Saturday, December 31, 2011

As 2011 Draws to a Close...

As 2011 draws to a close I have been reflecting on the year we have had as a family and all the memories we have created together. It has been a wonderful mix of great times and like everyone else, has had it's share of challenging experiences too.
We have faced the trial of my husband's redundancy and the uncertainty this brings to your life. The fear of the unknown has always been great for me and it has been a real trial of my faith to trust that this challenge would pass and that something would pop up.
Thankfully, something did and I have learnt a lot from this experience. I have learnt never to take any job for granted and to prepare for times of trial. It has also made me change my perspective of my husband's work and to accept and deal with all the aspects that go with his career, such a long hours at the office and time spent away from family.
Instead of resenting this, I have made a conscious choice to accept it and remember the ways we have been blessed, rather than focusing on the things we can't change. This has helped me tremendously and I feel a lot happier in myself. This in turn gives me strength to keep going and trying my best to become the mother I want and need to be for my children.
I still have a long way to go and I am far from perfect, however I am looking forward to continuing to work on this in 2012 as we face the challenges that come our way.
On the flipside, I have had the most fantastic year in my work as a teacher. I am truly blessed to have a job which I love and this year in particular, has been a highlight. I have had 31 of the most amazing, bright, thoughtful students and I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure going to work each day with them.
My work is important to me, however I am aware that it does consume a lot of my time and energy. This year I felt that all that effort was worth it and I was so proud of each and every one of my students and the progress they made. When you spend six hours a day with a group of people, you become very close and I was very sad when the year drew to a close. It was one of those special classes that helped make 2011 such a wonderful, memorable year for me. :)
2011 has also marked a milestone in little Harry's life. On 20 December he turned five and bid farewell to his preschool days. He has loved his time there and it has made such a difference to me as a working mum, to know that he is being cared for in a loving, supportive environment.
He is always happy to go each morning and greet his teachers and friends and I know that he has many fond memories of his time there. Rosie has also had a wonderful year with a fantastic teacher and has continued to grow in confidence.
She is a naturally shy girl, but has gained so much confidence in herself through her dancing and performing. She has also turned into a little bookworm, something that makes me very happy as I was a bookworm from a young age and loved to read.
Overall, it has been a wonderful year and I am so grateful that much of it has been documented through Project Life. It has been a challenge to keep up with this project all year, however it has been worth it and I am grateful we have a beautiful keepsake which has captured the history of our family.
2012 will be an exciting one for our family. We are especially looking forward to welcoming a new baby to the family in April and I can't wait to get stuck into preparations for the new little one. I am looking forward to digging out all the little clothes and setting up the nursery. I have already begun "nesting" and my "to do" list is a mile long at the moment.
I am aware that life doesn't stop once you have a baby, however with a five year age gap I am also a little worried that there is a lot I have forgotten! I am also hoping to document the baby stage of this new bub a little more thoroughly than I have for the first two.
I am looking forward to 2012 with a sense of excitement. In the meantime, here are a few snapshots of the last few days of 2011 for the Bennett family. We have had a beautiful Christmas with our family, lots of time in the pool, a hike up Rangitoto and fun at the park. We are looking forward to creating more beautiful memories in the months to come. :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December Project Life Snapshots: Christmas Preparation

Christmas Eve has arrived and today I thought I would share some recent Project Life snapshots of what we have been up to in the last few weeks...
Making stockings for Santa!

Making Christmas cake

Some holiday decorating!

Dusting off the tree ornaments from storage

Setting up the mini tree in Rosie and Harry's bedroom

Making treats for friends

Dressing up as shepherds in the church nativity play

Off to the show!

Some Christmas grocery shopping

Taking gifts to the Christmas wishing tree

Christmas shopping!
I hope all your preparations for this special season have been a bundle of fun!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Book and Activity Basket

This year we decided to create a Christmas themed book and activity basket to bring all our festive items together in one place. This makes them easily accessible and really cuts down on searching time when seeking out our favourites!
At the beginning of December we went through our Christmas storage boxes and took out all our Christmas books. I like to keep these tucked away during the year so that they are special when they come out during the festive season.  
We only have a small collection of these at the moment but I am hoping to add a couple more each year to slowly build our collection. This year we added the Christmas Snap game and and Mr Men 'The Night Before Christmas'.
We also added in a couple of Christmas DVD's, our Christmas Memory Match and our reindeer food, ready to to put out on Christmas Eve. At bedtime, the kids love to choose something from the box to read together and it has become a nice little tradition for the season.
Any basket or storage container will do, but we had this red basket tucked away in the cupboard from Harry's nursery so it has a new life now. This was a very quick organising project but one which the kids and I enjoyed doing together. :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quick Christmas Treats for Friends

