Friday, December 31, 2010

And just like that...

2011 is just around the corner.

I would like to wish you all a very happy and successful 2011. May the year be filled with blessings, happiness and lots of "dreams-come-true". I don't usually set typical new years resolutions, but do have a few ideas of what I want us to achieve now in the new year. What are some of the goals you are hoping to achieve?

Have a good one!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A perfect summer day and a visit to Fisherman's Table and Weta Cave

Today ended up a pretty relaxing day. Up until today it was still pretty busy. Terence's brother came to visit us for a few days and we had a lot of fun showing him around Wellington. The girls had such a lot of fun playing with Uncle Alistair and I'm not sure who got tired first - the kids or Uncle Alistair?

Today was time for him to leave again and just before going to the airport we had lunch at Fisherman's Table in Oriental Bay. It really felt like holiday today. As we strolled from our parking to the restaurant, there were people jogging, walking and riding those 4 person bikes that you rent, some were enjoying the beach and others went for a swim or kayak in the ocean. It was a beautiful sunny day today with a light breeze. The perfect summer holiday. And we had the most stunning view from our table:

After lunch we went to Weta Cave. This is the shop / museum part of Weta Workshop. They are the people that make these fancy props for some of the movies like District 9, Lord of the Rings, Avatar and so on, they also do special effects for movies. Weta Cave was so fascinating and was packed with loads of tourists. It has a lot of really cool things to see inside and definitely a place we plan to visit again in the near future.

Here is Alistair in front of rows and rows of little figurines of some of the movies like Lord of the Rings:

And of course the gun displays were popular with the boys...
After we dropped Alistair off at the airport we took the girls to one of the toy stores in the city. They had a sale on and so the girls got to spend some of their pocket money, we managed to buy a pretty cool new board game called Thurn & Taxis which seems complicated at first, but once we got started was a lot of fun. So this is another game Bianca, Terence and I can play some evenings. And best of all, I managed to sort out Caitlyn's birthday present for February.

And then we came back home. By 6:30pm we took a nice relaxing walk and it was absolutely amazing to see a Tui about 30cm away from where I was standing at one point. Next time I will have to remember to take the camera with us.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Celebrating Christmas

The night before Christmas we put out the stockings - for the 4 of us as well as Terence's brother who came to visit us.

The kids put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and water for the reindeer.

And then they woke up so early. Usually we have to wake Bianca up, but not on Christmas morning, she was the first one to wake up. And then? Then it was time for presents (how exciting!)

My mum made this very cool puppet.
Bianca was so excited that Santa brought her the guitar she asked for. And it is pink!!!! (So now Bianca will have to learn to play)

Then we had a huge Chrismas lunch. We didn't do turkey because that would have just been way too big for the 5 of us, so instead did some chicken and a small leg of pork with the usual rice, potatoes and vegetables and afterwards pavlova as part of our dessert.

I'm not all that good with interior decoration, but I tried to make our table look nice and festive.

I even added some little pohutukawa branches which is from the pohutukawa tree (also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree)

Bianca enjoyed reading the little jokes that came with the christmas crackers:


And then in the afternoon we took advantage of the sunny day (even though it wasn't overly warm):

And that is our Christmas celebrations - in a nutshell :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Once upon a time there was a camera...

We have 3 digital cameras. Not big SLR ones, but small "put in your pocket and handy to shoot whatever" ones. The reason we have 3 is that we had one (a Canon PowerShot A720 IS) which we absolutely loved and had since 2004. It worked well, had 8 megapixels, 6x optical zoom and was perfect for us. And then throughout Bianca's treatment it was so important for us to capture as many photos of what was busy happening so that we could have a visual record of Bianca's journey. Something that one day she could look at and know that that was her journey. Yes, there were many really difficult days, sad days, and some more normal and happy days also. And despite the sad and difficult and challenging I didn't want to try and forget what was happening, this was her life, it is part of her life, her memories and we owe it to her to recognize it and be able to share with her when she is older and might have some questions. And since 2007 we have taken probably a few thousand photos. So for us, a camera became very much part of our lives. But anyway, to get back to why we have 3 cameras...

We went to Piha Beach once. A beautiful black sand beach. Absolutely stunning. And when we were there one of the kids (maybe Bianca, can't remember) slipped in the water and I jumped and ran towards her (she wasn't far from me and certainly not in deep water) and in that moment, almost in slow motion, our camera, our beloved companion slipped out of my pocket and landed in the water. In salty sea water!!!!! Terence gave me such a hard time about it. So we phoned Canon and asked them if there was anything we were able to do to try and save our camera and they told us that unfortunately because it landed in the sea water it probably won't work anymore. We were devastated and thankfully they had the exact same camera on sale at the time so we bought another one and invested in a much bigger memory card. Then months later I discovered the older camera (the one that fell into the sea water) on a shelf where we left it and I decided to try and turn it on and... it actually still worked. Wow! I couldn't believe it. Turned out that it was a good decision after it fell into the water to not turn it on and so it actually had time to dry completely. So now we had 2 cameras which was really handy.

