se7en

The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Just Taking a Pause…

November 16th, 2016 · 14 Comments

I don’t often blog really close to my heart… but on this day every year… I take a pause. Because on this day three years ago, we lost our little Hood #9. I can say that three years on it just as hard to talk about it as it was back then, because even though so many folk have experienced the loss of an unborn baby, nobody wants to talk about it. A picture says a thousand words and while this picture is absolutely perfect, and I love my kids with all my heart… there is one little face that never made it into the photograph, and I loved that little one just as fiercely as I love them all.

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On this day I like to share the posts that I wrote about the journey we that we travelled with out little one, just to encourage folk who would like to understand friends that are going through the same thing and to encourage folk who are going through a similar experience to ours.

When you lose a love

When you lose a love… How can you help?

When you lose a love… It is a family affair.

When you lose a love… A whole year on.

When I get together with friends we talk about our day to day ups and downs, we definitely do not talk about the loss of our babies. But those of us who have lost babies are certainly not alone and the path we are traveling on is an age old one. I draw comfort from that, and to the many women that have been before me, who have held out their hands and said “I have been there too.” I salute you.

→ 14 CommentsTags: Pregnancy · Thoughtful Thursdays

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #338

November 14th, 2016 · 4 Comments

And we have been busy in a very relaxed way, everyone is hoping for summer with a little less hope than usual this year, because we are all kind of wishing we had had some good rain already… grey skies are greeted with a lot more enthusiasm than usual, but they don’t turn into rain… summer is rolling in relentlessly and the days are definitely getting warmer. This is the year we embrace the sea, we don’t have a pool cover, so there will be no topping up of the pool because of water restrictions… unless it is naturally filled up with rain water!!!

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Lovely Links from This Week

  1. Yes I am thinking about gift ideas and These cloaks… on Time to Craft… my kids would die for!!!
  2. If you are thinking about Advent Calendars… here is some inspiration: Krokatak’s Advent Calendars…
  3. A Calendar of Firsts… at Raising little Shoots.
  4. I absolutely love these Cardboard Portraits on the Artful Parent.
  5. I think we are going to have to make these… Woven Stars on Life Your Way…
  6. If you are looking for lovely leaf art and all that is Autumn, then look no further than Get Out with Kids!!!
  7. And if you need some Bookish Bullet Journal Inspiration… then here you go!!!

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A Blast From the Past:


Brilliant Book of the Week

Johanna’s Christmas A Festive Colouring Book by Johanna Bamford, Published by Penguin Random House South Africa: It is definitely time to bring out the metallic pencil crayons. If like me you take a little while to get going with your Christmas plans… then this book is exactly the book you need to get you rolling. It has all the gilt and gingerbread, holly, trees and mittens, of the Christmas season… crisp pages that can be torn out and used for all sorts of projects. This is exactly what you need for an evening of Christmas Carols and cookies. Pages and pages of lovely detailed Christmas themes… as in all of Joanna’s Books there is something delightful to find as you colour your way through the book… there is a family of robins scattered throughout the book. The build up to Christmas is not called the crazy season for nothing, it may well be time to set up a colouring spot and have a few moments of calm in the day…

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If you don’t follow Johanna Basford’s blog, or youtube channel with tons of colouring tips… then get there already. And if you would like a flip through her colouring book, or to download a colouring page from this book, then here is the link!!! I received a copy of this book from the Publishers, Penguin Random House South Africa, for review purposes. It is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are as usual, entirely my own.

That’s us… Hope you are all have a fabulous week!!!

→ 4 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

What I Have Been Reading Lately: the Penguin Random House Edition…

November 12th, 2016 · 6 Comments

I have settled into a big read lately… going to bed early to read, and then getting up early to read some more… declaring “reading days” and even “reading weekends.” Winter didn’t feel like winter… it just never rained, so I didn’t get my usual hibernation. I missed it and I am making the most of these spring days before true summer settles in. Anyway I thought I would bring you a couple of books that I have been reading lately… it is an eclectic mix, something for everyone and in no particular order… just as I read them.

