attached straps to tie and shape around your body.


 

If you’re looking for a something special to wear, have a look at the Sacha Drake webiste because there are many incredible dresses, stretch solutions, convertible dresses and other gorgeous pieces (like this pencil skirt that is on my wish list).

I’ll finish with this inspiring quote from Sacha Drake, declaring the heart behind the brand. I can see this value reflected in the clothes she makes and the smile on my face.

“I use my talent to make women happy.

I like to design clothes that boost women’s confidence.

This is my contribution to the world!”

– Sacha Drake

Win

Giveaway now ended.  Congratulations Corinne Jones!

I’m thrilled to be giving Be A Fun Mum readers a chance to win a Sacha Drake Grecian Convertible Maxi Dress.  

When I was thinking about a question to ask here, I could have gone for something like, “What do you enjoy most about wearing a dress?”.  However, I feel so challenged by Sacha’s approach and I am going to ask a question inspired by the Sacha Drake brand.  I look forward to reading the responses. 

To enter:

1. Like Sacha Drake on Facebook

2. Leave a comment below to answer this question:  How do you use your talent, passions or resources to make others happy?

Terms:

  • Competition begins at 06.00 (AEDT) on Wednesday 30 April 2014 and closes at 22:00 (AEDT) on Friday 9 May 2014 
  • Open to Australian Residents Only
  • Dress valued at $299
  • Please read the full terms and conditions here.

http://www.sachadrake.com

Turn A Child’s Drawing into a Toy

S2 Post

Turn a child's drawing into a stuffed toyI love seeing what comes out of my children’s drawings. It’s so interesting, because it’s like you get to peek into the workings of their minds. I wrote a post about storing children’s artwork, and I found another cool thing that I had to share with you:  turning a drawing into a stuffed toy!  It started with this adorable drawing by Miss 8 titled as Dancing Afro Pig. Ah, she makes me laugh: that girl.

Kid drawing - Afro Pig

I met Meredith from The Derby Monster on Twitter and she loved Disco Afro Pig as much as I did and offered to make it into a toy…and here it is! Don’t you just love that smiley face feature on the tummy? My daughter couldn’t believe it! It was such a fun surprise. The likeness is brilliant and it’s such a special, special way to feature and enjoy a gorgeous piece of artwork. Best find this year!

You can check out other drawing to toy conversations and how to order one yourself here: Bring A Drawing To Life (available internationally).

a children's drawing into a toy

About Meredith

I had been making quilts for several years under the name Naptime Memories (sounds so peaceful!). A few people asked me to make t-shirt quilts for them, and I got into the idea of recycling old clothes of sentimental value into new things. Then a couple of years ago I saw a book about how to make dolls out of old sweaters, and I discovered I loved making dolls. So I put everything together and started making custom monster dolls out of customers’ college sweatshirts, kids’ outgrown dresses, and roller derby teammates’ old jerseys, and The Derby Monster was born. 

I make sample dolls out of cast-off clothes I find in my travels, but I most love taking an item that is meaningful to a person and transforming it into something new: a rowing coach had me turn two of her old team sweatshirts into rowing-themed monsters; my friend’s old sofa cushions turned into a pair of dolls with Mr. Potato Head-like features her kids could rearrange with velcro; three siblings drew pictures of their fantasy monsters and I rendered them out of their own outgrown shirts.

The Derby Monster

The Derby Monster’s online store: http://derbymonster.storenvy.com/
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/thederbymonster
On Twitter @TheDerbyMonster 

a children's drawing into a toy

Disclosure: Meredith made a complimentary item for me to feature on my website. As always, all views are my own. Find more details about my disclosure policy here.

Gramping: Part 2

Sponsored by Nuffnang, Aerogard & Mortein 

There are always remnants.  As the canvas takes shape, I peek my head inside in anticipation: a forgotten small toy, a stick in the corner, that sock we couldn’t find – all memories of the last time we were together in this space.

Recently, we went Gramping on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland as a family.  Gramping is when three generation of family come together – grandparents, parents, children – to camp in the backyard or somewhere in the great outdoors.  

With a cup of tea in hand, I watched my children play at the water’s edge.  I could hear them discussing how they were going to catch fish.  They spent hours, enamoured, designing fishing rods and talking about what they could see.  This is good, I remember thinking.   It was a windy weekend, and the adults sat on camping chairs in a semi-circle and talked. Conversations.