Recently the two started giving us some hassles. The one keeps asking to have the batteries replaced even though we just replaced it with brand new batteries. The other - the flash stopped working. Well it does sometimes, but more often than not it doesn't and unfortunately it means the quality of photos are pretty terrible most of the times unless it is bright enough so we could use available light. A bit depressing with Christmas on its way and so many photo opportunities that we would be missing because of these two temperamental (although probably quite overworked) cameras.

On the 11th of December Terence flew to Auckland to attend his company's Christmas party and (lucky as always) he won a new digital camera. A Samsung. Unfortunately we found that whilst it is new and had quite a few cool functions, unfortunately it is not the best quality and no matter how hard we try it keeps taking blurry out of focus shots unless you get the kids to sit dead still until you are completely done with the shot. The slightest movement before it finished the processing bit, and the image is simply out of focus.

So despite having 3 cameras neither worked particularly well. We rang Canon asking them how much it might cost to fix our Canon cameras and for them to just take a look at it (not actually fixing it or buying parts or anything like that) it would be $150 (not sure if that is for both or per camera), but we figured that since we could probably buy a brand new camera for the same cost as them looking at it and fixing it (if possible) it wouldn't be worth spending the money to get it fixed.

Yesterday we got a pretty cool surprise, just in time for Christmas. For a while now we've been participating in Fly Buys. And if I say for a while, it was since 2008. It is a loyalty programme where you get points each time you buy groceries from New World and spend at least $25 (which isn't hard with our food prices nowadays), or if you get your tyres done at Beaurepairs or your WOF and licensing at VTNZ and so on. There are quite a few retailers that are participating. And so over time we've been collecting points and finally we had enough to get a reward we really wanted. A new Canon PowerShot SX130 IS and today we received it. How exciting! And it didn't cost us a single additional cent :-)

It is much better than any of the other ones we have and such cool functions like this one where you can select just 1 colour and it makes the rest black and white (I think this is going to be one of my favourite functions):

Or you could choose a colour and replace it with another. Here Bianca's shirt is pink:

And changing it to a shade of blue:

Okay it changed her lips as well, but you get the point...

And best of all - we are all ready to capture many nice memories for Christmas :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I'm probably one of the most unlucky people in the world. I never ever win anything.

I'm so unlucky that once at the one company where I worked, I was one of 60 secretaries and once a month we'd meet together in the board room and they would arrange some speakers and often have demonstrations or lucky draws and it would be a great way to connect and share ideas and concerns. So this one time we all had to write our names on little pieces of paper and put it in a container for a lucky draw. The one girls was heavily pregnant and already sitting so she asked me if I could please write down her name on her behalf. Which I did. And then when they drew out the names (just my luck) - they picked her name. The name I wrote for this girl.

I'm the one who would still be dialing the number for the radio station when they already announce the winner. So yes, I simply am not all that lucky.

Now Terence is much luckier than me. He seems to always win something when his work has lucky draws. He's won a huge parcel before filled with all sorts of goodies, the next time he won a 1L bottle of French Champaigne and recently he won a new digital camera (okay not a very good camera as all photos pretty much comes out blurry). But that is how lucky he is :-).

Anyway, recently one of the blogs I follow had a giveaway and asked that people leave a comment. Which I did, but not thinking that I would even be considered. And what do you know? My name was selected and I won this beautiful food cover which will come in soooo handy now over Christmas. Thank you so much Enchanted Moments!

And this morning I was listening to Classic Hits on the radio on the way back from dropping Terence and Bianca off at the train and Caitlyn at daycare and when I got back home they asked that people text in their feedback on a question they asked. So I did. And about an hour later I got a call. My name was drawn and I won this cool Christmas Stocking:

There is a teddy bear from Kirkaldie and Stains - this amazing shop in Lambton Quay. If you are ever in Wellington you must make sure you go and see Kirkaldie and Stains. Usually they have THE most amazing Christmas window displays and they even have a door man who welcomes you when you visit them. Anyway inside the stocking is also a notepad and pen set, a fancy Christmas pen, a CD from Guy Sebastian, a little Santa decoration, a little tin of family jokes, some candy canes, 2 Christmas crackers and probably 5 tickets to see the 20/20 Cricket Match on Monday.

Wow! I feel so lucky! Thank you Classic Hits for choosing me!