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My Latest Reads

Tannie Maria And the Satanic Mechanic, by Sally Andrew: A Tannie Maria Mystery… If you are a South African living overseas then Tannie Maria books will take you straight home to the wide open plains of the Karoo. Page after page of delicious food will be revealed and the story will be quietly interwoven around it. Last year I read Sally Andrew’s first novel, Tannie Marie’s Recipes for Love and Murder and absolutely loved it. Wonderful to find a contemporary mystery writer, who writes in our very own South African context. Once again you find Tannie Maria cooking comfort food in the heart of the Little Karoo… but quickly enough the mystery sets in. The book carries on from the previous one, though you could read it totally independently, with Tannie Maria and detective Henk Kannemeyer working on their new relationship. The book opens with a court case, the local San people have won a land claim case against the local diamond magnets. And then the winner/underdog is murdered… and detective Henk gets busy on the case. Meanwhile, Tannie Maria finds her life literally unravelling as she suffers from PSTD as a result of her previous husbands abusive behaviour. She realises that to get her life back in order and to continue with her new relationship that it is going to take some work and she joins a help group for fellow sufferers led by Ricus, affectionately named the Satanic Mechanic after the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of course you meet and get to know all the interesting characters in her group… and some how her group and the case get intertwined and the ins and outs of her relationship with Henk gets somewhat complicated as he tries to keep her out of it and she once more finds herself unwittingly in the heart of another murder. This is a lovely mix of the very heart of Africa and small town life. I love a mystery that takes you to the very last page… and this one certainly does that… you cannot possibly figure out how this is going to end… until it does. There are one or two bedroom scenes in this book, just saying. I love how Sally Andrews integrates the unique flavour of Africa, wildlife and small town politics. The book is filled with all the fine flavours of Africa… and of course some recipes at the back… Ouma’s (grannie’s) Karoo Lamb Pie and Aunty Sandra’s Malva Pudding.

Instrumental by James Rhodes: This book is the autobiography of James Rhodes, a classical musician of the incredible kind. Click on the link, and listen trust me you will be riveted… and then read his story. It is a harsh read, a difficult read and you will have to dig deep to read on… as a young lad, from age 5 and for years, he was brutally abused by a teacher, and though people around him suspected something, they did nothing to rescue him. A lifestyle of abuse continued as he changed school and his life spun into a pit of self-destruction. Every time he started to get back on his feet something would trigger him, and so the destructive cycle would begin again. Music was the staple thing in his life, and in a desperate attempt to be “normal” he gave it all up for a regular job and a wife, with whom he has a son. His life spiralled away again and he found himself in a psychiatric institution. Understandably, his marriage could not survive the roller coaster. But his son is his world… and he returned to music, music it turns out was his lifeline. This book is a shocking reflection of the world so many people are living in, in a world where abuse is considered taboo, where the victims have to relive and be publicly shamed in order to get a conviction, or even an acknowledgement of the crime… James Rhodes has been through enough and is gutsy enough to speak out. The one thing that saved him, through years of chronic abuse was music… he had an undeniable talent that had to get out… a handful of friends were able to stand by him through thick and thin and he is the man he is today, because they stood by him. A difficult read but a hopeful read… This book literally comes with a health warning in the introduction: “… A quick caveat before you read any further: this book is likely to trigger you hugely if you have experienced se.xual abuse, self-harm, psychiatric institutionalisation, getting high or suicidal ideation…” This book represents his personal journey, there are details that mean it is really not for the faint-hearted. It is precisely because stories like these don’t get told that the crime against children persists, good for James Rhodes for sharing his story, stories like these need to be told. It’s not just about abuse… it is a book about classical music, and is written to a soundtrack each track (chapter) begins with a little bit of an introduction to the musician behind it, a real life look at the crazy lives and eccentric lives of genius musicians. Listen to his Ted Talk… and if that doesn’t inspire you to listen to five minutes of classical music a day then nothing ever will.

Ravenspur, Rise of the Tudors. Part IV in Conn Iggulden’s War of the Roses Series: I have literally been reading this series for years… as each book comes out I am immersed. And if you are looking for a great holiday read a series of great big fat books to escape into then these provide just that… I reviewed the whole series here before. The series is really the story of the Civil War in England during the 1400’s and you will find yourself immersed in History… layers of facts and drama twisting and turning. In the final book, two furious and resentful houses rise up to destroy each other and everything in their wake. This book begins with a young Henry Tudor being rescued from Wales, and returned to London to reclaim the throne for the House of Lancaster. The princes of York return to England to conquer the throne for the House of York. There are very few characters that have been there all along, Warwick managed to stay the distance through the series… through trickery, good luck, and friends in high places, his character continues to stir the pot, so to speak. And Margaret of course, the little princess from the first book, is now a formidable force to be reckoned with. So much power, so much honour and so much to fight for… medieval battles fast and furious, and history carried along. This is yet another fascinating read and tells tells us that the Tudor’s will emerge victorious. I am sorry this book ends the series. History goes on of course, if only Conn Iggulden could write for us. I confess I enjoyed this series so much that I am now downloading the audio books month by month and listening my way through them again.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This book should come with a warning on the cover… “Impossible to put down.” It is the story of Rachel, who is drowning her sorrows in an alcoholic spiral… she has lost her job and her husband, and to keep up the pretence she still gets on the train everyday and heads into the city to maintain the facade that she is employed. The train rolls past her previous home, where her ex-husband appears to have the picture perfect family: a baby and a wife, the woman that he left Rachel for. Rachel understandably has quite a few issues, anger issues, boundary issues, oh so many issues. Rachel has a chance to see “her family” everyday, she also watches an apparently happy couple from down the street as she passes by and builds a whole fantasy about who they are and what they do. Rachel begins to drink more and as she does so the line between reality and fantasy becomes more than a little bit blurred. One day she sees something from the train that she wasn’t meant to see… something happens on the deck of the house of the young couple, and while she is processing this information, the young woman is reported missing. Pretending to be a close friend, Rachel gets embroiled in the police investigation that sends all the characters spinning into a web of deceit and anger. The nature of the story is that all the characters are somewhat flawed, and all the while you are reading on hoping for one of them to do something heroic. It literally took to the last page to figure it all out. Without giving it all away there are parts of this book that are somewhat eerie, it is not call a psychological thriller for nothing.

