Monday, August 11, 2014

How to make a kids viking costume on a budget

The Trickster was invited to an awesome How To Train Your Dragon party a few weeks ago, and because he is a little obsessed with dress up at the moment (gee, where does he get that from? *wink wink*), he said he wanted to be a viking for the day. Even after being told it wasn't actually a dress up party. The kid is a fabulous.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a costume and I've been embracing my inner craft blogger of late, so I decided to MAKE a costume. Ambitious, much? I thought I could stitch some material together and it would be quite, ahem, rustic and therefore historically correct. Vikings didn't have overlockers, ya know!

SO I checked for some faux fur material but on my way I stumbled across this:


Oh yeah, I did. I sent my kid to a party wearing a bathmat and toilet mat set. That cost $6 in a 50% off sale at Best and Less. Classy shit.

It's kinda fur-like, and the toilet mat part was even already shaped for a vest meaning less cutting work for Miss Lazypants. I got to work, cutting the bathmat up and sewing it, occasionally holding it up to the little guy to see if it was looking vest-y. My year eight home ec. teacher would have a seizure if she knew I was using my sewing "skills" 20 years later. Related: Holy shit it's been 20 years since I started high school.

I threw the off cuts from the arm holes down and they landed in the shape of a beard and moustache... BRAINWAVE! All vikings need facial hair for historical accuracy, yes? The longer offcuts from the bath mat I kept for leg thingamajigs that I saw some of the vikings wearing in the movie. They look like legwarmers but it just doesn't sound butch enough to say viking legwarmers, does it? I grabbed some shoelaces from the supermarket for $1 to tie them on. Because vikings didn't have safety pins. I'm assured historical accuracy is fun.


Then it was on to the weapons. I was pointed in the direction of a tutorial to make viking hats (because historical accuracy can be thrown out the window if things are cute) and shields. Some late night cardboard cutting with the help of MapGuy who can trace his roots back to the vikings (which makes up for the whole viking hat thing, ya know), and some masking tape and gaffa tape produced awesome results:


All that was left was to put the whole ensemble together. It's a little rustic, but that is part of it's charm. Because I had the cardboard (a nappy box) and the two lots of tape, those parts were pretty much free, meaning my outlay for the whole project was a whopping $7.

He loved it. I loved it. People could recognize what it was meant to be, and it cost me almost nothing. That's winning in my books.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Letter to Bobbin - eleven months

Dear Bobbin,

My sweetheart, I am so, so sorry. A mountain of shame and regret weigh heavily on my shoulders for forgetting you were with me that day. I need you to know that it is not because I don't love you, just a sign that I am losing the battle against insomnia of late and have been really distracted. If I could go back in time and make it right, I would. But I can't change what happened, so instead I'm going to use it as a profound learning experience and tell everyone I know how easy it is to forget your baby in the car in the hope that it might just save a life one day.

The whole thing has rocked me to my core. I love you and I love being your mother, so the thought of something happening to you fills me with dread. The idea that I could be responsible for that? I just can't even. I can't bear to think about it any more. I've decided that after this weekend, I will stop beating myself up for it and move on as best I can, taking joy in your last few weeks of baby-hood before you turn one. Extra cuddles, extra kisses, sleeping together and being worn.

You have been busy the last few weeks, taking your first steps at 10 months and 10 days old in to the waiting arms of your Aunty Penny. It was magical. Your Dad and I were both there to witness it and we all shouted and clapped at such a great milestone. I, err, may have been a little overzealous with my cheering because you got scared and cried... and didn't walk again for a week! Your preferred method of getting around is still your funny half crawl half scoot, but you will walk around the room and strangely, walk on placemats. There was one on the floor and you wanted to walk on it... so we put them all down, creating a path for you, and you just kept going. Excuse the crappy phone footage, but hurrah, we got your second lot of steps on camera!


You have an obsession with climbing. Nothing is safe! Tricky's table and chairs? You managed to climb up and stand on the table. Anything you can get a foot on, you will climb with no fear. You climbed a slide and a ladder the other day (with Nanna and I spotting you so you were safe) and didn't falter. STOP IT. Mama has had enough heart attacks, thanks.

The second music starts, you bop along and go for ages. You sway to the dancing unicorn toy and play it so much that I'm regretting putting batteries in it. But it's just so cute, so maybe I'll just put tape over the speaker. Clever mama.



Your favourite word is no. Surprise! You shake your head and say it whenever we say it... usually because you've thrown your food or water bottle on the ground. You can just put it down, sweetie, you don't have to throw it, OK? Your second favourite word is Tricky. You crawl around the house calling for him, it's so cute.

As we head toward your birthday, the party plans are starting to take shape but I have no idea who to invite because you love everyone and are happy to play with every kid you meet. So the guest list is currently around 100 and will be culled to approximately 15 people. Mama has to keep to her budget, ya know!