Health Update

Sunday night was rough. Caitlyn woke up around 5 times between 11pm and 4am, each time crying "ouch, ouch, ouch". Not sure what was up, but the next morning we wondered if she actually picked up Bianca's bug because she was a little warm in the night. Thankfully it seemed Bianca was all better again and by Monday Caitlyn was also feeling much better. So must be some kind of 24 hour bug. Phew! Big relief. I would hate for the kids to feel miserable with Christmas just a few days away.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


:-( Bianca is feeling pretty sick and unwell tonight. She woke up this morning with a headache and the whole day pretty much the headache would come and go. This morning she felt particulary unwell and then when she perked up we left to meet Terence in the city. About halfway Bianca got car sick and I had to stop the car and she barely had time to open the door. She was okay for most of the day, but about 1:30pm started complaining about her headache again so I stopped at the pharmacy to get some paracetamol for her. She seemed to feel a bit better after this. By 6pm I had to give some more paracetamol and then it was time to go home. When we got home we could feel that she was pretty warm and her temperature was around 38 degrees (celcius) (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and we kept checking her temperature and finally when it reached 39 degrees (celcius) (about 102 degrees Fahrenheit) we decided it was time to take her to the medical center to get checked out.

It is a bit scary because a fever can mean so many things in our world. And even though we know that in all likelihood it is probably just that she picked up flu somewhere, I do have this nagging little voice in the back of my mind wondering if this might have something to do with her leukemia. Which I don't believe is likely given that her preliminary blood test results yesterday didn't show anything that might be a concern. But still, sometimes you can't help feeling a bit worried.

Celebrating 11 years

Me: "So girls, today is the day that Mommy and Daddy are celebrating the day we got married 11 years ago"
Caitlyn: "And did you kiss?"
Me: "Yes, we kissed the day we got married"
Caitlyn: "Giggle"
Me: "And one day you will meet a boy and you will marry him and then he will also kiss you"
Me: "And Bianca will also meet a boy and they will get married and kiss also"
Bianca: "I think I'll practice my running and run away"
Caitlyn: "Will you be wearing your running shoes?"

Long day at the hospital

Yesterday was Bianca's 2 monthly bloods and oncologist visit. We set off for the city around 10am. When we got to the hospital we first went to get bloods done and then went in search of lunch. It takes around an hour for the results to be ready and we always do this so that we have a bit more than an hour before our appointment just in case it takes a bit longer for whatever reason. 2pm was Bianca's clinic appointment. We got there and they told us that they just heard from the lab. Bianca's blood sample clotted and they were not able to use it. So we would have to do another blood test after her appointment. Sigh!

The doctor had a good look at Bianca and declared that she looks pretty healthy and that he is not worried about her. We were not able to discuss the blood test results, but as everything else seemed fine, he was confident the results would be good as well. We discussed the Echo results from the last one Bianca did and they were fine. The next Echo will be scheduled in 5 years' time.

Then it was time to get another blood test done. The first sample that the nurse took clotted almost immediately. She then pricked the same finger again hoping to get another sample going and managed to get a sample that looked like it might be fine, but just in case she pricked another finger to get another sample so that we will hopefully have 1 useable sample. So in the end Bianca got 4 fingerpricks. She is so brave!

So in the end our hospital visit turned out to be a pretty long day.

On the way back home the nurse called to let me know that the preliminary results all seem normal and so thankfully it seemed to have worked.

Unfortunately this morning Bianca woke up feeling a bit unwell and I think we might be in for a quiet weekend.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This is on my mind...

I'm currently participating in this challenge. This is how it works:

This is on my mind is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives with these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about. It could be something already done but still on your mind, something you're about to do and you're working out how to do it, or a place at home where you've spent a lot of time during the past week. It could be anything.

To take part in this, all you have to do is post your photo and write a short caption explaining it. When your photo is published, come back here and add a comment, with a link to your blog photo. We will all be able to follow the breadcrumbs in the woods that lead to each new photo. Who know where these trails will lead us. (Refer Down to Earth)

This is Bianca. She is my very brave 7 year old. To read more about Bianca and why she's my superhero, click here. But anyway, this week this is on my mind. On Wednesday Bianca's school closed for the year. It was her very last day in Year 2. So on this day to celebrate the last day of school, the teacher decided to have a games day (non-electronic games) and asked that the kids bring a shared morning tea. So on Tuesday evening Bianca asked if she could please bake a cake. She did it all by herself - breaking the eggs, measuring, mixing and the only parts that I helped with was to read the recipe to her (because it is written in Afrikaans and she doesn't understand Afrikaans) and putting it into the oven. Then on Wednesday morning we decorated it. Green because it is Christmassy and also because it is her teacher's favourite colour and then in mini M&Ms Bianca wrote "Rm 5" which was the room she was in. Then when she went off to bed on Tuesday night she said "I love baking with you Mummy". It was a very special moment for me :-)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The frustration of new irons

