A Garden-themed birthday party for a 4-year-old girl

Four years ago, on the thirteenth day in September, as nature burst into new life and the Jasmine flowers bloomed, my “Miss J” was born. It wasn’t a lovely labour – you can read about it here – but when she was placed in my arms I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Another girl. Another healthy baby. Another life full of possibility. A sister for Miss A. A second daughter for us and a tribe of cousins ready to meet her.

We had shortlisted our girl names but hadn’t yet decided on the “the one.” It’s tempting to say we wanted to wait to see her to name her, but the truth is we simply couldn’t make up our minds. We liked three girls’ names equally. It was my husband who named her shortly after her arrival. “I think she looks like a J,” he said. He was right. She was small, delicate and oh-so-pretty. That she should be named after a Spring flower, the scent of which makes me happy, seemed perfect. And so, “Miss J” she became.

She requested a ‘Spring Garden’ theme for her birthday this year. 12 of her friends gathered at our home to celebrate and the party was a hit. I had a fabulous time theming and styling the party and now I am going to share it all with you. Here’s how YOU can create a spectacular garden party that would easily suit a boy or girl. And it won’t break the bank.

The Setting

Naturally, the ideal setting for a garden theme is in a garden, provided it doesn’t rain! We were blessed with clear, sunny skies and our garden was the perfect backdrop for the celebrations. The party guests sat at several kids’ tables joined up to make one long table. I borrowed a few extra chairs and we were able to seat 12 kids together. I used white wrapping paper to cover the tables and I bought some green felt from a craft shop and created a “grass” table runner.

The Decorations

The beauty of a garden theme is you don’t really have to go out and create a garden. Extra elements can be as few or as many as you like. I bought a cute butterfly bunting from Typo and my talented mother-in-law made a pretty bunting for Miss J’s bedroom, which we hung behind the party food table.

Table Styling

I had SO much fun styling the table. On top of the grass I scattered moss rocks and wood chips (bought from Zart Art). I then placed fairies on top of the wood chips and these cute little ladybirds (bought from $2 shop). The girls made pixie petal dust by collecting petals from the garden and filling these cute jars (also from the $2 shop). I spread leaves and flowers from the garden over the table, and each table setting included a pretty flower. The birthday girl had a bunch of fresh jasmine on her plate.


I pegged nametags to the serviettes and the kids all looked so cute when they raced to the table to find their spot. It created a sense of celebration by seating them at one table…and it confined the crumbs to one spot!

The party food

There are lots of options for party food within a garden theme. Some easy options for the non-bakers too:-)

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are a staple at all our parties. This time I decorated with buttercream and fondant flowers. Miss A helped me create Toadstool cupcakes with ladybirds on top by dying the buttercream red and placing white choc chips on top.

Ladybird Strawberries

Aren’t these just adorable? I saw these on Pinterest and they were super easy to replicate, even with my average piping skills. Simply dip the strawberries in melted chocolate, allow to set slightly and then attach eyes (see below for method). Pipe chocolate on top of strawberries and you’re done!

Caterpillar fruit sticks

The caterpillars were another Pinterest find that I adapted slightly. Simply thread grapes onto a bamboo skewer. Top with a cherry tomato and use some icing paste to attach the eyes. I made the eyes several days prior to the party by piping white chocolate buttons onto baking paper and then placing a cachous in the centre. I kept in a sealed container in the fridge.

Fairy Bread and Sushi

What child doesn’t love fairy bread? We cut stars, flowers and dragonflies with cookie cutters. Easy. Yummy. I also served sushi and sausage rolls – nothing fancy about heating sausage rolls and buying sushi. The guests drank fruit juice from these cute little milk bottles.

Birthday Cake

A garden themed party needs a garden styled cake. And I set myself another fondant challenge. You may remember my maiden attempt at fondant for Miss A’s ballerina cake earlier this year. There’s a great deal of fear when working with fondant. So many pressure points.

I made two standard butter cakes that I froze in advance. I made the fondant shapes a week prior to the party. They keep in an airtight container and with a cake like this you simply have to prepare early. Miss A helped me dye, roll and cut the fondant shapes. She even has her own little fondant rolling pin.

The cake assembly happened the night before. I iced it in two coats of buttercream (once as a crumb coat), and then I draped it in white fondant and covered it in pretty flowers, dragonflies and ladybirds. The beauty of adding shapes to the fondant is it conceals any errors. The other trick is to tie a ribbon around the base of the cake. Finally I topped with a bunting and her name.

Party Bags

I picked up these cute garden themed party bags from Spotlight and attached with a fairy wand, because fairies live at the bottom of EVERY garden.

