review of people movers for large families

Following on from last week’s post on my dream car  I thought we’d talk people movers for large families. Because let me tell you once I meet another large family mum the conversation usually flows on to what do you drive? Because there aren’t too many choices when you get over 4 or 5 little ones.

keiracar

Now I asked this question on Facebook and I got lots of answers from readers who drive SUVs. I’ll have to do that as a separate post as there are now so many 7 seaters on the market. Because we’ve always had so many in carseats we’ve loved the space of a people mover but I’ll definitely pull together a list of the SUVs that suit larger families.

the bus

And I’d love to hear from you in the comment about your what you drive and why and what’s the car you dream about. So let’s start with the VW multivan. This is what I drive and unfortunately we don’t all fit in there. It’s great for the school run and weekdays but on weekends we are taking 2 cars if we all go out together.

VW MULTIVAN

GOOD THINGS

seats 7, very roomy inside, European safety, lots of power, diesel, good boot space, great for big kids and adults to travel comfortably, well priced (about $54k driveaway for the entry level Comfortline), very reliable and goes the distance, was called a Transporter before Multivan if you are buying 2nd hand.

love the colour

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

height can be an issue in some carparks (I look for 2.1m clearance), 7 seats but the 2nd row would be great as a bench seat making it an 8 seater, we bought the table as an extra and have never used it. EVER! , we have door problems and not sure if it’s just us or a wider problem but we now have a case manager just because of our door problems.

 

VW CARAVELLE

this is on my wish list as it’s now a 9 seater (woo hoo, fits all my kids and grandma), you can find out more here

GOOD THINGS

9 seater (newer models) which suits large families nicely, spacious inside, european safety and quality, reliable, well priced for a european 9 seater (about $55k driveaway new)

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

height can be an issue, longer body than the VW Multivan for parking, not as big boot space (but there is room inside the van for bags etc)

HYUNDAI IMAX

I like the iMax and you can find out more here

Imax-Shuttle-34-Black

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GOOD THINGS

very well priced for this sized van, 8 seater and good sized seats in the back, roomy inside especially for the older kids and lots of carseats, very popular people mover, you can walk around inside, great boot space, you can add an extra seat in the front drivers seat row for about $2k if you need an extra seat, some of my readers also love the Trajet which was the people mover before the iMax and can be picked up second hand.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

doesn’t have the european safety and heaviness in the body and doors (if you’ve ever opened a VW or Mercedes van then you know what I’m talking about), there are smaller vans on the market if you only have little children (with little legs)

KIA CARNIVAL

GOOD THINGS

well priced (the new 2015 Grand Carnival entry model will set you back about $46k driveaway in NSW), 8 seats, drives like a car as not as big as other vans, easy to park, no height restrictions to worry about, the 2015 Carnival looks amazing with a new shape, we made a fun video of the Carnival way back in 2012 here just after I had emerson and I think we’re too big a family for the Carnival now.

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THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

not as spacious inside compared to the bigger people movers, although it’s an 8 seater some of the seats are smaller in the back, check you can fit all of your car seats in and still fold down the seat to get into the back, doesn’t have the heaviness in the doors and body compared to a european van, older models (from memory up to 2006 have known engine problems before they switched to new engine so be careful buying 2nd hand)

TOYOTA TARAGO

a quick scan/my unofficial survery of car line at school tells me this is the most popular people mover at our school. You can find out more here. 

image source

GOOD THINGS

built to last and they just keep going and going (we see some older ones at school), 8 seater, very reliable, nice body shape, easy to drive and park and no height issues compared to the bigger vans, easy for parts and servicing and mechanics always seem to recommend them, easy to pick up second hand and a good resale value.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Price (about $52-74k driveaway in NSW ), there are bigger 8 seaters

MERCEDES VALENTE, VIANO, VITO

you might remember I got to drive the Valente for a week back here. Loved it. 

GOOD THINGS

european safety and heaviness in the doors and body, luxurious, reliable, roomy inside, great boot space, 8 seater and good full sized seats, great for lots of kids, car seats and long legs, great resale price

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Price (starting at about $55k driveaway in NSW for a Valente entry level model), servicing and parts outside of warranty are something to consider and if you’ve owned a european car/van before then you’ll already know this, can be hard to find second hand.

MERCEDES SPRINTER MINIBUS

This is a new one to me but I like it and you can find out more here. 

GOOD THINGS

12 seater, european build (think heavy safe doors and body) and safety features, quality, great for really big families and travelling, reliable, great resale value

,mercedes sprinter inside

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THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Price (starting at $90k driveaway for a new one), height and size of van for shopping centres/carparks/parking, parts and servicing outside of warranty will be more expensive than some other people movers

CHRYSLER GRAND VOYAGER

I have to confess I don’t know much about these so love to hear what you think

GOOD THINGS

roomy inside, 7 seats, reliable, luxury features, not as big as some of the other people movers, easy to pick up 2nd hand

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Price (starting from $57k new), servicing and parts

HONDA ODYSSEY

oops I have to confess that I left this one off the list! Find out more here.

GOOD THINGS

7 or 8 seater, not as big as some people movers so easy to drive/park, newer model has really changed and is larger, luxury features inside

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Price, not as big inside as other people movers which can be an issue with carseats

TOYOTA HIACE COMMUTER

CONGRATULATIONS! If you drive a HIACE then you really are a large family!

toyota

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PROS

Big enough to fit the largest of families (OK maybe not the Duggars but plenty of room for everyone with 12 seats or 14 seats in the super long wheelbase), great for parties and playdates as extra seats, reliable and they go and go and go, easy to pick up second hand, easy to service/parts etc, well priced

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

parking at shopping centres (you’ll need bus parking) and height considerations in carparks, OK parking full stop!