Bianca's first day on holiday was a pretty quiet day mostly spent at home. We went to the shops for a bit so that I could take back the iron that didn't work very well that I bought to replace the iron I had a long time that finally decided to stop working. To put it this way, for the first time in my life I burnt Terence's shirt (and it was one of his favourites too) - with the new iron that was supposed to be soooo much better than the one I had before. They say it easily glides over all sorts of fabric - not so much this morning. Sigh! So I took it back and exchanged it for another one and hopefully this one will be better. Will see tomorrow morning. Bianca also wanted to go and choose Caitlyn something for Christmas (from Bianca) and then it was time to come back home again. Right now I'm not too keen on the mad crowds at the shops, and with only 9 days till Christmas I think it will just get worse. So I'm limiting my visits to the shops as much as possible. We're mostly ready and it is just now figuring out what we will eat on Christmas day.

Tomorrow will be a long day for us again as we make our way to the city to get bloods done and then in the afternoon Bianca's appointment with her doctor to see that we are all on track still. At the moment our visits are every 2 months, so if all goes well then the next one will only be in February again.

I'm feeling really tired tonight, so will be heading off to bed soon! Will post an update after Bianca's hospital visit tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Urgent prayer requests

Today little Elijah should have finished his first grade. He should have been excited at the prospect that tomorrow it is officially school holidays. He should have had some fun on his last school day with his friends. He should have been counting down the days, excited that it is only 10 days to Christmas. But instead little Elijah has been admitted to Starship and is about to start the most intense cancer treatment for his leukemia to date.

In 2007 we first met them. Elijah was diagnosed not long after Bianca and so we've been walking our journeys together and became quite good friends. Because of all the rubbish with the Wellington hospital management and their inability to keep staff, Elijah and his family have spent so much time away from home for his treatment. During his treatment he really struggled. It seems he was always neutropenic, spent a lot of time in hospital and really suffered from a lot of the horrible side effects and allergic reactions. Yet, he always smiled, he was always so incredibly brave and just kept going. Then after they started maintenance he was finally ready to start school - and then he relapsed. He didn't even get a chance to finish treatment. So once again, they were sent to Auckland and his little brother was able to donate bone marrow and so they started again with a really intense fight. With his beautiful smile he got through it all and finally reached a point where he was around 1 year after bone marrow transplant and he was doing so incredibly well and even started school. What an amazing day! Something that so many take for granted. And now? 2 weeks before Christmas, they learned he relapsed again. Yesterday morning they flew to Auckland (to Starship). It looks likely that this time again, they'll be spending Christmas away from home and their families.

Their options are limited. They can either go onto palliative care and give chemo to attempt to prolong his life and give as much quality of life as possible, or they can give even more intense chemo treatment than before and try another bone marrow transplant. They are opting for the intense treatment. Because he relapsed after getting his little brother's marrow, they cannot use this again, they now have to look on the registry and at the moment there is only 1 suitable un-related donor which they will be checking to see if it is 100% suitable. And on top of that we are all praying incredibly hard that Elijah goes into remission and soon. He cannot have the bone marrow transplant unless he is in remission.

Please please please could you urgently keep them in your prayers and thoughts.

Please pray that:

- Elijah goes into remission really soon.
- They have a 100% suitable un-related bone marrow donor.
- Elijah doesn't struggle too much on this really intense treatment and that he will not experience too many horrible side-effects.
- This time the treatment and bone marrow transplant works - for good. So that for once this little 6 year old is able to lead a normal life, doing normal little boy things.
- That this family remain strong. This is THE most exhausting journey you could ever walk and they are about to walk it for the third time!

My heart absolutely breaks for them. Cancer sucks and sometimes life is just so unfair! :'-(

Here is a You Tube video his mum recently put together (Elijah's Leukemia Journey)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Color Me Katie

I said it before, there are a number of really cool blogs that I love following. Sometimes I follow a blog because a person is going through something big in their life and I want to be there for that person and show my support in this way, other blogs are about a simple type of life, the kind of life that I am hoping to achieve one day. Something a bit more rural. One of the newer blogs I found is all about being Amish and it is blogs like these that I love following because I get to learn something, something I didn't know much about. And today I discovered the most amazing, bright, happy and colourful blog.

Color Me Katie, seems to be a blog all about fun, happiness, life. I can't seem to stop reading. Well it isn't reading so much because it is very much a photographic journey (which I love). I wish I could meet Katie, she seems to be such a fun type of person and wonderfully creative. Makes me wish I knew photography a little bit better...

But don't just take my word for it, go check it out :-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oh Christmas tree...