Bridget Jones’s Baby The Diaries by Helen Fielding: To be honest I have never read a Bridget Jones book before, always watched the movies and of course loved Mr Darcy and loathed Daniel… for obvious reason. Recently after a particularly trying day, I climbed into bed and red this book right through. Oh you have to love Bridget’s self narration all the way through as you read your way through her diary… and just how she unwittingly gets so deeply into trouble time after time. In this book she finds herself “with child” and has no idea whether the father is her long time love Mark Darcey, or her flame Daniel. Don’t ask me to explain her predicament, the book can and does very well… suffice to say that dolphin friendly condo.ms did not do the trick… why oh why did she think they would? Her entire life seems to revolve around far too much attention from rivals Daniel and Mark, or absolutely no attention at all, and of course all the swooning that goes with that… I laughed my way through this, with just enough righteous anger at the how annoying these guys were being and where she finds herself, always loyal but not always treated right by her collection of endearing and enduring friends. This book is about love and loyalty… and of course there is a baby thrown in the mix… but that only arrives right at the end after several chapters of cheesy potatoes and antenatal visits have been endured. You are reading a diary and there are splutterings of bad language throughout… so if that’s not your thing, leave it well alone. This book is a quick read, its funny, its not going to exert your intellect in anyway and yet it is amusing and just the medicine I needed after a somewhat trying day.

I was given these books for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa, this is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en Interviews Illustrator Jennie Maizels…

November 10th, 2016 · 2 Comments

When some amazing Pop-Up books arrived on my review pile and knew immediately that I was a huge fan of the author on instagram, I thought I would ask her if I could bring our readers an interview. Well, the great and lovely Jennie Maizels was all for it… and here it is…


Let’s Meet the Illustrator Jennie Maizels

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Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

Jennie Maizels is an incredibly talented illustrator, that creates works of art packed with details and wonder, that appeal to folk of all ages and stages. It is no surprise that her books include a number of award winning titles, of her many Pop Up books, Pop-up London and Pop-up New York bring 3D books to a new level, and have sold millions of copies worldwide. As well as illustrating she has an amazing online sketchbook club, and posts all about it on instagram and that is where I discovered her and fell in love with her whimsical work. You can meet Jennie Maizels on her website here, and if you do nothing else today, then get over to her instagram account and follow her there. And of course scroll down for the interview…


Let’s Meet the Pop-Up Books

Pop-Up London and Pop-Up New York by Jennie Maizels and paper engineered by Richard Ferguson: I have to say that pop-up books remain a magical mystery to me and even though I have seen dozens of crafts explaining how to make a pop up card I just cannot get it… and then there are these books, they bring 3-D and pop-up to a whole new and very exciting level. I have to say these books are as close as you are going to get to visiting London and New York in a book… ever.

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You can go floating down the Thames…

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Or hang out on 42 Street…

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And the details… facts under every flap… everything works and twists and turns, there are little books within the books that are literally page turners… absolutely every flap has a hidden factoid about a person, a place or a thing. But the best feature has to be that you can peak into museums, turn the book around and peep into the buildings and the theatres.

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I was amazed at how much information of the fascinating and “not your typical guide book” variety, was packed onto the spreads of these books. They are definitely not just a children’s pop-up book, in fact I was a little precious about these and they were placed up above the level of people of the toddler variety. Everyone will enjoy these, we have looked through them again and again and plenty of visiting adults have sat intrigued as they poured over them. They are an absolute feat of engineering, and filled with fabulous facts and then packed with incredible illustrations as well… these books are completer winners.


Se7en + 1 Curious Questions

  1. Let’s get a little background. As a child, did you know you would be an artist when you grew up? Did you know you would write books one day?
  2. A few years ago, in a cupboard at my Late Grandparent’s house, I found a tiny book with rainbow writing on the cover. It said “My first Children’s Book, by Jennie Maizels, aged 7”. I honestly have always always wanted to be a book illustrator. Maybe it was because I wasn’t very good at anything other than drawing but I have obsessively painted, drawn and doodled ever since I could hold a pencil! My parents are both artists and I was bought up without a TV, so my childhood was a very creative one. My Father used to make up stories about a man who had been asleep for a hundred years and my Mother made all of my dolls house furniture and doll’s clothes. I would never have the time or patience to do that for my own children!