IMPORTS

The Japanese do some nice people movers that aren’t available from dealers and you might have seen a Nissan Elgrand around and there seem to be a few in Sydney. You can buy locally from an importer and if you look on carsales or gumtree you can find them. You’d want to make sure you were near somewhere to service it and have the parts available and also insurance. Love to hear from any of my readers who drive one and what they think.

nissan

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OLDER VANS NOT AVAILABLE NEW

Some of my readers have mentioned vans that you can buy second hand but can’t buy new. These include

Mazda MPV (seats 7)

Hyundai Trajet (seats 7)

Mitsubishi Starwagon (comes as 7 or 8 seater)

Mitsubishi Grandis (seats 7)

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A FAMILY VAN

how many carseats do you have/need to fit in and how many anchor points

how big is the boot for your pram (especially if you have twins, 2 or more little ones)

budget

where will be you driving (just locally, inner city, country etc)

how often do you go on family holidays and is it big enough

reliability, parts and servicing

resale and reputation

easy to drive, park and get kids in and out

safety, safety and safety

petrol and the cost of it (usually costs me about $90 to fill up the tank with diesel but it lasts a week)

how many airbags are fitted throughout the car

So what do you drive? What do you love and what do you wish you were driving your family around in? Have I left your people mover off the list? I know there are so many SUVs but I’ll have to save that for another time.

p.s I’m no automotive expert. Just a mum of 6 who does the research before we buy a car. You should always do your own research, take all of your carseats and check that the car you are purchasing is right for your family. What’s right for me and my family might not work for yours so ask around, do your research, read reviews at car websites and the NRMA reviews and also test drive a few cars. We had test driven a few different cars before buying our current van. 

Toyota Dream Car Art Competition – enter now

Brought to you by Toyota

Close your eyes for a second and imagine your dream car. I’m thinking 12 seats (so we can have more kids in the car for playdates, grandmas when they visit), coffee machine, mini fridge to keep my snacks cold (I was thinking Tim Tams but the girls said fruit), always charged ipads for each child with their own headphones in the car, toilet so we never need to stop anywhere while travelling, self driving so I can sit and do my knitting in the front seat. I could go on. But this isn’t about me and my dream car.

Why not ask your kids to do the same and enter a pretty cool competition that is currently running? Each year Toyota asks kids all over the world to create an artwork of their dream car. Last year there were over 662,000 entries from around the world. This year there are some great prizes on offer for Australian entrants- those in the the under 8 category have a chance to win an iPod Touch, 8-11 year old category could an iPad mini and the 12-15 year olds could win an iPad Air.

And the winning entries may be chosen to be set to Japan to enter the Toyota Dream Car Art Competition “World Contest” that is held each year. And it gets better…if those Australian entries are chosen as finalists then that lucky child and their parent/guardian will be flown to Japan for an award ceremony and cultural experience. And who doesn’t love Japan. This was our last trip in 2007 in Shibuya…

Now the best part of this competition, from a mum’s point of view, is that I got a few hours of peace and quiet and had some fun drawing with the kids and taking photos of their dream cars. We discussed our dream cars over a few days and especially when we were in the car doing the school run.

Let’s start with my big boy who decided that we had a really big family – apparently this is our family.

I told him not to be too silly while I took the photo so he decided to do his deadpan face.

Colouring pencils were offered but not necessary and he was busting to get outside on the trampoline. He also needed a bit of a story with his dream car

Now his twin loves colour and her dream car just had to be bright and have her name on the outside. Nothing too fancy when you are 6 and just so long as there was some pink in there.

Now my big girl who is 8 enjoyed this challenge and took it very seriously. Her dream car had a bar at the back with lemonade (lemonade was a running theme in each car design) and nice to see that there is even a coffee there for me (so thoughtful!), a colourful patchwork design on the outside and inside, plenty of room for family and friends, she also wanted a safe robot to drive the car so that mum and dad can sit in the back and look after everyone.

And her favourite technique of shading was put to use for the background. Scissors and a pencil and apparently some of the pencils I’ve been buying aren’t the best for the job. Noted. And did you know that you can paint your entry in the competition if you have some serious artists in the house?

There was also a water feature with some artificial grass around it too. It’s all in the little details isn’t it?

If your little artists would like to put their thinking caps on and pencil (or paintbrush) to paper then here is all you need to know and the entry form. Entries close Friday 13 March 2015 so get moving and have some fun. We picked up a stack of photocopy paper and our pencil tub and got to work.

And you can see last year’s finalists in this fun video that was put together …… makes me want to be a kid again and super talented artist just to get to be a part of it!

Good luck……………………………..in the meantime can we talk about your dream car? Coffee machine? Massage chair?

a birthday, being on tv and cake

Well yesterday was my birthday (thank you so much for all the birthday wishes, I loved them especially when you are home with little people all day) and I did have such a great day….even if I’m another year closer to 40! It had all the ingredients for a good day…flowers, chocolate, cake, a new cardigan, surprise presents, home made cards and hugs.

and a preschool morning tea, trip to the shops to buy a tennis racquet and all the fun jobs around the house, my favourite thai takeaway for dinner and an amazing cake which was basically layers of chocolate jaffa ganache and a hazelnut meringue on the top. Amazing. There is a more luxurious description but that will do.

And then after dinner we had a special treat. OK well actually there were two special treats. The best surprise was when my little elodie came up and just hugged me and said ‘hap birfday mum’ and then kept saying hap birfday, hap birfday. This is such progress and I just about squeezed that dear girl to death. If you have a special little person in your life who struggles with speech or something else then you know that the littlest of things is the biggest of things. I still tear up thinking about it. No better present.