Tomorrow morning Bianca has a Christmas sing-along at her school. They asked if the kids could wear a green and red costume of some sorts. So I took some old green t-shirts that we had lying around the house (and that we aren't wearing) and then I tried to somehow construct a costume resembling a Christmas Tree. Unfortunately I had to resort to hand sewing as I don't own a sewing machine so am a little bit limited in my sewing ability, but I'm happy enough with it.

To make it easy for Bianca to take off, it is tied together with ribbons in the sides. She will also be wearing a necklace (which you can see in the first photo) that looks like Christmas lights and actually lights up as well. It is pretty cool.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A discussion - fake / real?

Today was a pretty busy day for us and in a way it ended up good that Caitlyn didn't do her ballet show otherwise it would have been much busier. This morning Bianca went to a birthday party and Caitlyn and I waited at home until it was time to get her. During that time I started planning the costume Bianca might be wearing on Monday for her class Christmas singalong (it is meant to be something red and green). Then it was time to get Bianca and we all set off to the CCF Christmas party. It was such a lot of fun and it was so good to catch up with all the other oncology families. We got there a little bit late, but the kids had a chance to listen to story time with Fairy Trina (or something like that), get a balloon from the clown and Bianca also got to decorate a biscuit. They had a small petting zoo, a bouncy castle and unfortunately the line was too long for facepainting.

And then the highlight - Santa arrived! Bianca looked at him as he got seated on his special chair and she said "he's fake. I know he's fake". I ignored the comment because I wasn't in the mood to go into a whole discussion about whether Santa is real or not, especially since Caitlyn very much still believes. And then Santa called Bianca's name and she went up, got her present and when she came back said "wow! He's the real Santa". Turned out this Santa had a real beard and so of course he must be Santa. I couldn't help smiling!

I wanted to take a whole lot of photos today, but unfortunately the flash on our camera decided to stop working. How frustrating!

Friday, December 10, 2010

This is on my mind...

Read more about this project here.

Caitlyn was supposed to take part in her very first ballet show tomorrow. We took this photo at the dress rehearsal venue and at this point she was still very excited. Then as we waited and her group's turn finally came, she just panicked and cried her little heart out. I think with all the people and the fact that this is this big stage and it is dimly lit backstage it must have felt all too daunting for my little 3 year old. So we made the decision that we would be withdrawing her from the show this year. I would have loved for her to take part, but I cannot force her and it is so important that she has to enjoy what she is doing - otherwise it is simply not worth it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Today I am absolutely heartbroken for a dear friend and her family.

They have just heard that their little boy relapsed again (a second time). He has leukemia (just like Bianca had). During his initial treatment before he relapsed the first time he just had the toughest time. If there was a side effect or if there was an allergic reaction he pretty much got that. And then he relapsed before finishing treatment. Shortly after he received a bone marrow transplant from his little brother (last year) and up to recently things have been going well. He has the most gorgeous curly hair, he recently started school (about a year later after he was going to) which he absolutely loves. He is just a typical 6 year old little boy. Then he started getting some worrying symptoms - sore legs, being lethargic, nose bleeds. And now (16 days before Christmas) they heard that he relapsed again.

I'm not sure what treatment options they will be looking at, but this is just so incredibly heartbreaking. They've been walking this journey since 2007.

Cancer totally sucks.

Please can I ask that you keep this family in your prayers and thoughts!


I read this beautiful quote when I was at CCF yesterday:
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it's the quiet voice at the end of the day gently saying "I will try again tomorrow" - Maryanne Radanbacher
That is so true!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Some of you might remember that Caitlyn twisted her ankle quite badly about 2 weeks ago. Since then it hasn't been too bad, but Caitlyn does still limp a little bit and on the odd occasion she might jump a bit hard or turn a bit fast and then she becomes sore again. Sigh! And Caitlyn is meant to be dancing in her very first ballet show on Saturday.

Today was one of two rehearsals this week. We got there and waited for Caitlyn's group's turn to go onto the stage and Caitlyn was all happy and excited and then suddenly as soon as they went on with their music, the tears start flowing. One moment she says "I just felt a bit scared" and the next "my leg is a little sore again". Sigh! It doesn't look very likely she'll perform in her very first show on Saturday. So we'll evaluate the situation tomorrow and then make a decision.

I would absolutely love for her to go on stage and dance her routine. She loves dancing, she loves her costume, she's been so good about it all, but I don't want to put too much pressure on her when she is feeling scared because I really want her to enjoy the experience.

So we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reaching the end of the year

I must say that I am very much looking forward to next week (15th) when Bianca's school closes. I'm looking forward to just slowing down a bit. It seems this term was quite busy and especially now over December where so many people are scheduling things like end of year parties and so on, it seems never-ending.