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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

  3. Tell us about your journey as an artist… how did you get where you are today and who was your biggest encourager, or inspiration?
  4. After A levels I went to Middlesex University to do my Foundation year. A wonderful opportunity to try your hand at all aspects of Art and Design. I very quickly made up my mind that illustration was for me and went on to study Illustration at Central St martins in London. The biggest turning point in my illustration ‘journey’ was when I was in my second year of Art School. I went to Barcelona on an exchange for four months. When we turned up to the Spanish art school, we realized the course was in technical drawing; the students were all sitting in silence drawing carburetors! So we never returned. In those four months I was more prolific than I had ever been. Drawing every day and keeping an obsessive hand lettered journal for the whole duration of my stay. Without any influences or any instructions, I developed my own style and confidence. It was such a fun and memorable trip.
    Just before I graduated I was signed up with a literary agent who spotted my potential for Children’s Book illustration. She introduced me to the late, wonderful Kate Petty. I still feel blessed to have worked with Kate, who tragically died in 2007 and to have become such close friends as well as working partners. We produced eight fantastic Pop Up Books together and I loved every minute. After Kate’s death I decided to start writing my own books, she had taught me so much and over the years I had discovered my own voice and started to enjoy the process of researching and writing too. As well as Kate and my parents, my other role model was my extraordinary Grandmother, a poet, pianist and feminist, she taught e to believe in myself and be true to myself. I think I owe a lot of my confidence to her. She was empowering and hugely inspirational.

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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

  5. Let’s talk about books. What were your favorite childhood books and is there a childhood illustrator that stands out for you. What are you reading right now?
  6. I love Janet Ahlberg’s illustrations, as a child I was obsessed with The Old Joke Book, I think I can see it’s influences in my work even today. I also love Jan Pienkowski. The Haunted House was one of the first big Pop Up Books on the market, I spent hours palying with all the mechanisms, I am sure it influenced me hugely! I adore intense detail, The Butterfly Ball (illustrated by Alan Aldridge) was my favourite book as a child. I loved how it had hidden secrets and so much colour! I don’t think it is still in print but I would really recommend it if you can find a copy. At the moment I am reading a wonderful book by John Lewis-Stempel called the Running Hare, it is an anecdotal diary of farming using traditional methods. It sounds a bit boring but it is so beautifully written, peppered with fascinating facts and written in such a poetic language. I live very rurally and am deeply saddened by the decline in birdlife and the starkness of the modern day farming landscape. John Lewis-Stempel proves in his book with such eloquencey, that it is all totally unnecessary and nothing is gained my using pesticides or chemicals.

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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

  7. What is your work style? Are you disciplined (so many hours at a desk each day) or inspired (you just can’t help yourself)?
  8. When you are snowed under you don’t really have time to contemplate whether you are disciplined or not, I just seem to plough on, constantly time starved! I am hoping that I will soon not be so flooded with tasks as I concentrate more on Sketchbook Club and books only. As I work in a separate studio, I start work at 9am and finish around 5pm, when I zoom home to cook supper! I do pop out to walk the dog every day, otherwise I would go stir crazy.

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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

  9. Tell us about your work space?
  10. I LOVE my studio. I am so happy there working away. It is very rural and I look out onto chickens and horses. I love watching the farmer move all the hay bales and work on his tractors. It is a converted Granary loft with a nice big room to hold my courses and another room for stock and order packing, I have filled it with colour, sketchbooks and tins of pencils, it is where I work best and think clearly.

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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

  11. What is your favourite medium to work with?
  12. I love Watercolours, I adore how portable they are and how multi adaptable they can be. From big swooshy washes, to intense details with a tiny brush, they have so many personalities. I use them a lot in Sketchbook Club and also in my personal, journal keeping work for hand lettering and illustrating. The joy of Sketchbook Club is that I get to use SO many different mediums as my wish is to open people’s eyes to the plethora of medium choices and take away some of their mysteries. I also really enjoy the use of collage, not just as the sole medium, but for embellishments, like clouds made out of old books, or sweet wrappers as jewels etc.

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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

  13. Your books are filled with intriguing facts… Do you enjoy researching them? And where do you find all your inspiration?
  14. I love researching the facts for the Pop Up Books, when I was working on Pop Up London, I walked the length of The Thames with an old friend who worked with Peter Ackroyd (a real London aficionado) he had SO many brilliant gems of information, I kept having to stop and write them all down. I have learned so much from my books, when I went to New York, I could have been a tour guide I knew so much about the city, my husband was subjected to a constant stream of facts and anecdotes as he tried to enjoy his holiday!

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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels

  15. Tell us about your Sketchbook Club, I know our readers would like to know more about this!!!
  16. I started Sketchbook Club two tears ago. My daughter’s old school had a really week art department and I wanted to support it without treading on anyone’s toes, so I started a club where the children could all work on pages of their sketchbook together. Thanks to Instagram, there were many demands for a grown up one, so I started one in my studio on Tuesday evenings, where we drink wine, paint and draw and generally have a wonderful time.
    The secret behind Sketchbook Club’s success is the real life secrets of the methods I use. Member’s don’t like me telling people how we achieve such beautiful work each week. It is all based upon my strong belief that anyone can draw. The misunderstanding is that people assume drawing means drawing from life. I rarely draw from life. There is a reason that every illustrator owns a light box (they’re for tracing!). Drawing from life is a skill for draftsmen/women. It is a very challenging and tiny part of the art and design world.