Ok and then there was another present. A little secret I hadn’t told you about. Early last year we had the very funny Judith Lucy over to our house to film for an ABC series. Straight after filming I was busting to tell someone and then over time I kind of forgot about it because it seemed like it was going to air a long time after. If you caught it last night then you know who stole the show (and no it wasn’t me) and the jury is still out on whether it was a real fart or just a raspberry. We loved meeting Judith and had a fun afternoon. And just a warning when you go to watch it, or in the words of my twins ‘it’s a little bit inappropriate’, so when you click on the link there is a male pole dancer in a g-string. So kids, grandmas and delicate readers out of the room. I hope you enjoy it and you can watch it here.

Now I’m off to clean and make cinnamon rolls. It only happens about twice a year but since you get 6-8 trays of hot buttery cinnamon rolls coming out of your oven I’m always popular with the kids and they never last.

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teaching your kids to knit

Something that I hope my kids will leave home with is knowing how to knit and sew. They have grown up with knitting projects around the house (Ok and if I confess knitting needles behind couch cushions) and a room full of fabric and wool (there are worse problems to have than an overflowing craft room). But finding the time to teach budding crafters can be hard when you’re struggling to find the time for your craft yourself. And then there is that little thing called patience.

I started teaching my big girl to knit last winter, then we got her a little loom and now we’ve gone back to the big needles and some chunky wool. I’m sure she wanted to knit when she was in kindergarten but it was only really last year and this year that she’s had the patience to sit down and give it a good go. We start with 8 ply or a thicker wool. I find if you go too thin with your wool that it seems to slip off but a thicker wool makes bigger stitches and they are easier to keep on needles. You can buy cute needles for kids and look for some that are fairly short as they are easier for little people to work with.

If you don’t know what needles to get just pop into your nearest wool shop or spotlight or lincraft (even big w will have yarn) and pick up some yarn in a colour they love. Look at the label and you’ll see a little pair of knitting needles printed on the label. That’s the size you’ll need. Now there is a number there and I go by the mm. So this says 7.5mm but we had 7mm and that will be perfect for learning

I generally cast on and then let her go. But don’t leave them. That’s where it all goes badly if I move away or rush off to do something else. I’ll guide her hands for the first row or two then sit next to her. And stay there. Little things that a knitter takes for granted like which way the wool wraps around the needle aren’t straight forward to a new knitter so be there to tell them which way the wool goes and fix any mistakes.

A wonderful book to use is this one. A first book of knitting for children, which has lots of big pictures, very simple instructions, little rhymes and some simple patterns. I think it’s the best I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few knitting books in my time). The craft section is always the first place I go in any book store or library.

and of course don’t forget youtube, my kids know their way around a computer and youtube (well my son got his first merit award for this year for helping other kids log on and off their computer so that’s a sign). However, not all youtube tutorials were created equal but this one is nice and slow and clear. And of course supervise the kids on youtube.

When it comes to first projects I would recommend something simple that isn’t going to take forever. A square cotton facewasher, little blanket for their teddy or doll or a little coaster for their mug or placemat. I know you think of a scarf but that would take forever and kids just give up. Great for a second project but not really the first.

Got a question just ask………………

 

chocolate, date + pecan slice in the thermomix (gluten free option)

I’ve been trying to be good and losing the baby weight lately. Once I set my mind to eating right I’m very good during the week, oh no wait, I had a scone with jam and cream yesterday but warm scones are always my weak spot. Ok, anything warm and sweet out of the oven kills me. Today is rainy and overcast and I just felt like baking as I really needed something sweet. So I decided to open my big bible of a book, CWA Classics. It’s almost 900 pages of great old fashioned recipes.

I’ve reworked this recipe using some of my favourite ingredients, gluten free flour and also making it in the thermomix which was so easy as it was all done in the one bowl with no stove top required. I hope you enjoy it. Great for a lunchbox treat if you leave out the nuts, perfect for a morning tea at your house or to take a plate with some icing on it and we have just loved it with a cup of coffee or tea today. No icing just warm out of the oven. Just how I like it.

chocolate, date + pecan slice in the thermomix (gluten free option)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12-16
What you'll need
  • 170g dates
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 225g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 215g plain flour (I used macro gluten free)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1½ Tbsp cocoa powder (read the label if making gluten free)
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
Instructions
  1. Place dates in your thermomix bowl and process for 10 seconds on speed 6. Scrape down bowl.
  2. Add in 1 cup of warm water from the jug and process 3 minutes, 100 degrees, speed 1.
  3. Add in chopped butter and process 1 minute, speed 1. Leave for about 10 minutes to cool down.
  4. Add brown sugar, egg, flour, baking powder, cocoa and process 20 seconds speed 4
  5. Scrape down bowl and process another 5 seconds
  6. Add in nuts and I just gently distribute with the spatula
  7. Pour into a lined square or lamington tin and bake for 20 minutes in a 180 degrees oven. If a knife comes out clean it's done
  8. If you've used gluten free flour then for best results you'll want to leave it to cool before slicing. there is something about the flour that makes it go a bit gluggy if you try to slice straight away.
  9. You could ice with a simple mixture of cocoa, dash of water and icing sugar just mixed up with a fork for something a bit fancier or why not just dust a bit of icing sugar on top.
  10. Enjoy

 

charm square, jelly roll, what?

I received a lovely email last week from a lovely lady called Kim. She loves fabric but needs to know what all the fabric cuts I’m talking about are…charm squares, jelly rolls and so on. Here you go…..this for Kim and anyone else who wants to know.

Charm Square

A charm square is a 5 inch square of fabric. A pack usually contains 42 squares from the fabric range. It’s a great way to get a taste of a fabric range, to join up the squares to make a simple patchwork quilt or why not use them for smaller projects like these addictive hexagons for a grandmothers flower garden quilt.

here is one charm square pack all joined up to make a quilt for my grandma a few years ago. Perfect for a beginner or quick project.