Last week Rosie and I were discussing what little treats we could give to her class for Christmas this year.
Last year we made little gift bags and baked some Christmas cookies, however this year we were running short on time and needed a quicker solution.
We decided to make mini bags of M&M's for each class member and we were able to make them up one evening after dinner, in just a few minutes.
These gorgeous tags are from A Little Delightful and can be used in so many ways. We used our circular scallop punch to cut them out and then used double sided tape to attach them to some simple cellophane bags we found at Spotlight.
We found the large tubs of M&M's at KMart but unfortunately they didn't have the Christmas coloured ones this year so we had to settle for the regular kind. We sealed the bags with a Christmas sticker at the back and they were done!
This is a great easy project to do with littlies and we really enjoyed making these up and giving them to friends. Happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Delicious Christmas Cake Recipe

Making my own Christmas cake is something I have always wanted to do, but never attempted...until recently! Taff and I love Christmas cake but we usually leave it to my mum to make, as she does a very yummy one. I was talking to a co-worker a few weeks ago who said that she was planning to make her Christmas cake that weekend, so I asked if she could bring me in her recipe.
 I gathered together all my ingredients one afternoon and gave it a go and it was so satisfying to finally be making my own cake! This recipe is fantastic as it doesn't have to be prepared months, or even weeks in advance. It is able to be made and eaten immediately, or you can make and store it just as you would a traditional Christmas cake. Either way, it is delicious!
Belinda Jeffery's Last Minute Christmas Cake
300 grams unsalted butter, chopped
420 grams raw sugar
380 grams raisins
180 grams pitted prunes
160 grams sultanas
90 grams currants
90 grams piited dried dates
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (125 ml) brandy or rum (I used orange juice!)
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups (400 grams) wholemeal plain flour (I used plain white flour)
100 grams pecan halves and 50 grams raw almonds to decorate (optional)
Melt butter in a pan large enough to fit all ingredients. Add the sugar amd stir for 1-2 minutes to partially dissolve. Add the fruit, soda, brandy (or juice!) and 1 1/2 cups (325ml) water. Increase heat to medium and simmer for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature in pan. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celcius (fan forced). Grease 23cm springform pan and line with buttered baking paper.

Stir in nutmeg, cinnamon and eggs into the fruit mixture. Mix in flour and stand for a few minutes. Pour into pan and level the top. If using nuts, make a single ring around the edges or cover top in concentric circles. Bake for 2 hours 30 minutes or until cake feels firm in the middle and a skewer comes out clean. (After an hour or so, check the top; if it's a good rich brown, cover loosely with foil). Cool cake completely in pan, then remove and store in an airtight container for immediate consumption, or in plastic wrap, foil or newspaper for longer term storage.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Festive Craft: Christmas Memory Match Game

Another festive game my two littlies are enjoying is this Christmas Memory Match, found over at Simple As That.
Again, it is quick to prepare and once you have, you can store it away for many Decembers to come. They love to play this with us and it can be used from a very young age, with Mum or Dad's help.
The hardest part (which isn't hard at all!) is preparing the cards. Once you print them out, all you need to do is mount them on card and then you can laminate them for extra durability if you wish.
I found out the hard way that mounting them on card was a neccessary step after an eagle eyed Miss 7 was caught cheating! It turns out the cards are quite transparent on regular copy paper. :)
It is a very simple game and once cut out, takes next to no room to store. Give it a try!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Craft Activity: Santa's Beard

I know it is quite late to be sharing this Christmas craft but it is such a cute little idea that I figure it is better late than never. :)
I was browsing Pinterest for craft ideas and found this gorgeous little Santa countdown activity here. It takes only a couple of minutes to organise and my little ones are loving it.
All you need is a colour printer, some fluffy white cotton balls and some glue (we use PVA). There is a cute poem which we read through each day and then you glue a single cotton ball to the chart as each day passes.
Once Santa's beard is complete, you know the time has come for him to visit (provided you are on the good list, of course!). This is a great visual activity for preschoolers who can't read numbers as they can easily see Santa's beard filling up and get very excited about it.
Hope your little cherubs enjoy it as much as mine do! :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kids Summer Bedroom Update: Part Two

Here are a few more snaps of Rosie and Harry's summer bedroom update. :)
A few months ago I got these cute little bird houses from Charlotte and Austen. They come in pink, blue and green. They add a touch of whimsy to the room and tie in with the bedding really well.
My favourite things in the room are the cushions...
the bunting...
and the blue and white striped rug which also helps to tie everything together.
One of the biggest jobs to tackle in the room was the merging of the contents of two sets of drawers and two wardrobes.
This took quite some time to do, but it was a great opportunity to go through everything and make a pile for the clothing bins!

The kids were so excited to see their new space and all the work we put into it that weekend was worth it when we saw how chuffed they were.
It is onwards and upwards now and the next project to tackle is a unisex nursery for the new little one!