Bird’s nest

In Australia, it’s nesting season and as luck would have it, three baby birds were born just days before the party. How’s that for fitting with the theme!! Serendipitous.

So, there you have it – a Spring Garden party for a 4-year-old girl. I won’t pretend it was easy – it was a BIG job. But when I looked at Miss J’s eyes dripping with gratitude, her face shining with happiness, it was worth every ounce of effort. That night, when she collapsed into bed with a full heart and a full tummy, she locked her eyes with mine and said: “Thank you for the great party, Mama”… and then she was asleep.

My darling Miss J, without you the world wouldn’t be half as beautiful, or half as meaningful, or half as large. You are beautiful, vibrant, happy and delightful. How I love you, darling girl. You’ll never know the half of it, and that’s just fine. Happy 4th birthday!

Do you typically have your kids’ parries at home or are you smart and have them elsewhere? :-)

‘Me time': Why you need it and how to get more of it

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Modern life is fast and furious. We are overcommitted, overscheduled and over-connected. Most of us are working long hours, managing a family and social obligations, and trying to fit in exercise, errands, and all the other activities of modern life.

The majority of parents feel like they don’t have enough time for themselves, but mothers are especially burdened by this feeling. Whether you are working inside or outside the home, being a mother means making adjustments, compromises and sacrifices every day. Often, “me time” is made up of what scraps are leftover at the end of the day. I wrote this article recently about being in a state of mothering burnout. It resonated with so many women, partly because we women tend to overlook their own needs.

Taking time out for yourself is not indulgent; it is critical, but it doesn’t come easily.  The good news,as I have discovered, is it gets easier with practice. Here are four tips to help you get some of the often elusive, yet all-important, “me time.”

1. Give yourself permission to prioritise yourself

Motherhood is an extremely draining role so it’s crucial to engage in something that is just for you. No one else is going to do this for you so only you can make it happen. It’s not going to come from your 3-year-old or your teenager for that matter. If you’re lucky your partner will be on board but really the only person who can make this shift is you. Prioritising yourself will pay dividends for the whole family. It’s not selfish and it’s not a luxury – it’s a necessity. Being healthy and happy in yourself has direct benefits for your children and at work.

2. Schedule regular “me time”

No mother “finds” time for herself. She must make time for herself. Mothers excel at scheduling their children’s activities but often neglect their own. Just as you have to make plans to get your kids to kinder ballet, gymbaroo, or Auskick, you need to apply the same planning to your own needs. If it’s not planned for, and allocated a time slot, it will never happen. Mothers are quick to dismiss themselves, declaring, “there’s simply no time in the day.” While there may not be a lot of free time, there are always pockets of time you can create. It won’t just land in your lap; you need to priorities, plan and execute.

Once a week I drag my tired body out of bed and go for a run before my husband goes to work. And once a week he gets home early so I can do an evening yoga class. On weekends, we adopt the “divide and conquer” rule. While it’s lovely to spend time together on weekends, it’s often the only time when hubby can take the girls off for a couple of hours, allowing me essential replenishment time. I take it where and when I can get it!

3. Choose where you invest your energy wisely

It’s important to recognise the areas of your life zapping you of energy that could be better directed at yourself. We are all obligated to others – that comes with being a part of a family, community or school. But it’s essential to be involved in things that inflate us rather than deflate us. You will know if a particular commitment is becoming a burden. It’s the one that you dread attending and the one that gives little back. Listen to how you feel and protect your energy by saying no when you need to.

I find if I am over-committed it has knock-on effect in all areas of my life. I become unmotivated to write, and less motivated to parent. Instead, I need space from people and activities. It’s how I recharge. These quiet moments to re-energise are actually vital to my performance as a mother.

4. Connect/Reconnect with something you love

With so much time being invested into the family, mothers often find they no longer have any hobbies. This is certainly how I felt until I found a new hobby and reconnected with an old one. It’s easy to say, “I really enjoyed Pilates before having children”, or “I’d love to learn a new language,” but this is a defeatist attitude. While certain sacrifices are unavoidable when kids come along, it’s critical we don’t forsake everything. And “me time” becomes easy when you’re engaged in something you love.

“Me time” looks different for everyone. The beauty of me time is it can take on many forms. Perhaps it’s an afternoon of indulgence, a lazy brunch with girlfriends, or a book and a picnic rug in the park. Identify what makes you feel happy, and then make it happen. And most importantly, enjoy it. Guilt free.

Do you have regular “me time”? What is your ideal way to take time out from work & family commitments?