Jelly Roll

A jelly roll is a roll of 2 1/2 inch strips of fabric cut across the width of the fabric (about 112cm). You get 40 strips in a roll.

Jelly roll strips can be joined together to make a simple quilt or cut and used for projects. This saves you having to cut a large piece of fabric into strips or smaller pieces. For this ‘coin quilt’ I joined 5 strips together then trimmed them down to a smaller square and then joined those squares into vertical rows with white sashing in between. It’s a lovely design and a great way to use a jelly roll.

Layer Cake

A layer cake is kind of like a big charm square pack. 42x 10 inch squares of fabric are included in this pack,

As you can see from this photo above there are lots of ways to cut up your layer cake pieces or just join them up for a big quilt or blanket which I did for some teachers quilts at the end of last year.

Here is an example of a design that could be used from a layer cake or a jelly roll and charm square pack. Having the fabric neatly pre-cut makes it an easier project and cuts down your cutting time.

Fat Quarter

In australia we work metric so I call a fat quarter 50x55cm which is basically a quarter of a metre and rather than cutting 25cm by the width of the fabric you cut one quarter out from the metre. In the US and quilting terms the fat quarter is a quarter of a yard (about 18 x 22 inches). Great for cushions, sewing and projects where you’re not sure what to make or you want more fabric to make a quilt.

When I made this quilt I used fat quarters that were cut into smaller pieces to make each block. A pack of precuts wouldn’t have been enough for the various sizes I needed but having an assortment of fat quarters was perfect. I blogged the quilt here

Other precuts include honeycombs (which are hexagons), dessert rolls, turnovers and more you can find including lots of patterns over at  Moda Bake Shop

how I find time for everything (or anything!)

I received a lovely message from a reader yesterday asking me how I find time for everything. And I thought to myself that would make a great blog post. And then I thought uh oh I hope I don’t give the impression that I have time for EVERYTHING!!!!!!! Because I don’t. I’ve learnt along the way that I can’t do everything that I want to do but I’m very good at to do lists, letting some things slide, making some things a priority, learning to tag team with my lovely husband and getting the kids more involved as they grow up. Here they are doing what they love…….pizza dough for their own dinner.

So first things first. There are times when you feel like you are getting nothing done. And I mean nothing. You get up, do everything for everyone else and look around and the house is still a mess, the washing is still sitting there, the rubbish is still sitting there and you wonder where your day went. And that is normal. So remember that there are seasons. Times when it will be flat chat busy but that it won’t be like that forever. New baby, new job, returning to work, starting school, husband or partner working away, starting study or perhaps you are a single parent adjusting to a new life. There are so many things that happen in our life that throw our routine and daily life into a totally new direction. And it’s normal. Like when I had twins! I still think that was the hardest non stop year of my life going from a family of 3 to 5 so quickly! Cute as they were and still are………….

Next answer to the question is that I can’t find time for everything. After my 4th baby I made it a priority to join a gym and lose weight and get back in shape. It took a big chunk of my day, cost me a fortune in gym and creche memberships but my mum had just passed away and it did me and my body a whole lot of good. I adore zumba, I really do and hope that I’ll get back to it one day. Just not for a while. I never got back to the gym after my 5th or 6th and I struggle to get time to exercise. I know that other people find time and I get on the treadmill occasionally but it does show that I can’t do everything. I would love to blog more often or have a fancier website or a bigger website but I don’t have the time right now.I’d love to make a quilt but it’s hard to get into my craft room right now too. My focus is home , family and being here for them right now.  And I’m comfortable with that. I’ll always think I could be doing more but the days fly by.

Something we do need to find time for and that my reader asked about is our marriage and relationship.  That needs to be a priority. How do I do that? I have to say that through small acts rather than big grand gestures. Always doing a little bit more than is expected and little thoughtful surprises to show love – and I’m not talking spending money either. A nice home cooked dinner that is someone’s favourite or a bit fancier than usual, lunch made for the next day, doing all the ironing (can you tell I don’t iron someone’s shirts!), letting someone watch their favourite sports show or tv in peace and quiet, even just getting out of the house for fish and chips at the beach or an ice cream and a walk with all the kids is a nice way to talk and appreciate each other! When we get invited to things we book in the babysitter and consider that date night. If you can get out for dinner together minus the kids then do it, grab that opportunity while you can. I can honestly say that when you give a bit more you get it back (and if not then you might need a little chat together about things you can do for each other).  The kids are happy when they see you happy together. My parents set a beautiful example of always being in love and holding hands wherever they went and it was definitely noticed by us.

Weekends and family time can be tricky once kids start school and sport and all of the activities. We are still working on this one as we are always busy on weekends. My trick is splitting up when we need to, dad does rugby matches and swimming lessons, I do netball training and matches and the rugby training. I do the school and preschool run but he helps out if we’re running seriously late or someone’s sick or we have a big appointment on. It does seem like you spend forever in your car and I always have a small craft project or my diary or phone near to me to use that time in carline for other things and to get things done. You could even have a pile of mail or bills to be paid and do it while waiting. Small bits of time here and there can be used to get lots of things done.

If you’re forgetting everything then please do yourself a favour and get a big organiser. Doesn’t have to be fancy but one with enough room to write a few things down for each day. I love my erin condren life planner because it’s pretty (and I like pretty things), it has plenty of room and pockets for things, a layout where I can plan out my month and plenty of space for each day to write down what is going on and a big note section at the back. I take it to specialist and therapy sessions so I can always book in the next appointment or the next meeting at school. I was forgetting appointments and ringing up to double check but now I’m all good as everything and I mean everything goes in here and I also wrote down when I’ve done things so I’ve got a little note of it in there.