Speaking of school closing, I can't believe that my 7 year old is about to finish her Year 2 level and will start Year 3 at the start of next year (beginning February). We are still deciding if we will enrol Bianca for One Day School again next year. She absolutely loved it and it will come down to our budget and if I might go back to work or not. If I go back to work then that would mean I am less flexible, but of course budget-wise would be really beneficial for us. So once things slow down a bit then I'll need to sit down and think about 2011 and what we need to / want to achieve.

I don't usually set goals for the new year although I probably really need to look at losing weight and getting fit for a change. (Not as easy as it sounds). I wonder how many people actually set goals at the start of the year and actually stick to it.

Anyway, I'm rambling. It seems most of what is exciting and interesting is relating to our little Christmas countdown project. I'm so glad that I started it. Just seeing the excitement on the kids' faces each time is well worth all the effort. And who knows - maybe this could become a new tradition for us...

Monday, December 6, 2010

The downside of being organised...

You know, this is the first year in as long as I can remember where I have been incredibly well organised with our Christmas preparations. At the start of November I finished the Christmas shopping for our family in South Africa and I sent it so that it would get there well ahead of time. I have finished the kids shopping and they are ready to be wrapped and put under the tree (which I won't do until there is about 2 or maybe 1 week left so that it won't be too much torture for the kids ;-) ). I know what Terence wants and will be getting it later this week. We are having lots of fun with our advent calendar and I have already started thinking about our Christmas day meal.

Now I find it quite ironic that the one year I am this organised with plenty of time to spare, it is starting to look like our Christmas parcel to South Africa is taking way longer than it should and I already have nightmares that it will go missing somewhere (and since it is sent Economy there is no tracking on it). And I won't be surprised because about 6 years ago I wrote my mother an actual letter and sent it to her in the mail and I don't think it ever arrived and since then I don't have much faith in the South African postal service, even though so far we've been lucky each time we sent Christmas parcels. When I went to send our parcel to South Africa the guy behind the counter asked me how often we send to South Africa and I explained that it is pretty much Christmas and for the kids birthdays and he then asked "and it arrives every single time?" Hmmm...

Sigh! I keep hoping that it will arrive any day now.

If anybody knows of a proper online gift shop in South Africa, please let me know. Kalahari is not suitable because books, CDs and DVDs are difficult to buy when you haven't seen somebody for a long time and ideally I would have liked to be able to buy from a place like Woolies as they have great ordinary gifts, but last time I checked they didn't do gift wrapping. Or maybe this could be a great business opportunity? ;-)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What's for dinner at your house?

In our house - it is my pasta dish. This is one of Bianca's favourite dishes and I bet if I'd let her she would have it every day.

Basically you take some pasta, mince, bacon and I use a Dolmio Cheese Sauce. Once the pasta, mince and bacon is cooked, I then mix it all together along with the Dolmio sauce in an ovenproof bowl and then I sprinkle some grated cheese on top and it goes into the oven (I normally put it at 180 (degrees celcius) until cheese is melted).

As simple as that! :-)

What's your favourite dinner?

Friday, December 3, 2010

This is on my mind...

I saw this cool challenge from Down to Earth and thought it would be great to participate.

So this is on my mind...

This is a Kereru (a native New Zealand pigeon). When I look at this photo it reminds me to take some time out to appreciate what we have around us :-) Isn't this bird magnificent?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

About blogging

There are a number of really good blogs that I love reading everyday. People I can't wait to "catch up with" each day. Tonight I discovered another really good blog which I think I'll start following as well. One thing that I would like to quote from Down to Earth is this:
Blogs, unlike magazines, are written without filters, they're showing real life, not a set stage. Blogs, especially the good blogs, come straight from the heart and they record everyday, ordinary living. And best of all, blogs, while telling their daily stories, teach us what we didn't even know we wanted to learn.
That is so true. I especially found the whole "community" feel when I was blogging all about Bianca's leukemia journey. We "met" so many through our journey and through the internet we managed to connect and offer support regardless of how far away they may have been. I think in the days before technology walking a cancer journey must have been even more lonely and isolated. Whenever I talk to others and they ask what I found really helpful during Bianca's treatment I always say one of the best decisions I ever made was to start our blog. Not only was it a place where I could talk about it all, connect with others, but it was also a way to look back completely amazed at how much we achieved.

Right now there are many blogs I love reading such as Sharon's blog where she teaches us all about the miracle of her beautiful little girl and their adoption process. I love reading all about Renee and her Special Ks. Through her journey I have learned about Down Syndrome and their adoption process where they adopted a beautiful little girl from the Ukraine (I think). Our Wee Farm and Kiwifruit are just such great reads. They write about life that is more rural, more country - the kind of life I want for us and that we will hopefully one day achieve. And Sandy makes the most beautiful polymer clay creations. There are several others that are all very good and now that I've got this new blog am hoping to add loads more links to the side-bar. If you have your own blog and wouldn't mind me adding it to the side, please leave a comment with the link :-)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The wisdom of a 7 year old

This morning when I woke Bianca up to get ready for school, this is what I saw at her door:

I asked her why she had all her teddies in front of her door and she said "they have friendly faces and they keep the monsters away". So there you have it! :-)

And I have to add, Bianca had a backup teddy on her bed just in case any monsters made it past the teddies at the door.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Injuries and Boxes

I was meant to blog yesterday, but I've had a bit of a busy time here.

