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Experiments

It has been an absolutely wonderful thing experiencing Claire’s first year – and seeing how much she has come into her own. She knows her mind and has a wickedly cheeky streak but she is affectionate and curious and smart. I love her so.

We had a truly lovely day on her actual birthday. Presents in the morning, with a new table and chairs to sit at and fun things to explore. Geoff was at work – but last day of school for the term, so he even finished early. Claire and I went out for lunch in the sunshine and I ordered her smashed avocado on toast. So weird ordering for a someone who is inevitably not going to eat it or will throw half of it on the floor – but you only turn one once. She LOVED it (being an avocado fiend helps). Tancks Corner is so nice. If you are in Melbourne’s outer north, it’s well worth a trip to Yarrambat, but you definitely should book.

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

Her party was planned for the day after her actual birthday. Which was a bit foolish in hindsight – we should have rolled with a Sunday afternoon instead of the Saturday – but hey, you live and learn. She also decided not to sleep before hand – that was fun. And we hosted at our house which was FAR too small for 40 guests. 2.30pm-5pm.

As I am an utter and complete Pinterest addict. I figured Claire’s first birthday was the prime opportunity to get my hands dirty and actually try a few things. I ran around in circles looking at themes and initially didn’t want to do a woodland theme as it felt overdone but came across other problems with my other ideas – a strawberry party in the middle of winter just doesn’t work and a few of the other options were a bit limiting. All the things I really wanted to have a crack at led back to and fit nicely with woodland. So woodland it was. This was my inspiration board for the party.

I spent a few hours here and there in the months leading up to it so I didn’t have to do it all last minute. This allowed me to try a few things I would not of had time to do otherwise. However the day before I did decide to give a chalkboard design a crack. I’d seen a few online and love a bit of good typography, it was also a chance to incorporate some of the cute little woodland animals/motifs I used on her invitations and stickers into some of the decorations. And I’m SO glad I did. It was quite stressful and I wasn’t sure it was going to work, but it looked amazing – beyond what I expected. It was a super cute way to photograph her to mark the occasion, especially as I still haven’t gotten around to doing a cake smash… hmm that’s right, I was going to do one of those.

I made the pin she is wearing. I was inspired a bit by the pins shown at the top of Ivey Handcrafted (sorry not sure of the actual post they are on). But I used a combination of felt and a fat quarter and the ribbon which was actually bought for our wedding – 5 years ago. The number was also done in felt and stitched on. I had to improvise with a pin and used an alligator clip.

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

Chalkboard Design

Designed first in InDesign on the computer. The fox and plant were vectors I had purchased as part of a set that I used to make her invitations – no sense reinventing the wheel. I printed the design out big. Rubbed A LOT of chalk on the back of the design and stuck it down with duct tape onto the chalkboard. Trace with a pen (coloured so you can see it) you have to press REALLY hard. This gives you a faint outline. Then I used a chalkboard pen (bought from Smiggle of all places). Liquid chalk is permanent, so there is no room for mistakes. I then filled in the areas and cleaned it up. The chalkboard I made years ago from an old frame (opshop) painted with chalkboard paint… which you can also make using fine tile grout mixed with any kind of water based paint.

I used this tutorial from Indie Craft Parade for the transfer – but used liquid chalk to get the cleaner lines and I didn’t care about permanency.

The Woodland Party

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

Bits and pieces and decorations

The little mushrooms – these were made from champagne corks (I bought a bag off ebay of about 40 of them). They were several coats of paint. Inspired by Heather Ross.

The decorative paper fans at the back were from a vintage book pages. Three pages accordion folded and taped together – blu-tacked to the wall.

The photo garland (there was more of this around the house) – were printed at Big W (of all places), they print square with a border. 5×5 in (I would’ve preferred smaller) and hung on jute twine with tiny pegs (eBay… but you can get them at $2 shops as I discovered later). I have thousands of photos of Claire. I printed 50 odd black and whites from various ages and they were hung in roughly chronological order. Inspired vaguely by this and a few other pins.

The little bottles – yes they are done lots, but they are cute. I am a tight arse so I bought Santa Vittoria fruit nectar bottles from Maxi Foods (amazing supermarket!) and drank/froze the nectar (I was going to drink it all before the day but you can only take so much liquid sugar, even if it is delicious), they turned out to be just over a $1 a bottle. I have kept them for future parties. They are almost double this to buy ‘party ones’ or about the same to hire. Why not own them. Stripey straws from eBay. Dotty straws from $2 shop. The drink canister was borrowed from Nicole (her wedding was beautiful - check out the gorgeous photos while you’re at it) but next time we might buy one as they aren’t very expensive.

The logs. I really wanted a log or two – especially to put the cake on but it didn’t happen. The morning of the party I went under out house to check the old woodpile and low and behold one chunky block. Not suitable for the cake but nice for getting some height.

The cake stand/pie stand are all ones I had or ones I borrowed from my mum. They all come from op-shops, along with various vases and jars.