Something else to consider is that sometimes you have to say no. I remember doing Bschool and there was a session on saying no and I was outraged. I couldn’t say no. If someone asks me to do something I pretty much say yes. Over time I’ve learnt that actually there is something in that. Sometimes you have to say no. No one will hate you or think less of you in the long term and actually it means that you can say yes to something else. This coming from someone who does a lot of volunteering because I enjoy the company, getting to know people, being involved and helping out.

Another tip is to turn off the tv and put down your phone. Have you ever been out walking at the shops or out and about and everyone has their head in their phone. Or do you just know that you veg out in front of the tv and before you know it it’s already bedtime. I mean there is a now a tv show to watch people watching tv. Even my kids think that is the most ridiculous tv show ever. And it is. And no I’m not going to watch it. We did a good thing over the holidays and went from the foxtel package with everything to the foxtel package with nothing. Ok well nothing is an exaggeration but the package with not very much. The first week was tough going and I don’t watch a lot of tv but had a few favourite shows but then I realised that nothing was on and except for a couple of things a week I’m not watching TV. So much time becomes available. Go old school – read a book, do some craft and wait for it…………….talk to each other! I would like to go cold turkey on the tv but I only last a day and then it all falls apart.

last words……..don’t compare yourself. I often wish that you could walk through my front door and see the total disaster some days. We’ve had a great day playing and being with the kids but the house looks like a bomb has hit and the washing fairy hasn’t been to fold the laundry.I can assure you that I don’t have a cleaner or a cook or a pool boy.  I do use babysitting for when we have appointments or things on at night. We all have our priorities and some people love a spotless house and to be super organised and I’m unfortunately not one of those people but I try to fit in what I love. It doesn’t always happen but I try. Sometimes I might only get a few rows of knitting done but at least if I’ve done a bit then I feel better.

I drink lots of coffee, I stay up late and don’t need a lot of sleep but do get to bed before midnight and up at about 6.30/7. I lay clothes out the night before including my own and yes I even put out my underwear so I can just get it on first thing. It sounds a bit silly but trust me the days I don’t lay it out I could try on a few things before I’m good to go. Same applies for the kids, uniforms out and even when we do that someone still manages to make us late because they can’t find a shoe or their school hat or music bag or whatever it is. I’m just going with the flow and saying that it will pass.

ok one more last bit of advice………..have a sense of humour. I think the only reason I have a larger than average family and haven’t run away from home yet is that I keep a sense of humour. I can laugh at myself when people think I’m all earth mother or super mum and I know I’m not, or when everything is going wrong or we’re super late for something or I’ve totally forgotten that a therapist is coming to my house within the hour and it looks like a bomb site or I have no money in my wallet. If I didn’t laugh I would cry and send myself crazy. Lighten up.

you’re doing a good job, you’re the best person and the only person that your family needs, they don’t want anyone else but you (even if they talk back/don’t listen/think you’re nagging) and we put so much pressure on ourselves to be so good at everything and our kids don’t want that, our husbands don’t want that and we don’t need it. Do what you’re good at and enjoy, find time for what you love to do and make that time, let some things slide and remember that you might not be around forever so enjoy life and the blessings that you have.

bloom by Bendigo Woollen Mills

I get more than a little bit excited when I see a new range come out from Bendigo. And last week was one of those times. Lots of bright fun colours in their latest range Bloom (a lovely 8 ply) and at $10 for a 200g ball I didn’t even wait for my shade card.

When I ordered it I was thinking a big stripey blanket but now I’m thinking a cute stripey cardigan or dress and then using the rest in a stripey blanket. Available from Bendigo Woollen Mills here and I have it on good authority that it will be soon available at Unwind Craft Cafe if you live in or near Melbourne…………now that could be dangerous for me.

valentine’s day and another kina

Well it’s valentine’s day and I woke up to some lovely roses and a card before ducking out early to mass with the baby. When I got home (after my coffee, of course), I remembered that I just had to sew the button on a kina that I finished early in the week and thought I’d get my model in a pretty dress and get her outside for some photos.

And that lasted about 2 minutes before she wanted the cardigan off and to play. I’m a bit nervous that she’s not going to wear it so will try it when we are leaving the house for church or for the next birthday party she goes to otherwise I might be giving this one away.

Thankfully we have a few more willing models in the house so I asked who else would like to model it…I figured I could put it on a 2 year old boy or a 6 year old girl so went with the girl option, quickly brushed her hair for the photo and asked her to look away into the distance.

I also realised that I made this dress about a year or two ago and hadn’t shared it on the blog. Just a Simplicity pattern (2241) and some sweet fabric I picked up at Spotlight. When I make dresses I’m not too fussed on sizes because there are 3 girls and it will generally fit someone…whether it’s this year or the next. But my girls love this dress and I love a flutter sleeve so it’s win win and the dress probably came in under $10 which is always nice. I know I need to make more dresses for my girls…it’s just a little thing called time. And finding it.

Back to the kina, I used Bendigo Woollen Mills Spring Cotton which is sadly discontinued but check out ravelry to see if anyone is destashing (it will say ‘will trade or sell’) and Harmony is available in a couple of colours. I knit the size 2 pattern with 8 ply and size 4mm needles and knit to the size 4 lengths and the fit is perfect but I have a tiny 4 year old so you might want to add some length or go up a size if your little ones are a bit bigger than average. Not something we are in this house. And a vintage button from the stash. Ravelry details are here.

Hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day today………………

lent : what are you going to do?