On Sunday both the girls were playing outside. Suddenly Caitlyn screamed and I rushed outside to find her on the grass. She twisted her ankle. Took her inside, gave lots of cuddles, put an ice pack on her ankle and she settled down on the couch happily watching a DVD. Then it was bath time and we managed, even though it was pretty heavy trying to lift her up in such a way that I could take off her clothes without her putting any pressure on her foot. Bedtime came, we read stories, gave some pain medicines because by then she started complaining again and switched off the light. 9:30pm came and she screamed out in absolute agony. It's been a long time since I felt so helpless watching my child in pain, not sure what else I could do to make it better. So Terence took her to the one medical centre in Paraparaumu to get her checked out. They bandaged it all up and asked that we come back the following morning for an x-ray just to check if there might be a fracture. They came back and we put Caitlyn in our bed because it would be far easier for me to manage her there than at the top of her bunk bed where she normally sleeps. It was a long night. She woke up crying several times and each time all I could do was to let her know I was there and that we would go see the doctor again in the morning.

Yesterday we went for the x-ray. I had to haul out her old pram because there is no way I can carry her around everywhere. She thought it was pretty cool "driving in style" :-)

I'm so proud of Caitlyn, she wasn't scared when they took an image of her foot and she kept it nice and still. She loved seeing her foot (and bones) on the screen.

Thankfully the results came back showing no fractures. It is still sore when she tries to stand on her foot, but hopefully soon, she'll feel a lot better and we can get back to normal.

And then in between I've been very busy with this:

Read more here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All about hair

Today was Caitlyn's rehearsal for her ballet show that is on the 11th of December. She'll be a ladybug. I panicked a bit because we are meant to put their hair into a bun and I'm absolutely useless with doing hair. I'm so useless that I prefer to keep mine short so I can just gel it into something that resembles an okay hairstyle. So armed with some tips from two friends, a you tube video (or 2), a bun net, some hair pins, hair gel and hair spray I set out this morning to get Caitlyn ready for her rehearsal.

And this is the result:

Isn't she just so pretty!

Bianca asked if I could do her hair as well and whilst her hair is not as long as Caitlyn's it was long enough to make a bun:

We've sure come a long way with Bianca's hair since she was on treatment:

And even when she finished treatment her hair was still very short and very thin:

And the one song that springs to mind is this one. Who knew that a simple thing like hair could mean so much, but for us it is a symbol of just how far we've come. We have so much to be thankful for!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Update on our kittens

This morning we were woken up around 5:50am by a loud screech. I jumped up shouting "bird" to Terence. Sigh! Prince Charming caught a bird and brought it inside. Not a nice way to wake up. So Terence had to get up to go and see what was happening. He got to the lounge and there was one of those black birds with the yellowish beaks sitting high up above the curtains and Prince Charming... sitting high up above the curtains trying to get to the bird. Terence opened all the windows and thankfully the bird managed to fly outside much to Prince Charming's disgust.

For those of you new to the blog we recently adopted these two kittens from the SPCA. Well not really recently, we got them when they were around 4 months old. They are now around 8 months old and not quite as little anymore. When we moved to Wellington we finally got permission from our landlord to have pets. No dogs, but cats would be fine. So we decided to adopt 2 kittens from the SPCA. We didn't tell Bianca because we wanted to keep it a surprise. For so long she's been wanting a pet of her own, but of course throughout her leukemia treatment she wasn't allowed to have a cat and it is hard getting permission for a dog. We then told her that we were going to visit the SPCA and she could donate some toys to the animals. We explained how some animals don't have any toys and they would be so happy. We got there and while the kids were busy looking at the kittens we chatted to the people there and made arrangements to adopt 2 kittens. We then told the kids that we were going to take 2 kittens home and so Bianca adopted Prince Charming and Caitlyn chose Looey.

The kittens are doing very well. Prince Charming is our little hunter, much to our frustration when he catches birds or rats and then proudly comes to show it off inside the house. We don't mind so much when it is bugs that he hunts and certainly it is so amusing when he catches leaves and proudly comes to show us :-). Looey is our little fly catcher which is great because we simply hate flies. So she is definitely earning her keep :-). Looey doesn't like to be picked up / sit on your lap unless she chose to. She loves being brushed and she loves to follow me around the house. When I work at the computer she will often come and sit on my lap.