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    I liken Sketchbook Club to following recipes, you wouldn’t bake a cake without a recipe, or play the piano without music and so what’s the difference? Why not draw with specific instructions, reference material and a prescriptive list of ‘ingredients’?
    Drawing from life is the Choux pastry of cooking. Leave it to the professionals and maybe, when you’ve had lots of practice and your confidence has grown, you may even give it a go yourself…
    I Instagrammed (can you tell I am an Instagram addict?) the work from our Tuesday night sessions weekly and the response was overwhelming. So many people wanted to take part and learn the ‘secrets’ but lived too far away to join us in my studio. So I decided to create an online version of Sketchbook Club.
    Being a ridiculous perfectionist I used a proper production company, I wanted the videos to feel like mini TV shows and not your average Youtube tutorials. Each themed module has it’s own video and print-out reference sheets, plus full written instructions.
    The wonderful thing is that so many people are taking part and each module has it’s own hashtag, so not only can you share you work on Instagram but also see what other Sketchbook Club members have created already. Check out the first module; #SketchbookClubHouses to see an example of peoples work and just how different and individual each sketchbook is.
    The fact that they are all so different is hugely exciting to me. This is not a colouring-in book; yes, everyone has been given the same instructions and reference but you all started out with a blank page. YOU created it, you own it and the end result is because of your ability alone. It is hugely empowering. I love how surprised people are when they see just what they can achieve. It’s magic. Just don’t tell anybody about the secrets!
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    Photograph used with permission from Jennie Maizels


    Huge thank you to Jennie Maizels for her interview. And we received a copy of each book, Pop-Up London and Pop-Up New York, for review purposes from PanMacmillan South Africa, this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are of course our own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en + 1 Habits I Planned to Change This Year…

November 8th, 2016 · 14 Comments

I am all about “starting small” and “slow and steady” and “if it’s not broken don’t fix it”… but it is November folks, and time to totally get my act together. I had goals for this year, lots of them. Unwritten of course, I can hear the planners in you actually shuddering, but in my defence as soon as I ever make a “to do” list, it instantly becomes a “to don’t” list. So I am not the best list maker, but I am very intentional and I decided to see if I could create a few habits… you know rumour has it that it takes twenty one days to create a habit, and all that. I have discovered that some changes are easier to implement than others and some are a whole lot easier to stick to than others… and some habits are just a plain old slog and require discipline all the way.

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I am all about living intentionally, and I realise that this year, the year I planned to get everything round here ship-shape, I had drifted a fair ways off target. That being said I figured out what I wanted to achieve and then gave myself one thing to work on each month. Nothing dramatic, mind you… but a whole lot of mini-experiments. I know December is a crazy busy month, and with all the holidays it is not a good time to try out new things… so this month I am putting it all together… nothing dramatic, nothing that will disrupt the rhythm of our family’s daily life… just little changes that I discovered throughout this year make life a little bit easier.