I can't wait to see what this next month brings, my smoosh.

Love Mama x

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The day I left my baby in the car


I'm opening myself up to a lot of criticism with this post. If you'd like to tell me how horrible I am, go ahead. There is nothing you can say to me that I haven't already said to myself. But maybe, just maybe, you'll see that by pressing publish on this post, when tragic stories hit the news, it isn't necessarily torch and pitchfork time.

There used to be an Australian TV show called Crownies (it's now called Janet King). They had a story line where a baby died in a hot car after the father forgot him. The episode left me devastated and has stayed with me. Then, last year, it happened in real life here in Perth with an 11 month old baby and I was equally distressed. One was a fictional family and the other a real one that I had zero connection to, and yet my heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest. I remember my arms aching to hold my babies even closer that night, and it was one of the occasions where Tricky kicking me in his sleep was a blessing.

I wrote of my distress on my Facebook page and it touched a lot of people. Some were upset whilst others were confused at how anyone could ever forget a child and suspected something sinister (as the courts in the US suspect now in a horrible case). A Washington Post article did the rounds, explaining how common forgetting a child was (it's a long, but fascinating article). It referenced the Swiss Cheese Theory and it stuck in my head. Likening our lives to slices of Swiss Cheese, the holes are all over the place and when things fall through one layer, there is another right underneath to catch it... but sometimes, those holes line up and accidents happen.

Bobbin is a few days shy of being 11 months old, and yesterday, I forgot she was with me. The holes in our Swiss Cheese life lined up:

For starters my memory is shot. On Monday I forgot, within 40 minutes that MapGuy was off work, sick. I came home to grab a bag I had forgotten and nearly shat myself when I saw someone standing in the hall out of the corner of my eye.

Yesterday MG was off work sick again. With him home it meant I could drop Tricky at his first day back at school solo, which was fabulous because getting two of them out of the car in the rain is a pain.

At pick up time I ummed and ahhed about taking Bobbin with me or leaving her home with MG because of the rain. I decided to take her then I'd go shopping after I picked up Tricks. MG put her in the car while I jumped in the front. As I was backing out the driveway I realized I'd forgotten the shopping list so MG ran inside to get it and handed it to me through the window. I even made a joke about having a terrible memory, and waved goodbye.

I drove to school thinking about nothing important. The shopping list. What time to start dinner. Wondering if Tricks had had a good day at school. Wondering if I'd get a parking spot.

I pulled in to the street and parked in the exact same spot I had parked in that morning. Score. About ten metres away from the gate, close enough to not need an umbrella, even if the few spots of rain that had been threatening for half an hour decided to fall. I got out, jammed my keys in my pocket and walked through the school gate.

I chatted. I put my name down on the parent roster. I chatted some more. Tricky came out, we hugged and I asked him about his day. "It was good. Come and play with me." So I did. The rain was holding back so we walked around his playground looking at the strawberry plants and the Camellias. I was so impressed with myself that brown-thumb me could recognize some plants.

We walked through the gate hand in hand, swinging our arms, chatting about being back at school. It was a lovely moment, until we reached the car and I opened the door for him. Because that's when I saw her.

She leaned forward in her car seat, still rear-facing, and smiled at Tricky, saying his name.

I felt all the air rush out of my lungs and for the briefest of moments I could swear my heart stopped. I was so confused.

What the fuck is going on? How did you get here? Didn't I leave you with your Dad? No. I didn't. I brought you. I forgot you. I left you. Fuck. FUCK!

Ten minutes. I forgot her for ten whole fucking minutes while I made bullshit small talk about school holidays and not getting any sleep.

I got in the car and carried on like nothing had happened. We went to the shops and I walked around on autopilot grabbing the handful of things we needed. I spoke to the cashier, I smiled at a school mum, I told Tricky he couldn't have a packet of biscuits. Just push through, just go through the motions, don't acknowledge the horror, don't fall apart.

At home I told MG and then emailed my sister to declare that I was the worst mother to have ever lived. A throw back to Catholic school days and a need to confess my sins, searching for absolution. They were both shocked but understanding. I withdrew.

You would think, that after such a disturbing event, that I would spend the rest of the afternoon hugging my children, smothering them with kisses. But I didn't. For the remainder of the afternoon I avoided my kids, so ashamed with my actions (or lack thereof) that I could barely look at them. The thoughts that ran through my head were dark and scary, reminiscent of times when the Black Dog was not just barking at my heels, but mauling my soul. It was frightening how quickly I went back to old, familiar thought patterns.

After a few hours, when I could breathe again, I ran a bath for me and the kids. I washed their hair and we played with cups, splashing and laughing. Be normal. Be normal. Be normal.