Prince Charming is so gentle (both kittens actually are and tolerate it well when Bianca carries them around). He is quite vocal and will often chat away "telling us all about his day". Unlike Looey he enjoys walking around outside. Looey also enjoys the outside, but is happier staying inside more often.

Here are two photos I took of them today:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Counting down the days

Can you believe that Christmas is only 1 month away? Wow, I can't believe it. This year has gone so incredibly fast. It feels like every month just goes faster and faster. And it doesn't help that the stores start decorating for Christmas pretty much from October. I must say that I'm feeling a bit flustered at the moment. There is just so much going on that at times I'm really worried we are forgetting something. I can't wait for schools to close 15 December when hopefully things will finally start slowing down a bit.

This year I have decided I want a bit more of an exciting build-up for the kids that will focus on not only the whole countdown to Christmas day, but incorporate things that will focus on quality and fun family time and even (if all my plans go as I'm hoping) give them an opportunity to truly experience "giving". So this is what I want to do. I'm busy making small little cardboard boxes that will resemble little presents. I will be making 48 so the kids can each have 24 to help them count down. I will then put them into a Christmas Tree shape like this image which I saw on this website:

I considered making the boxes look like little drawers as in the picture, but if we do little boxes with lids, then not only is it exciting to open, but you can put the lid underneath the box after you opened it and this way easily see how many more is left. Especially for Caitlyn who doesn't really have a concept of time just yet.

Then just as a usual advent calendar we'll put something sweet in, but then I'll also be putting some notes with fun activities we can do together in each of the boxes. Some activities will be fairly quick, because until the 15th the kids are still in school and they have their after-school activities and so on (Caitlyn goes to daycare actually until the 23rd). Other activities will be much longer like baking cookies and making salt dough Christmas Tree decorations and so on. So now if my plans go as I'm hoping, then I want the kids to make biscuits and paint / draw pictures that we can then go and deliver at one of the retirement villages. The kids love baking and I know they'll feel so proud to share their creations and this way they'll truly experience "giving". That it is not about getting something in return, but simply to do something to brighten another person's day.

My goal is to give the kids their advent calendars on the 1st of December so fingers crossed I manage to finish it in time! I'll post pictures once I'm done.

What will you be doing this Christmas time?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Golden Nuggets and Bloody Butchers and some others too...

A while back (when we were still in Auckland) I discovered a pretty cool show - Get Growing. Basically it is a show where they take a couple and teach them from scratch how to set up a proper veggie garden to be as self-sufficient as possible. They talk about organic ways to reduce pests, crop rotation, what works well when planted together, how to save seeds and so on. So then I got all inspired and wanting to get stuck in, which of course I couldn't because we didn't have any garden except this tiny little courtyard in shade pretty much all day long.

When we got here I thought that the time has come to look at my options. We love this rental home. It is nice and spacious, is all on one level (so no stairs inside), plenty of space for the kids to play outside and in a really quiet and peaceful area. The only downside unfortunately is that we don't have gardens, we have grass and then this big concrete slab in the front which is great for the kids to ride their bikes or scooters on and then a deck at the back. So my only option was to look at planting things in containers. I considered building raised beds on the concrete, but unfortunately for now it is a cost issue. We have permission to dig up some of the grass, but then when we move out we have to replace the grass which will once again be a cost issue (especially since this is not our house). So I managed to get some polystyrene containers from New World and some planter bags from Warehouse. Maybe next year I might re-look building raised beds, but this year it is more about learning when the right time is for our climate to plant things, what works well, what didn't and so on. So for now there is no real planning that went into deciding where to "plonk down" the planter bags and containers other than trying to give them as much sun as possible for most of the day.

Before we came back to Wellington I started saving tomato seeds. I love tomatoes and so growing my own would be just so cool. Right now I have 3 plants (had 4 but 1 unfortunately died) that I bought from New World and they are heritage type tomatoes - 1 golden nugget and 2 bloody butcher. I'm especially excited about the golden nugget because I have never seen yellow / orange tomatoes and can't wait to taste it. One thing I will have to remember though is that the Bloody Butcher one grows really tall and needs quite a bit of space. The Golden nugget has a lot of fruit.

One of my little Golden Nugget tomatoes are nearly ripe - can't wait:

And then I have several plants that I grew from seeds I saved at times when we bought tomatoes to eat at home. So I'm very excited. Look how nice they are doing:

One of my Bloody Butcher tomatoes were so close to getting ripe when some stupid bird came to help itself. It was not even fully ripe and was then left half eaten. Sigh! So now I have bought some nets and will need to buy a few more. One more thing to remember when I do veggie gardening again next year - plan it with nets from the word go.