Se7en Challenges I Tried and Tested This Year

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  1. Reading: Everyone wants to read more, everyone. But seriously when… being sleep deprived for years meant that reading before bed was out of the question, for obvious reason. But as we review more and more books and I have to do the lion’s share of the reading, I wasn’t making time for reading at all. How crazy is that, I love reading. With very small children there was a significant reading lull… having toddlers means that if you are awake, then small children are awake as well… and quite frankly they are the most efficient machines at reducing one’s attention span. My first challenge of the year was to read everyday, at least a chapter. I started the year by doing that first… I get up and head for the couch and read a chapter before I start the day, that has slowly become a half hour read… and then if I am lucky I can catch a read later on in the day. Totally means that I get to read a book or two a week. This is one habit that I fixed and maintained through out the year… it definitely works of me, I have read more books this year than I have in years.
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  3. Create: I strongly believe that to be creative you have to create. Creating every day, and letting your mind wander while you create is a great way to improve your creativity. I know that you have to do something in order to generate more. So in an effort kickstart my rusty creative habits back into gear I just dived in and started a drawing a day. I started really really simply with Chris Riddell’s Doodle book… After a while I realised that I was enjoying it so much that I wanted to do more… it wasn’t time that was holding me back, I just sit and doodle a little bit before I settle down and blog in the evening… my problem was accessibility… so silly really. As soon as I took my water colour pencils out of their fancy tin and popped them in a mug on my desk… creating became something I had access to all the time and it was literally all I needed to get creating again.
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  5. Rest: Anyone who reads our blog will know that I am alarmingly bad at getting to bed timeously. Seriously… bad, bad, bad!!! I can not say that I have small children as an excuse either… my small children do sleep through the night, all of them. In my defence I can say that my children have trained me to wake up continuously for a number of years and I can say that I now have teenagers, yes folks with toddlers you do have this to look forward to. Teenagers like to chat at one in the morning, I would not joke about this because it is not that funny. In fact this could well be the tragedy of all times, I am just so glad I never got used to sleeping through the night again before we hit the teenage years. On a more optimistic note, earlier in the year a friend of mine said, “I love my bed and I can’t wait to read on it.” Well that was an epiphany moment for me, I did not love my bed at all… literally a place to go to when I just could not keep going any longer. So earlier this year we were lucky enough to inherit a really comfy bed… and my what a difference it has made. And now, one of my favourite rewards for a day well done is to leave the day behind and head for bed and read. And slowly but surely I am bringing the time I go to bed back towards something a little more human… not perfect… my ultimate goal would be bed by eleven… but right now at mid-night I am heading for bed – this is a dramatic improvement folks… don’t knock it.
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  7. Early to Rise: Well along with my inability to get to bed, comes a natural inability to rise and shine… so for one month this year my goal was to be up and at it by 6:30 every single day. It wasn’t easy but I did it, and I loved it. The peace and quiet… just bliss. I know 6:30 isn’t early for some folk, but humour me folks. I discovered that I really like the calm before the storm… and I know highly productive people like to get up and work their way through a complicated morning routine. I am more the person that loves to get up and just sit outside and breathe a little bit before I have to start the day. Savour the peace folks, this house can be crazy busy at times. I have discovered that if I am up by about se7en, and give myself half an hour to just to face the day and half an hour to read – if it is still all quiet at eight am, then I settle in and get a good hour of emails and replying to comments on social media done, before I get the gang up for the day. As I get to bed earlier, so this time gets so much more productive – no surprises there… really!!! I know, it just takes that initial effort.
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  9. Exercise: I climbed the stairs behind our house every day for a month… for years I have done a walk, most days of the week… and that is all very good and well, but lets be honest walking with small kids is often not even exercise. The last two years I have been hiking a lot more, a hike a week at least and so the walks had to become a little more than strolls, just to keep me fit enough to do the hikes that we wanted to do. But hills remain well tragically slow for me, I figured if I was fitter it would help… so for a month I challenged myself to climb the first 350 stairs up the mountain behind our house… every single day. It was insane… and I can tell you by the third day I wanted to quit, there may have been tears… and I was going with one particularly tenacious kid and he would not let me quit. Now exercise is a funny thing, it never gets easier… because as you improve so you can push yourself harder… by the end of the month I was so looking forward to my walks that became so much further than the “required” stairs. However… this has also been the year of injury and annoyingly I haven’t kept up with the stairs. But I do know I feel so much better when I do climb the mountain everyday… I sleep better, it is just all round good for me… and so very difficult to maintain. Shockingly enough, even though I feel better for it, even though I know I am better for it any excuse, it turns out is a good excuse not to get out there… and it is going to take a whole lot more than twenty one days to create the exercise habit in me. Turns out instagram is my friend, always looking for a fab shot… means that I just get up and go out there.
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  11. Food: To be my best self I just need to eat better, for years I rescued my kids from eating junk by eating it for them. You know, give them all a biscuit and then nibble on the rest so that they don’t have to. That was actually easy enough to stop, just a month of absolutely no junk was fairly easy to achieve. The first thing to get back on track was the whole drinking water thing, that I find easy to create a habit with, I have triggers for drinking a glass of water and I do that a couple of times a day. Next thing was to eliminate caffeine… I love my coffee, really love!!! So I have rules, if the father person offers me coffee, or I go out for a coffee with a friend, then that’s fine… but the mid morning grab for coffee in order to survive until lunchtime… I call those survival coffees and they have gone. Sugar a whole lot less, veggies a whole lot more… slowly and surely adapting our family meals to more and more healthy choices.
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  13. Social Media: What can I say… the phone is the biggest distraction on earth and after I have answered my morning collection of emails and done a little “Social Media-ing” I tend to just leave it charging at my computer until we are done with whatever we are doing in the morning and then I spend a little more time on it after lunch and in the evening… less spontaneous posting, for sure… a whole lot more stuff getting done – you bet. Not to mention a massive amount of time saved. My best time to blog is in the early afternoon, but that often doesn’t happen… which means after dinner is the next best time to blog… trust me, the earlier you get up the harder it is to blog at the end of the day and blogging became a one, two, skip a few affair as I tried to find the time balance.
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  15. Getting Things Done: Getting stuff done is an actual habit… who knew!!! I had big plans for this year, creative ideas that have been lying around for literally years… closets to sort and buttons to sew on. From tiny projects to huge projects, I had big plan for this year… and then I broke my arm and twelve weeks later I could only just clean my own teeth… it was indeed a mission to get anything done and I had well and truly broken the habit of getting stuff done. And then, the other day I realised that I was creating a November calendar, and decided that this was the month I was going to do a project a day… yes I should have a list, and I don’t… its a very simple plan… when there is even the slightest lull… then start something. Because experience tells me the the best way to get something done is to just begin it. Somedays I have managed to sort a book case, and other days I have cleaned and laundered my way through an entire closet… I reckon getting stuff done at this stage requires a lot more action and a lot less planning.