I can’t believe Lent starts next week. It always sneaks up on me after Christmas and for those who don’t know what Lent is, well it’s the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. For me it always starts on Shrove Tuesday when we make (and enjoy pancakes). This year I thought I’d write a few posts on Lent as it’s a wonderful time for mums to start family traditions that you keep each year. And the kids love and look forward to them. I love that I can take my big kids to stations of the cross these days because I remember a time when one of us would go or when I’d sit outside for most of the 3pm Good Friday service which was so solemn and I had 3 monkeys under the age of 3 who were not so solemn.

My advice when it comes to traditions though is to just incorporate one or two new things each year. And it’s ok to let some things go too if they aren’t working for you.

Each Lent and for as long as I can remember I have given something up. This year it won’t be chocolate but will be my personal facebook habits.  Edited to add that I lasted one week off my personal facebook page and totally fell off the wagon around  my birthday. Trying from today to give it up again. 

A few things we have incorporated into our family traditions the last few years are

Going to mass/church during the week (you might not believe this but my littlest ones are so much better at weekday mass and have some lovely ladies to smile at)

Confession even if it’s been way too long (I’m going to write a post on this)

Say the rosary  (I love this app on my iPhone and it’s great for the car)

Join a lenten group at your church or a group that you’ve been meaning to join but just haven’t got around to

Do some volunteering

40 bags of stuff out of your house in 40 days

Read your bible each day

Instead of buying food out and takeaway putting the money in our Project Compassion box (or give to charity)

Not eating meat on Fridays and not just Good Friday (it’s lovely to continue the traditions that we grew up with)

Fill up your social media with positive and Christian messages

project compassion 2011

So why not go beyond giving up chocolate  and think of what you are going to do this Lent to make it more special than last year. Love to hear what you are thinking about……………….

 

top tips for dressing babies and toddlers + a fun giveaway

Brought to you by BIG W

I often say that there is never a dull moment in our house. And you probably say the same about your own family life. Someone will be going through a great stage or becoming more independent while the sweetest member of the family might be teething or going through a stage of independence or you can’t get to the shops with your little runner who doesn’t want to sit in the pram. You name the stage – well for the under 9′s – and I’ve been there. Pooplosions, teething, toilet training, tantrums right through to door slamming, tears over nothing and cutting their own hair with scissors and acting like they hadn’t.

And the great news is that things are always changing and just when you think you can’t handle another day of crying – oh look the tooth has broken through and you get your happy baby back. And the other great thing is that you learn to laugh at things. That’s my strategy when things get too much, just look for the positive things in life. Like when I put the baby down on a quilt and he just kept rolling and taking the quilt with him. Like all the time. Within a day or two he’s worked out how to roll from one side of the room to the other and taking everything in his path. My toilet breaks are fast so I can duck back to see where he has ended up.

 

Just smile, laugh and worry about the bigger things that you have to worry about.

It’s the BIG W Baby Sale which is usually my favourite time to stock up on baby and toddler clothes as the weather is getting cooler and we always need new jammies, new winter tops and jackets, someone usually needs some jeans and winter shoes too. And this was the weather on the day I decided we’d take some photos. Definitely getting cooler.

my tips for dressing  babies

For the littlest member of our family it’s jumpsuits and leggings all the way. Bonds wondersuits, stretchy tees and leggings are wonderful and you can never have too many jumpsuits. I always buy the next size up when I’m shopping and keep them on hand because babies grow so quickly. Tops with hoods are great to keep little heads warm without needing to remember hats.

When buying baby clothes, look for comfort, stretchy waistbands, press studs on necklines for ease of getting over little baby heads and as sweet as innocent as all white is once you’ve started solids and rusk sticks you’ll want the darker colours. Trust me on that one. Also buy lots of baby socks because you’ll lose them everywhere and you can never have too many bibs either. $10 for the Dymples hoodie – super warm and snuggly and stylish at the same time and $22 for the BONDS jeans.

I love BIG W for singlets, jumpsuits, getting new baby bottles, teething rings, nappies and more. And you’ll also find the bigger items like cots, prams and carseats too. Now the Lamaze toys are just the best with bright colours, crinkly bits and little mirrors and sounds. I picked up two for $12 each on sale (usually $20 each ) and they are so popular in our house. Grass is also popular as you can see.

The inch worm is hilarious as it squeaks and plays some music and it was like my little guy was wrestling a crocodile! Too much fun.

my tips for dressing  toddlers

Ahhh toddlers. This is when the fun really begins. It’s their way or the highway. Independence, learning to say no, getting the huffies and then being sweet as pie the next minute. My top tip for winter dressing is layer upon layer upon layer. A long sleeved t-shirt with a short sleeved t-shirt over the top and some jeans and then a vest or jacket can be taken with you. It’s great for when you leave the house and it’s chilly and for mornings at preschool, playgroup, the park or a weekend outing. When you get too warm you can strip a layer off. Toddlers are often discovering how to remove their clothes and are known to strip down to a nappy and run around the house. We have one or two of those. $10 for this cute Dymples fleece jumper.

These cargo pants are sure to be a favourite of mine as they are lined in a warm fabric and since we leave the house early in the morning they will keep my little guy warm while looking smart too.

my tips for dressing preschoolers

Dresses with leggings are a great option for girly girls and anything Frozen is a winner in our house. We are out of nappies so dresses and skirts have been wonderful through toilet training and make it super easy to make it to the toilet in time without needing someone to unbutton jeans or trousers.Always try to remember this on preschool /childcare days. This Frozen dress comes in at $29 and hasn’t been out of a little one’s sight since it arrived at our house. Don’t miss out on this one. It’s already been through the wash a few times.