*First published on Women’s Agenda

My blog turns 2 – elk giveaway up for grabs

Birthday

Birthdays are great fun aren’t they? They are an opportunity for reflection, contemplation and, of course, celebration! For little people, birthdays are filled with intense anticipation, excitement and promise – promise of cake!

When your first baby turns one parents usually celebrate but it’s as much for the adults as it is for the child. At such a young age but they don’t really get into it. They have little concept of what the fuss is all about. And as every parents knows, they’re much more excited by the wrapping paper than what is inside. But by the time the second birthday rolls around they are much more attuned to what’s going on, notably, that the day is ALL ABOUT THEM!

Not another slippery dip is about to turn TWO and my “baby” wants to celebrate. You may recall when I turned one. I enjoyed a quiet celebration and was pretty thrilled that I had kept my blog alive but this year I reckon I’ve earned extra champagne. My baby has moved from the newborn phase, beyond infancy and is now officially a thriving toddler (minus the tantrums I promise you)!

I am going to hit you with a few of my milestones:

Collectively I have over 1500 followers. Considering it took a while to reach anyone other than my husband, sister and a few friends, this is a very big deal to me!

People – parents presumably – have visited my blog and clicked on a post over 68,000 times. And they come from all corners of the globe.

My most successful post this year was The 5 most stressful experiences after birth and was viewed over 7,000 times in the one day!

Over 1200 people have taken the time to comment on a post and for this I am immensely grateful. My goal for the year ahead is for NASD to become more interactive and for it to keep growing and engaging more parents. If commenting isn’t your thing, that’s totally fine – just give me a hint that you’re reading by “liking”.

OK, that’s it for the numbers. I’d like to say THANK YOU for enjoying the slippery dip ride with me. To show my gratitude my lovely friend at elk accessories is providing a fabulous prize. And because it’s my second birthday she’s providing not one but TWO elk gift vouchers valued at $150 each.

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I have loved elk from day dot. Marnie continues to expand her range and creativity and I am in awe of her talent. Check out their new (summer) range, just released.

So, how do you win one of these awesome prizes? It’s easy. Simply answer the following question: (in the comments section below on this page) Do you have a birthday rule or ritual? What is it? Then click on the Rafflecopter link to complete your entry. You must ‘Like’ the NASD Facebook page to be eligible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For me, a birthday means as little domestic output as possible. Strictly no cooking or washing for 24 hours. It’s a DFD – domestic free day. I confess that my birthday ritual used to be a little more exciting but since becoming a mother, almost 6 years ago, this kind of gets me excited. Add some bubbles and I am happy (big hint to hubby)! And in the time honoured tradition of two-year-olds thinking the world revolves around them, I plan on being as self-indulgent as I like :-)

Good luck!

 

The pros and cons of being a routine parent

IMG_7021Before I became a parent I was very spontaneous. I once quit my job and flew to Italy to surprise my sister on her 30th birthday. Once there, after the celebrations, I impulsively extended my trip and travelled on to Switzerland and Turkey. It was spontaneous fun! In my early years of marriage, weekends were filled with similar spontaneity; day drives out of town, spur of the moment social outings and many spontaneous Sunday sessions at the pub. Although do they classify as “spontaneous” when you just happen to end up in a beer garden every weekend?

Being a parent and spontaneity don’t sit easily together, at least not for me anyway. When Miss A was born I read Robin Barker’s famed Baby Love, in which she extols the virtues of routines for babies. It seemed to make sense and Miss A easily adapted into a routine. I fed every 3-4 hours, she slept for another 3, and so the cycle continued. This structure held appeal for me, too. I liked knowing what was coming next. I liked being in control, and routines make you feel supremely in control. (more…)

A tale about lingerie and a fabulous giveaway

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New motherhood brings both emotional and physical changes.  It involves new beginnings and abrupt endings. Sleep, spontaneity and sex are likely to come to a screeching halt! But perhaps one of the biggest adjustments is the changes to a woman’s body following pregnancy and childbirth. (more…)

Ethical dilemmas and my stint on radio

Screenshot 2014-07-31 10.39.26The scent of sausages sizzling on a hot barbeque is one of my favourite smells. Which is odd, given I am a vegetarian. It also makes trips to Bunnings a continual ethical dilemma. How can I be so drawn to the smell of something that I am repulsed by? In my latest piece for The Hoopla I explore the many dilemmas of trying to live an ethical life.

The article struck a chord with readers and was picked up by the morning show’s Studio Ten. You can read the article and view the footage of the discussion on TV here. (more…)