The lolly jars are from a $2 shop, left over from other parties I have hosted. The stickers I designed (if you can call it that) with some more of the vectors and printed them at MOO. These are the same stickers as on the lolly bags. Squirrel sugar cookies (cutters from Ikea) and some strawberry and raspberry lollies.

The lolly bags came from DAISO (everything is $2.80) but it’s unlikely they will appear again as their stock is always changing, I just struck it lucky. I also had donated (from my sister) nice stripey green bags which were meant to get filled with popcorn but it never happened in the chaos of hosting.

The ONE was a Pinterest experiment based on this tutorial from Urbanic Paper. Cardboard letters (mini) from Masters. I cut/ripped the fronts off them – so much easier than I thought they’d be. Stuffed them with florist foam and my sister Hannah filled them with foliage. She also did all the flowers. Check out Featherwood Flowers.

I made a banner from hessian and glitter letters too that hung out the front of the house (no photo!) based on this. But square and with uppercase letters. We had a few red and green balloons out the front too.

I also had a few other little things like some Schleich woodland animals. Chalkboard labels on the jars are from Officeworks – Martha Stewart brand. Pinecones from mum’s stash.

The Food

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

The cake was made my my very talented sister Emily. Chocolate and delicious. Covered in cream-cheese icing and coconut. The green moss stuff was left over from the cupcake topping I had made (I seriously made way too much) the little animals were pinched from mum’s shadow boxes, they are ceramic. The candle I bought a pack off eBay – spots and stripes.

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

I made these mini carrot cakes based on my sister’s spectacular recipe. Super easy. Made three days prior. They keep amazingly, although at this small they did dry out a little more than a normal size cupcake would – which tend to just get better a few days on. Iced the morning of, with cream cheese icing. The green ‘moss’ was made from biscuit crumbs and green food dye the idea from here but as cinnamon biscuits sadly don’t seem to exist in Australia I just used good old Arrowroot. Strawberry cupcake holders from Spotlight.

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

My sister in law Anita made the strawberry macarons, they were apparently delicious – I sadly managed to get one onto my plate but left it to go and do something and it went rogue. Inspired by Little Big Company.

The mini pumpkin pies were made by yours truly. I have a minor pumpkin pie obsession and had these in my head to make before I even started planning. I did look at a few tips from Little Bit Funky. But wound up using my usual pumpkin pie recipe and store bought pastry. Made in mini muffin pans. The pastry was cut out with a scalloped edge cutter (from DAISO again). They froze spectacularly! There was enough to make a small pie too.

Tomato tartlets from Martha Stewart. So easy. Probably better hot but still super tasty.

I also had some store bought mini pecan pies, almond eggs, chocolate logs, chocolate ladybugs, pretzels (twiggyish) and other twig-like breadstick things. My other sister bought a fancy cheese platter – which oddly all the small children devoured before the adults to could get to it… and the adults all went for the Honey Joys (recipe on the side of your Cornflakes packet).

Mum made some birds nests. Like these ones. My mother in law also made some savory sweet potato bites.

The drink canister was just lemonade with frozen raspberries and mint. There was beer and cider and homemade mulled wine by Geoff.

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

Bec Matheson Photography | www.becmatheson.com

So there you go. A woodland party. I didn’t have to spend an outrageous amount of money, just be a little creative and put in a bit of effort. I would have loved to have more time to photograph a few more details but as it happens, people start to arrive and it’s all go, go, go. Give me a party to theme rather than host any day! Happy to answer any questions or share recipes.

Thank you very much to all who helped us celebrate this rather auspicious milestone. Claire genuinely enjoyed her party after most of the guests finally left, such are the whims of a one year old!

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In order to return to my normal weight… today both Geoff and I started the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. Its not too different to our usual fare except for one MAJOR thing: carbs. We eat a lot of pasta. It’s so damn easy, it’s so tasty. This is a higher protein, low carb diet. We aren’t specifically doing the exercise thing (yet) one thing at a time. It also limits snacking and soft-drink/juices.

Naturally I am hungry for snacks I don’t usually eat.

I currently weigh (approx, due to the fluxuating nature of your weight when breastfeeding) around 68kg. I would like by mid year to have lost 10kg, this is lower than my pre-pregnancy weight but I could’ve afforded to lose a few back then.

Tonight’s dinner smell delicious. Roast Lemon Thyme Chicken with red onion and pumpkin and steamed greens. Salad Rolls for lunch and Museli for Breakfast with a few bits of fruit for snacking on.

The other benefit of this small experiment is that we will cook a greater variety of food. I am a tad overwhelmed by the basics in some sense but practically it should be quite easy to follow. I need to sit down and sort a few things out so our grocery bill wont be astronomical – because theoretically that should improve too.

Day 1. 68kg. Muesli, Salad Roll, Fruit, Chicken.

Bookclub tonight. Oh dear, I do hope my pastry chef sister doesn’t bring something too good to pass up or there goes one of my 2 indulgences for the week.

Coffee and tea are allowed. This is rather important, I would probably not be trying this otherwise.

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I read 25 books in 2012. I made my goal. Just.

I was going to step out every single one of them but I think perhaps a few key mentions.

Some of the best of a medium book year.