Later, I listened to my children interact with my own dad; it is always special for me to see him in this light: as a grandfather. He shared his knowledge, listened as the children explained what they could see and facilitated their creativity.  My kids adore him.

That’s what gramping is all about: connection.

Set up

You can see more about how we packed for Gramping in my last post.   For more tips, there’s the Gramping Association website, sponsored by Aerogard & Mortein for mozzie free Gramping fun.  

This makes sense as much of the experiences takes place outdoors. We were camped out near water so especially needed mozzie protection.  We packed Aerogard Insect Repellent (Tropical strength) to use when we were exploring the water’s edge and the Mortein Citronella Outdoor Candle for around the campsite. (See more of what is in our packing gear here: Camping With Kids). 

gramping

tent - black wolf

Gramping 

It’s their too-cold-but-I’ll-swim-anyway face.  It’s grubby hands and wet feet. It’s the time it takes to do the simple things like cooking.  The pace slows down and the beauty of all that is life and living shines through.  Conversations are different somehow: unhurried, varied, interesting. 

These pictures tell the story I want to say.  And it’s one of building a strong family, making memories and experiencing the wonder of connection and nature. 

too cold for a swim but I'll swim anyway faces

Fishing with a stick

Fishing with a stick

Fishing with rope

fishing

fishing with grumpy

Fishing

gramping

Food

One of our favourite camping meals is nachos because it’s simple and you don’t need cutlery! You can find the recipe I use here.

On the Gramping Association website you will also find other brilliant gramping recipes like S’mores and damper on a stick.

camping food

Gramping is on our to-do list every year…even if it’s in the backyard!

Giveaway

I’m giving away four Gramping prize packs valued over $400 and you can find all the details on how to enter on my post here: Gramping Giveaway.  (Giveaway ends Thursday 10 April 2014).

Win

Plus, you can check out the Gramping Association website for the chance to win* your own Gramping experience.

*terms and conditions apply, visit gramping association.com.au

More

Below are other the guides you can find on the Gramping Association Website:

  • Pack like a pro – comprehensive packing list
  • Golden goodies – food ideas
  • Top tips for Mozzie Free Outdoor Fun

The Lego Movie Review

The Lego Movie Review

**There’s a few minor spoilers but I’ve kept them to a minimum***

It’s funny, fast and FULL ON.  

We are all a bunch of Lego nerds in this family, and went to see The Lego Movie last weekend. The “Everything is awesome” tune is still in my head. Everything is awe-some!

The Story

The story follows an as-ordinary-as-you-get construction mini figure called Emmet (Chris Pratt). The movie begins in a Lego city world where everyone has their job, knows their place and follows the instructions.   This makes for a well ordered happy city, or so it seems.  The opening scenes are about as slow paced as this movie gets. Hang…on.

Overpriced coffee anyone? Awesome!!

overpriced coffee anyone? Awesome  - The Lego Movie

Emmet stumbles upon The Piece of Resistance (a red lid) which the Master Builders (free-thinking-non-instruction-following mini figurines) believe will stop the Kragle (super glue). Behind this plan to freeze the Lego Worlds with Kragle is Lord Business (voice by Will Ferrell), the control freak leader who wants everything to be perfect.  In fact, Lord Business keeps all the figures from different worlds (sets) – Wild West, Castle, Star Wars — apart so they can’t interact.

Along the way, Emmet meets feisty Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) who dubs him mistakenly as ‘The Most Special Person in the Universe’, and they join other Master Builders on a quest to stop Lord Business and his right hand man, Bad Cop (Liam Neeson).  

With Bad Cop always in tight pursuit, Emmet and Wyldstyle execute the Lego World Saving Mission with arrogant Batman (Will Arnett), pretend-wise Vitruvus (Morgan Freeman), a-little-too-positive Unikitty (Alison Brie) and my personal favourite, uber-keen Benny: the 1980 Something Spaceship Guy (Charlie Day).  Then there’s appearances from Superman, Green Lantern dude, Robin Hood, a cyborg Pirate, a random mermaid, Wonder Woman, Abraham Lincoln and more. Yep, it’s a riot.