If you’re not a fan of licensed clothes then keep it for the pjs, undies, t-shirts, bags and lunchboxes. I almost lose my little guy in the bag area at preschool because of the toy story, cars and spiderman bags or lunch boxes that he spies

5 looks I’m loving in the BIG W Baby Sale

1. ANYTHING FROZEN

So now we’ve got 2 sets of frozen jammies and 1 frozen dress which means one little 4 year old is sorted for winter. These flannelette pjs will make the sweetest gift for a little Frozen fan and keep them warm too. $22 for the set.

2. ANYTHING BONDS

You can’t beat the classics like stripey tops and denim. $15 for the top and $20 for the jeans (the jeans are called skinnies but super cute on my chubby).

$16 for the printed tee and $13 for the leggings.

3. CUTE CHARACTER BODYSUITS FOR BABIES

Just $12 for these fun bodysuits in your favourite character. I can’t tell you how excited our 2 year old was to find the buzz lightyear one and how determined he was to put it on (even though it was a size 00)

4. ANYTHING PINK

I remember when I had my first baby girl and started meeting people who were deliberately not dressing their girls in pink and I was like WHAT??? WHY???? I can’t help it. I love pink. I have branched off into navy and other colours but I’ll always love pink.  I couldn’t resist these pink foil polka dot leggings with a co-ordinating top. This will be a great outfit for preschool and playgroup days and is girly, fun, comfy and warm. $16 for the sweat top and $9 for the leggings, both from the Emerson range at BIG W and I think this might be my favourite outfit for preschool this year.

5. BOW TIES AND BRACES

Smart outfits for little and big boys and great if you have a special event coming up this year or for church and birthday parties. We have 2 weddings to take our little guy to this year and I just know he’s going to the look the cutest in this set. Peter Morrissey for BIG W, $18 for the chambray shirt and bow tie set and $22 for the pants and braces bringing the outfit in at $40 and for a special occasion I think that’s a pretty good deal.

AND NOW FOR A FUN GIVEAWAY

Because I love shopping and dressing my little ones, I thought it would be fun if I picked out a few outfits for your little one! All you need to do is pick one of your kids – or two  (perhaps your best behaved or your hardest to dress or maybe the one who gets all the hand me downs!). Tell me their sizes and what they like (or you like them) to wear! Check out the BIG W Baby sale catalogue here to drop me some hints and I’ll create 5 prize packs for $50 each which will be mailed out to you. I know I’m going to have fun with this one! If you trust me!!!!!!

entries close 17th February 2015, one entry per person, full terms of my giveaways can be found here 

 And thanks to BIG W for sending out the lovely clothes…..and also thanks to the makers of the lollypops and smarties which were the only way I was going to grab some photos and co-operation

I need your craft stall ideas

Well a new school year means diving head first into volunteering at school. I know some of you love to volunteer too especially in the craft department. One of the jobs I’m helping with is the school fete later in the year and the craft stall. I remembered the first meeting is tomorrow and I realised that I had all these ideas in my head and hadn’t actually put pen to paper. These are the cute little tissue holders I made for the mothers day stall last year, you can find the super easy tutorial here.

And I thought who better to ask than my lovely readers for the things they make or love at a craft stall. So far I’ve got

tissue covers

hairclips

baby bibs

appliqued onesies

handmade cards

pincushions

crocheted/knitted cotton facewashers and some soap

peg bag

fabric fat quarters

hit me with yours because I know you have better ideas than me………………….

and if you’re looking to do craft markets or a market stall yourself this year, I have a great little post here with my top tips

my winter knitting wish list

We had a really chilly day last week and I had to scramble for some jumpers for my little guys. So of course my thoughts have turned to what to knit this winter. I love knitting in winter. There is no better excuse to get comfy on the couch or in your favourite chair and spend the night knitting. So let’s start with a pattern that I have been hanging out for….tiKKi’s Wallaby which I will be making in 10 ply. I’m thinking something grey like Bendigo’s Luxury in Ghost will be lovely and neutral. The pattern comes in 4 ply, 8 ply or 10 ply options which I think is fabulous and the sizing starts from little babies. Another winner for me.

and for my little lawson I’m thinking a placket neck pullover like the one I did for his big brother.

And like all good patterns it wasn’t the first time I’d made it. I made the placket neck for my big girl when she was a little one and then passed it on to my littlest miss. Adorable in a cherry red Bendigo back room special

I love those back room specials, you never know what you’ll get. Bendigo back room? Got no idea what I’m talking about? You need to read here. I’m hoping I’ll be back there some time this year en route to Melbourne.

the back room

Now a pattern that I had hanging around since my big girl was a teeny tiny girl but had only made a few years ago was Duck Soup and it really is a winner in winter! I might need a moment to look at this sweet little face that is just adorable. I used a Bendigo back room special and it was just perfect! my only regret is that she’s now grown out of it and I’ll have to make another one. Definitely add it to your wish list because it was really easy to make and so lovely on. You can see all the different Duck Soups that have been made and I love how people have knit it up in cream then added the multicoloured

And for any little babies being born then I’m just going to have to do another granny’s favourite which I just adore. I did this in a back room special from Bendigo called Shetland 8 ply and it was just lovely for a little newborn.

Another kina? Well never say never! I’ve got about 10cm to go on the kina I’m doing now and they are gorgeous in winter over a long sleeved tee or winter dress and are the best little cardy for parties and church. That’s why I’m so addicted as I’ve never met a kina I didn’t like. And I might just have to use this Luxury Aquarium again

And lastly to finish it off since it is a wish list! Sly Fox Cowl, and I’d love to try my hand at Fair Isle with this baby cardigan from Purl Soho and maybe another Gidday Baby because it was such a sweet pattern.

I think that will keep me busy and let’s see how much I actually get done now that the busy life is back on with everyone at school and a little one at preschool! Have your thoughts turned to winter knitting yet???? What’s on your wish list?