So here’s the thing, in the month of November, I plan to take better care of myself. I am doing all the good stuff… a project a day, no survival coffees and plenty of crunchy salads, reading a bunch and sleeping more, there might be less blogging but that’s ‘cos I am using my time to sleep, read and get my creative game back into gear for next year. Not to mention by the time December rolls round a whole heap of projects that have been put of forever will be done and dusted and I will be able to blog… a projects actually done post!!!

→ 14 CommentsTags: Home Truths · Thoughtful Thursdays

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #337

November 7th, 2016 · 1 Comment

Along with mastering the art of relaxed weekends, we are working on a “getting things done this month,” a whole entire lot of getting things done right now. Busy and relaxed… all at the same time.

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Lovely Links from This Week

  1. Did you know that it is National Non-Fiction Month and you really should be following The Federation of Children’s Book Groups… Fantastic Posts, every single day!!! Meanwhile, here is our great big list of 100 of the Best Non-Fiction Books for children!!!
  2. 10 Abstract Art Project on Family Style Schooling… lots of lovely quick and easy projects in here…
  3. Alisa Burke’s Beautiful leaves to colour…
  4. Absolutely love the Architectural Carnival on Krokotak…
  5. And The Best Last Minute Washi Tape wedding Card on Zing Zing Tree… too sweet!!!
  6. And by Hannah Gale: 36 Amazing Things our Generation was the Last to Experience…
  7. Seth Godin has a way with words: Plenty of Room on the Island…
  8. And the last link… we have been trying something new on our instagram feed… reading the first paragraph of our book of the day as a “story.” Check it out, we are trying to post a new story every day. And another thing, while I wasn’t watching our Pinterest followers crossed the 25000 mark, I have no idea how these things work… just a whole lot of crazy numbers really!!!


A Blast From the Past:

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Brilliant Book of the Week

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott: What an astonishing story. This is the tale of Sharon Pincott, who began the book as a high-powered executive in Brisbane, Australia. She bravely left the corporate world behind and headed for Zimbabwe, a country that so many of her friends and family hadn’t even heard of before. She made a fresh start and began her journey in the Hwange National Park. I drove through that area on a bus last year and was surprised at the incredible natural surroundings and wondered what wildlife was with in the forests and trees there. This is where she lived for thirteen years, all the while getting to know the President’s Elephants in an a personal way… she documented families of elephants and learnt to identify each individual. In fact, she got to know the elephants in a remarkable way, and she called them by name and they would emerge from the brush. She battled day after day and month after month to protect the elephants, rescuing them from continuous trail of snares left in the undergrowth by poachers, and neighbours. During the heart of the worst land reform/grabbing and the fight to rid Zimbabwe of all foreigners… she lived alone in a tiny rondavel, visited by snakes and scorpions, she drove out to meet, interact with and document the elephants each day. All the while she suffered through relentless and terrifying intimidation, the political power play made it impossible to trust anyone and apart from a handful of friends scattered far and wide she was truly alone, just herself and her elephants. This book read like a journal, in and out of the years… through highs and the low and then the lower than lows. In places it is so funny you can’t help laughing out loud and in other places you can’t help feeling her despair. This is a compelling read and an important read. I would say this is essential reading for anyone interested in wildlife conservation and especially elephants, but this book isn’t just about that… it is essentially the story of a person, so committed that they are willing to give up nearly everything to follow their heart and stand up for what they believe in… no matter what. The kind of book that you will want to read in a sitting, I know I couldn’t put it down all weekend. The book does contain pages of photographs, but if you want a better idea of the person behind the book then head over to her website: SharonPincott.com, where you will find video footage and the story behind the story. An excellent read, if you like biographies then don’t miss this one.

I received a copy of this book from the Publishers, Jacana Media, for review purposes. It is not a sponsored post and options express are as usual, entirely my own.

That’s us… Hope you are all have a fabulous week!!!

→ 1 CommentTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Se7en Explores The Yoga Kitchen by Marlien Wright…

November 4th, 2016 · 4 Comments

Let us introduce you to the Yoga Kitchen, by Marlien Wright and published by Jacana Publishers. I must be honest, I was a little nervous of this book to start with, it looked terribly “vegetable rich” for one or two of our fussier folk, and it is packed with nuts and we all have a nut allergy. But I dug a little deeper and then I discovered literally dozens of healthy meals that we could try… far more than our usual se7en+1 recipes per book review. In fact we have had over a week of fabulous feasts thanks to this book and the winning moment was when one of our kids said: “Our fridge has changed personalities, it is over flowing with vegetables.” Not to say that we don’t normally have vegetables, but there were a few days when our fridge was literally popping…

For us the best thing about this book is that the food is beautiful, literally rainbow after rainbow, and everyone, even the fussiest eater of the lot, really wanted to try these new tastes and flavours. And then they liked what they tried – WINNING! I don’t think it was that the food was terribly different to what we normally eat but certainly the food was presented very differently. A lot more raw foods and food combining for good nutrition. I never understood what that meant until I read this cook book. There is a lot of information in this book and there are corners of this book that we didn’t even get to explore, there is a 21 Day Reboot Plan, a meal plan with recipes from deeper in the book, designed to get you back on the straight and narrow of healthy eating.