Bringing up Bebe – Pamela Druckerman
I had a baby this year. That’s big. This book is authentic. Interesting and needless to say, relevant. Except that I am not in France. I wish I was in France.

The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver
Not what I expected. Hard work. Somewhat haunting. I feel like I didn’t know enough of the history to do it justice.

Le Grand Meaulnes – Alain Fournier
Immensely satisfying and devastating. A bookclub read. The whole thing dripped of unfairness and lost childhood.

The Go-Between – L.P. Hartley
The pawn in a lovers game. This was brilliant. A rich read. Another bookclub selection.

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
I really didn’t think much of the first half at all, much to the disgust of Catherine… however there was something about this book. Poignant like the Little Prince. Perhaps it was trying a little hard but it plucked at insights with deft fingers and caught you up before you realised it.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Definitely the most fun read of the year. Loved it! Best page tuner since Harry Potter. A genre right up my alley and surprisingly well crafted despite it’s popularity.

So there you have it the overview overlap: baby, hard work, satisfying, rich, poignant, fun.

My year.

And for 2013?

Books: I hope to read at least 30 and delve into some which I have had the intention of reading for quite some time, beginning with Great Expectations (with a little Terry Pratchett on the side to keep things amusing) and to return to some theological/poetic reads to keep the mind and heart turning, beginning with Simple Spirituality (which I have already started) and a little Le’Engle on the side.

Life: To be more present. To be more creative and intentional in how I spend my time.

Follow what I’m reading on Goodreads (PS. this site ticks lots of my boxes: books, stats, lists, categorisation. Love it.)

…oh yeah, I totally stole this post idea from Christop

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“Simplicity in its essence demands neither a vow of poverty nor a life of rural homesteading. As an ethic of self-conscious material moderation, it can be practiced in cities and suburbs, townhouses and condominiums. It requires neither a log cabin nor a hairshirt but a deliberate ordering of priorities so as to distinguish between the necessary and superfluous, useful and wasteful, beautiful and vulgar.” – David Shi

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Recognising the characteristics of a Enneagram One, we don’t celebrate small achievements well. The inner critic is ‘strong with this one’. And so here is a small celebration of some things I’ve done recently that I have spent a long time not doing and a long time wanting to do.

1. Meet my neighbour

We moved to this house back in February. After living on a main road with almost never seeing our neighbours we are now in a court. A court off a court. You can’t get much more ‘communal’ than that. Not that it’s a very communal street at all. I had every intention of going to meet at least one of my neighbours and it never happened. You know when you leave these things a few months, you’re no longer ‘new’ and it just gets more and more awkward (in my head). About a month ago those neighbours moved out. The house has been empty since then. Yesterday I met Mark. He is my neighbour. He was pulling down the fence/fixing the pailings between our two houses. He came to the door to ask if it was fine to walk across our property. He and his wife (whom I have not met) are fairly similar in age to us. When I was heading out to get groceries I had another brief chat to him. They own the place and they are renovating. I have met my neighbour.

2. Composting

Another little thing. We live in an area where you get three bins: recycling, rubbish and green-waste/composting. We have major issues with our rubbish as in this region you get a half size bin and it is emptied once every two weeks. This is a great theory and works to reduce waste until you have a baby and nappies OR you go on holidays and forget to put your bin up. I am currently using our greenwaste bin to store excess (humbug). Regardless, our lovely rental came with it’s own, rather robust compost bin which I haven’t been using. When I first moved in I put some scraps in a bucket and erm, I am embarrassed to say that the bucket is still under the sink (I don’t want to know about it). But as of this week I have been using a small open top container on the bench and when it fills up I take it out. I am composting.

3. Journalling

As mentioned in my previous post, I have started journalling again, after a much too long hiatus. This also means I am spending somewhat regular time reading my bible and praying and reflecting a bit more on life. Something I used to do regularly and something I find I need to do, to main some kind of inner clarity.

4. Cooking

I am a lazy cook. I can cook okay, but we eat a lot of pasta. Pasta sauce often just from the jar. I have had a long standing goal to plan some meals and so consequently eat better, spend less. Yesterday I did just that. I roughly planned some meals. Went shopping. Sadly the local fruit and veg shop isn’t open Mondays – which I’d forgotten. But best of all: I didn’t get bogged down in a system (which is what always thwarts me… wanting to instigate some kind of comprehensive database so I can plug in the meal I want to cook and spit out a shopping list – which is still terribly appealing and I do have a marvelous app that will do so, it just need a lot of work to get it functional). Last night I made gnocchi  from scratch. And I have some other different food planned for the rest of the week. Nothing too daunting, just different. Geoff does probably most of the cooking, but I’d like to learn to cook better: some simple, tasty, healthy meals – variety. Two of my sisters are great at this and the other one is a pastry chef/librarian-in-training (I don’t even want to pretend to compete!).

I find that routine is truly helpful for instigating stuff in my life. With a baby now on a routine (and boy does she have a freakish inner clock) I am set up with regular blocks of time and if I intentionally do certain things in those blocks of time, things get done.

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