 

another flower sugar giveaway

CONGRATULATIONS HEATHER MILLER WHO WON THE GIVEAWAY! THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR ENTERING

I’ve been checking my driveway throughout the day for this delivery and wasn’t it worth the wait. The latest Flower Sugar range in some of my favourite colours (sorry green fans, I seem to have been a bit carried away with reds, pinks and blue). I’m popping packs of these into my store now but thought a giveaway was well overdue.

I’ll giveaway a fat quarter pack of these beauties – one of every one pictured – to one lucky reader. Just tell me your all time favourite colour and why. Giveaway is open to my readers all over the world, one entry per person and entries close 7th February 2015. Good luck!

I have to tell you that the pink bolt in the front middle is killing me! I had just unwrapped the plastic off all of these bolts, the kids were going crazy, clean laundry piled all over the table was gently shoved out of the way for a photo, I was trying to get a photo in good light before the sun went down and cook dinner! Multitasking and didn’t check my photos closely enough to see that the pink bolt is the wrong way around! Please excuse me…………you probably didn’t even notice but I did!  

back to school : lunchbox ideas with Aldi

brought to you by ALDI

Well you might already be back into making lunchboxes as you read this or perhaps like me you have a couple of days before you get back into making lunchboxes. I have conducted my own ‘lunchbox and drink bottle’ audit to see how we were going with everything, look at what needed replacing and organise the cupboard so that everything didn’t fall out on you when you opened it. Good news is that we have plenty of lunchboxes already.

Now I have been asked a few times for a blog post on lunchboxes so I look forward to sharing a few tips with you although I do have to admit that I’m not one to have fancy lunchbox fillings. I think some of these lunchboxes would also suit the office or a day out for busy mums as well!

Let’s start with your growing boy or girl or husband who needs 2 sandwiches in their lunchbox! We’ve got ham and cheese on a soy and linseed loaf (Bakers Life Bakehouse Soy & Linseed $2.69 a loaf), some fruit and some sultanas. When it comes to the sesame snaps ($1.49 for a 3 pack from ALDI) please check your school’s allergy policy first as they contain sesame. If not allowed then save them for an after school or after sports snack or for the adults in the family. I love them as a sweet treat with a cup of coffee or peppermint tea.

For the gluten free, vegetarian or super health conscious member of the family we’ve got some spinach and roasted sweet potato salad. You could have some feta on top too. Just peel and cube a few sweet potatoes, drizzle on some olive oil, salt and pepper and some smoked paprika and roast in a 180 degrees oven for about 1/2 hour. Delicious. Just keep them in a bowl covered in the fridge until you need them. Add some cherry tomatoes, fruit and a squeezy yoghurt (Brooklea Yogurt Squishy $1.29 for 150g) but leave out if the lunchbox needs to be dairy free). Some rice crackers or cakes would also be great in this one.

And then for the fussiest member of the family. I have one and he hasn’t hit school yet but he has mastered the art of turning up his nose at most things. But he will eat everything in this lunchbox. Take a wholemeal wrap or a tortilla, spread on some  mayo, some ham, roll up, slice and place into the lunchbox with some rice crackers. Some cherries, an apple and a cheese dip and crackers pack because that never comes home. I find hiding a packet of those in the pantry helps for those lazy or running late mornings when you need something.

MY TOP TIPS FOR LUNCHBOXES

look for lunchboxes with lots of compartments and some large enough for packets/crackers etc

check that your precious little one can open the lunchbox themselves before school starts. If not practice or find a new lunchbox

lots of fruit and some raw vegetables. If your lunchbox is looking a bit bland or beige then you haven’t got enough fruit in there

always keep an extra loaf of bread in your freezer so you never get caught short of bread 

 wraps, tortillas and turkish bread are an easy way to make something different in the lunchbox

get creative with your cookie cutters for those fussy eaters 

 the next time you’re making cookies, freeze half your dough in a roll and then slice and bake the night before for something delicious in the kids lunchboxes.

get the kids involved in baking some morning tea treats like jam drops

 grapes, blueberries, cherries and strawberries aren’t the cheapest fruits but don’t be put off buying them because compared to a packet of biscuits they are much better for you and the kids love them. 

frozen blueberries and raspberries are an easy way to add some colour to your next batch of muffins

buy an extra bag of grapes and pop them in your freezer to make them last and for a great cold snack in lunchboxes

don’t forget to always follow the school’s allergy policy especially with nuts, eggs and dairy

always keep some dried fruit and hide a packet of muesli bars or biscuits in your pantry for when you are running low on lunchbox supplies and can’t get to the shops

don’t pack too much especially for your littlest of eaters. Too much food can leave them sitting eating while their friends are playing or overwhelm a little one just starting out at school.

cans of tuna and a jar of mayo will also come in handy when you think you have nothing for lunch. Pop on a sandwich or with some crackers for a tasty lunch. 

All of the food for this post came from ALDI and mums know that they can find the best prices for groceries at ALDI. Keep an eye out for the Baker’s Loaf Bakehouse Bread which is $2.69 a loaf and comes in 5 varieties - white, wholemeal, multigrain, light rye and soy & linseed. All of which are free from artificial colours and preservatives. We are always well stocked with bread as we need it for breakfast and lunches and a sandwich is always in our lunchbox for the big kids. ALDI also have a back to school catalogue here with some great specials.

And I’m going back for these great sunscreen rolls which have a clip for the school bag! perfect for my kids who can all put their own sunscreen on and great before heading out to playtime. And I don’t think they can lose this one. Genius. How did I not know about this…………$3.99 from ALDI too. Head instore to see the limited edition back to school Special Buys range, only available while stocks last.

What’s your top lunchbox tip? Especially for our fresh faced kindy mums this year…………………….