I read Tricky a book and cuddled him to sleep, stroking his hair. Bobbin fed to sleep in my arms and I held her for a while, kissing her forehead, smelling that fresh baby smell as the endless what ifs circled whirled through my head. And finally, I cried.

MapGuy says it's OK. That all is forgiven. This was "just" ten minutes on a rainy day with no tragic outcome. I know I would tell someone else in my position that it was an accident, to take the experience, move on, learn from it. But right now, I just can't forgive myself.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Walking is Full Of Rubbish


I've started walking. Well, I could walk before, so it's not like I've risen from a wheelchair all "praise cheesus" and the like, but I've started walking just for walking's sake.

Normally any time I mention "for sake" it's for fuck's sake, so this is quite a leap.

I joined Operation Move in the hopes that my mates Kate and Zoey and the people who have joined the newbie move group would motivate me to keep going with pom poms and cheers and Facebook likes on my "I walked to the shops" posts. That and I spent money, and I'm such a tight ass that I have to do it now.

So I've been walking. And then my stupid muscle fibres decided that it was time to just tear whenever they felt like it again, bringing on a massive pain flare and I had to stop for a couple of weeks while it all healed and my old person medication kicked in. All the woe.

I started again today. I walked to the shops with Tricky by my side and Bobbin in her pram/my walking frame. I always notice the rubbish when I walk my neighbourhood and today was no different. Discarded TAB stubs, cigarette butts, wrappers emblazoned with the golden arches and a shit heap of beer bottles and UDL cans. If the litter is anything to go by, people in my neighbourhood are struggling with addiction (says the binge eater who drinks too much).

There we were, walking along, and I just got a bit pissed off seeing so much crap everywhere. I like my street. I don't live in a fancy area but I like it. I believe that things are only as a good as the effort you put in, so it was time to do something about it. We grabbed some trash bags and gloves and cleared as much of the rubbish as we could on one side of the road between our house and the shops.

Tricks loved it. Who can spot the most bottles? How many pieces can you pick up in a minute? The first person to find a Maccas wrapper and so on became our games.

People stopped to comment.

"Oh, you're doing such a great job" and "You should be careful of syringes" were the two most common. One man even took our photo and wanted to put it on Facebook which was strangely embarrassing despite plastering my own photos all over the 'book every day.

850 metres gave a yield of five bags so full of rubbish that two burst open (thankfully when we were in our driveway already).

Most of it is now in my recycling and the few bits that can't be recycled (baby wipes and even a nappy - ew!) is in the bin and no longer on the side of the road. And I feel fan-bloody-tastic for it.

Tricks is learning the importance of recycling, caring for the environment, taking an active role in the neighbourhood and what not, but all he cares about is that he gets to wear cool little gloves and pick up things covered in muck. We're gonna keep doing it.

Go grab some gloves, some bags, go for a walk and pick up some rubbish. I promise you'll feel awesome.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Coconut and raspberry pikelets


How do I love thee, pikelets. Let me count the ways.

You're a super quick snack made from pantry staples, you are the perfect size for kiddies, your recipe is flexible and somewhat healthy depending on what goes in, and you're bloody delicious little pillows of yum.

Almost every time I make them, I change the recipe. Banana, choc chip (or the heaven that is banana and choc chip), orange and poppyseed, chia seed when I'm feeling a bit wanky, dairy free with fruit puree and of course, plain with a shitload of butter. My latest fave is coconut and raspberry because firstly I somehow bought a kilo of coconut last week and have been chucking it in everything since, and secondly, everything tastes amazing with coconut and raspberry in it.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut (shredded, desiccated, depending on which texture you prefer)
  • 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ~ 1 1/2 cups of milk (this varies on how dry the coconut is)
  • 2 eggs, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, blitzed (optional - just go for the jam at the end if you want)
  • butter for greasing the frypan
  • the tinsiest little bit of oil to stop the butter burning
  • raspberry jam to serve

Method
  • Preheat your frypan. No, really. You don't want the first batch to be rank and half cooked, do you?
  • Chuck coconut, flour, baking powder and eggs in to a bowl, gradually add milk until you have the batter at the desired consistency - I like it a little thick to make fluffier pikelets
  • Whisk it. Get your arm in to it. Pretend you're a TV chef
  • Put the tinsiest bit of oil in the pan and a knob of butter
  • Laugh that you used the word knob
  • Swirl it around then drop plops of coconutty batter in to the pan
  • When the tops dull and a bubble or two form, flip it over - don't leave it until there are squillions of burst bubbles, you want that air inside the pikelet
  • Cook on the other side until, well, cooked - ten seconds?
  • Flip out those golden orbs of awesome on to a plate and serve with raspberry jam in a vintage thingy you found at an op shop
  • Instagram the shit out of it
I have absolutely no idea if these freeze well because none have ever survived long enough for me to find out. Lemme know?

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