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I particularly loved the layout of this book, I am a recipe per spread kind of gal. Each recipe mentions what “-friendly” it is, if it is gluten free, dairy free, paleo or vegan friendly… yes there are dozens of paleo and vegan meals. Also along with each spread, with the recipe on the one page and a stunning photograph on the opposite page, health benefits for a number of the ingredients were included… I was able to say you want to eat this meal because it has red peppers which are great for healthy skin… this is important in a house with four teens in it. Red onions are great for helping diabetics regulate their blood sugar… so we will be including a lot more red onions in as many meals as we can in the future.


Se7en + 1 Recipes Tried and Tested

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  1. Shakshuka: There are tons of really wonderful looking breakfasts in here, you know that “most important meal of the day,” smoothies, overnight oats and plenty of interesting looking egg dishes. Lots to choose from and we decided to try shakshuka. Hmmm a rich tomato based sauce that you bake your eggs in… just delicious!
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  3. Sweet and Sour Sauce: I loves that this book contained recipes for some of our favourite sauces, where the store bought version is just not a healthy enough option for us. This sweet and sour sauce, has already become favourite… I sized it up and we now stock it in a jar in the fridge. Honestly, you can use this as a dipping sauce for about a million things and that is always a good way to encourage folk to try new things.
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  5. Mexican Black Bean and Corn Salad: We eat a lot of beans, they are filling and so good for you. And this I could eat all day, so many delicious flavours, it is literally like eating a rainbow. I was surprised at how divided my kids were… either they really loved it or they definitely didn’t… there was no half-way for this recipe. I was in the love it department, and it is the kind of recipe you can make in advance, toss in a jar and take to work… totally delicious!!!
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  7. Asian ‘Crunch’ Salad: This recipe is so quick and easy that you have to love it… literally drop the ingredients into a bowl, shake up a little dressing and you are done. And then of course corn saves the day, any of these ingredients on their own might leave one or two of my fussier eaters reeling, but as soon as they saw there was corn they were thrilled and everyone was was well satisfied.
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  9. Summer Rolls: Rice paper rolls are a family favourite already. Kids love having a little autonomy over their meals, so providing them with choices and letting them build their own is a great way for them to meet new flavours and engage in their choices. Not to mention these small looking bites are really filling, even our starving teenage boys weren’t dashing from dinner to find something to eat.
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  11. Carrot and Sweet Corn Fritters: Our guys are really familiar with fritters, fritters of every single kind, they know that I hide all sorts of things in them! Consider me the master of disguise of the fritter variety. Really there are a million things that you can pop into a fritter… these are different, they have no egg or dairy in them, and if you use gluten free flour, then gluten free as well. The flour literally holds them together and they have a lovely crispy texture… I thought my fritter connoisseurs might complain, they have never had carrot fritters before, but again the corn… my kids just love corn, so they loved these fritters.
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  13. Paleo Chicken and Vegetable Roast: We roast chicken pieces, with roasted veggies nearly every Wednesday, my mom-in-law loves a roast dinner and it is her visiting night. When I changed up the flavours and added fennel and asparagus to the roasting pan, everybody loved the new twist and flavours. This recipe could well be called “Gone in a Flash.”
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  15. Carb-free Bacon and Spinach Tart: Well you had my guys at the bacon, they totally and utterly loved this and you could make this for any meal, breakfast, lunch or quick supper and my kids would be happy. This literally took minutes to prepare and a quick kitchen clean up while it baked in the oven meant that we could eat as it came from the oven and supper was quite literally done.
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  17. Chicken and Veggie Skewers (with Spicy Peanut Sauce): Okay, se7en + another one recipes!!! We left the peanut sauce out, because of our nut allergy and it turns out this recipe is another winner. Brightly coloured vegetables threaded onto skewers with chicken thighs, everything to love. I have to ask myself why oh why don’t I make skewers more often, everybody loves them, there is something fundamentally delicious about all food served on a stick. I know it requires slightly more work than usual… but everyone’s enjoyment makes it totally worth it.

We still have lots to explore in this book, sour dough and sprouting, not to mention fermenting vegetables and dozens of recipes that my gang still want to try. If you are looking to improve your diet generally and your trying to eat more healthfully then we would highly recommend this book. It has great recipes that the whole family can enjoy, with easily accessible ingredients… and did I mention eating sensational rainbows!!!

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You can meet the author, Marlien Wright and discover more of her fabulous recipes at her website, The Yoga Kitchen.

Thank you so much to Jacana Media who gave us this book for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to create it and the opinions expressed are as usual, our own.

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Cook Book Reviews · Monday Munchies · Vegetables