Will they save the Lego Worlds in time? Does ordinary Emmet have what it takes?

Some of the Master Builders

The Master Builders - The Lego Movie

The Animation

The animation is wonderful, and I was pleased to see it looked like real Lego. I know that may be an odd thing to say (of course looks like Lego!); I’ll give a few examples to explain what I mean:

  • When Emmet and Wyldstyle ride horses in an adjacent world, Wild West, the horses move with fixed legs, just as they would move if a child was playing with them.
  • Water is made up of blue animated round Lego plates.
  • Hair moves, not by waving strands but by the entire hair piece moving.

I was thrilled the animators stayed true to the functions of real-life Lego. It made it even better, and cooler. Awe-some! There are many such instances of this throughout the movie, subtly reminding the audience about the fundamental function of Lego: it’s about the marriage of creation and play.  I was impressed with the balance between the realistic shapes and movement and the excitement of the lighting and animation. A clever, clever combination.

Great lighting in this city car scene

The Lego Movie Wyldstyle Emmet Car Scene

The Adults

As I sat in the theatre, being visually bombarded by the awesome wonder that is Lego, I remembered lazy Sunday afternoons where my big sister and I spent countless hours on the floor playing with our Lego Castle set.  If you enjoyed Lego as a child, there’s a good chance you’ll experience a deep sense of nostalgia in revisiting pieces of yesteryear. There’s just so much Lego in this movie. Ha!

There’s this particular ghost scene, and I suddenly remembered the ghost figure in the castle set we owned! I had forgotten about it! My sister and I thought it so cool because it glowed in the dark! GLOWED I tell you!  

The humour is witty; the comic timing: HIL-AR-IOUS, and my husband and I found ourselves laughing  genuinely throughout the movie.

From The Husband: I love Lego…so when I found out they were making the Lego Movie I was more excited than Big Kev!  The laughs, action and fun just keep on coming, it is a great movie to share with children with plenty of one liners and pop culture references to keep the adults happy.

The Kids

The movie kept all our children (6.5, 8, 10, 12.5) entertained throughout.

I asked them: What did you like most about it?

Mr 6: When Batman says, “I only work in black, or very, very dark grey.”

Miss 8 : When the Unikitty showed up.

Miss 10: The humour.

Miss 12: Benny, the Spaceship Guy. I loved how he was just so excited to build a spaceship.

Benny, the 1980 something spaceship guy

The-Lego-Movie-Benny-the-Spaceman

Reservations

The movie is full quick wit and I like that.  However, the pace and the relentless constancy of the humour took away a little from the story line and the effect of the animation.  You are here, and then, boom: there; and boom: change of pace; surprise here; sudden dialogue there.  

Although the story line is quite strong, and the character development surprisingly good (surprising because there are SO many minor characters), I felt the movie was driven more by the next moment, humorous situation or line rather than the story.  I would have appreciated a few poignant moments during the movie for the story line to take firm root;  I wanted to fully appreciate the intricacies of the animation but didn’t get the chance.  I left the movie somewhat exhausted rather than uplifted, if that makes sense.  That said, there is a deep undercurrent of emotion that’s pulled together at the end. 

Another mention in this section is the violence (the movie is rated PG). It’s not particularly scary (it doesn’t take itself seriously enough); however, there is a fair amount of gun shooting and explosions, plus a head-only scene (which is actually really funny).  None of it is gruesome but personally, I would hesitate taking young children.  In terms of niche age, I thought the movie better suited to my older two children.

A minor thing I found a little annoying was the light-hearted relationship between Batman and Wyldstyle and how Emmet slot in right at the end.  The moment felt fabricated for me. I don’t think the Batman/Wyldstyle boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic was necessary and added anything significant to the story because there wasn’t enough time to develop the sub plot properly (in my opinion).

Wyldstyle, Batman & Emmet

The Lego Movie Review - Batman & Wild Style

Last Word

There is a lot to like about this movie. It’s a celebration of Lego and play. It’s about imagination and creativity. It’s clever, quick and witty. It’s FUNNY!  Somehow The Lego Movie is both nostalgic and nonsensical. It doesn’t take itself too seriously while still retaining an emotional undercurrent.  With so many one-liners to choose from, there’s something for everyone to take away and repeat randomly and often for months to come.