Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'You Can Do It, Bert!' - Ole Konnecke

"Bert has been preparing for this for a long time.  He is ready.  Mentally and physically.  But before he takes the plunge, he might need a bit of encouragement from his friends.  You can do it, Bert!" - Gecko Press

Oh man, this one is soooo cuuuute!  I easily fall into the over-writing category, so I am particularly impressed when authors can convey such an emphatic and meaningful message across, with such restrained use of text (and in this case, illustration too).  The illustrations are stinking cute.  Bert is adorable in every action (and his methods of procrastination?  Very relatable), and I love the use of negative space (so underrated in kid's books).

Konnecke cleverly sets up for a few possible outcomes, each equally viable until the truth is eventually revealed (I was surprised).  There is subtle humour, and a general message of warmth and encouragement (his friends, oh what friends!  The best kind).  This would make a most perfect gift for a child (or even adult) preparing for change of some kind.

I should probably also mention that short texts like this are always very welcome at the end of a long day, ya hearing me?  I have some go-to favourite short reads (all Gecko, I might add) for those nights.

'You Can Do It, Bert!' by Ole Konnecke - is available for pre-order now, and will be released by Gecko Press in October. Yay for Gecko Press!  Thank you for this charming ARC x

Saturday, September 27, 2014

'I don't want to go to school' - Stephanie Blake

"Once upon a time, there was a mischievous little rabbit.  Maybe you know him.  When his mother said: "Tomorrow is your first day of school, little rabbit."  He replied: "I'm not going!" - Gecko Press

Simon is back!  We were all v. excited about this one!  Simon is def our favourite cheeky little bunny, and this Simon-story is an insta-classic in our household.  The school-years are edging in on us, so this was a timely addition to our shelves, though of course, the story itself is applicable to all sorts of situations.  Generally speaking, little ones tend to find it difficult to adapt to big changes, and sometimes it can be so helpful to have the support of just the right text, for those: "remember when Simon didn't want to go to school?" conversations.

Do you reckon Simon liked school once he got there?  Well, no, not immediately, but that's half the charm (and hilarity) of this book. Of course, humorous children's books are always the most fun to read, and Gecko Press seem to hold the market for funny, quirky, adorable kid's books.  Stephanie Blake has a very sweet sense of humour, making this a treat of a read.  And we've tested this book on various visiting adults - verdict?  Funny.

If you want to get your hands on 'I don't want to go to school' by Stephanie Blake, check out your local bookstore or purchase via the Gecko Press website.  There are three other 'little rabbit' books to collect (we neeeeed the first two), so keep an eye out for those, too.  Thanks again, Gecko Press, for this super adorb review copy x

Party: /ˈpɑːti/ — n, pl -ties. 5. Favours

My favourite bit!!  I know that party favours aren't everyone's bag, but they sure are mine.  Gorgeous mini presents for every party guest, yes please!  This is the real benefit of keeping our guest lists small, fewer guests = more favours!

Okay, I've done party favours in varying degrees.  From Eleanor's 2nd birthday with allllll the favours, to sweetly packaged handmade soap on her 4th.  It's like this, for me - if I have the time and the inspiration, I looooove to go all out with handmade favours.  I can think of nothing more delicious than little people opening a paper gift page filled with tiny handmade treasures, all for themselves (I always make one for the birthday child, too).  If that doesn't happen, we are so down with the simple take home gift - treats, soap, stickers etc.  No rules, peeps.  It's marvellous :-)

Matchbox lawnmowers - Garland's 2nd, walnut sailboats, paper craft gifts.

Do you know what?  I'm a total geek very normal person and have kept favours from each of our kiddo parties, which I'll save to give them when they're older.  That day...  Oh, oh!  

So back to being exceedingly helpful and knowledgable (mmmhmm, oh yes) about party things, and offering yet more unsolicited party throwing advice...

Packaging!  Scroll on...

Cute paper bags are amongst my top fave material things...  Sad, but true.  And, even a plain old paper bag can be made pretty, with the addition of some cool stickers!  Hello vistaprint!  Washi tape is also the shiz for making a boring bag look pretty (or, a pretty bag look prettier).  I AM SO HELPFUL!  You're welcome.  Okay, here's a tip: fake flowers!  Yeah!  Don't all thank me at once.

Let's not forget - Christmas party favours!  I know, I'm trying to make kiddo-pre-Christmas-parties a thing, and so far I'm the only person I actually know who throws these, but I'm sure they'll catch on soon ;-), because seriously, who can resist handmade Christmas crackers?!

Okay, probably best not to write a blog post when I'm just a little sleep-deprived (did it contain any information?  No, I do not think so).  For the rest of this sliiiightly gratuitous series, follow these links:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The finish line (AKA the end of term three)

Oh hi!  We have been keeping pretty quiet around here.  That juggle of parenting, housework, self-employment, and my job.  I'm knee-deep in this manuscript edit and trying to push on through - what started as a little tweaking and rewriting...  Oh...  Anyway, I do intend to finish off a couple of posts, and complete some projects that I can share with you.  Soon, soon...  Happy, happy last week of term! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mt. Eden Accommodation

So during our mid-winter getaway, we split our time between four different sleep-spots. The first two were discussed here and here, the third was my sister's flat (but I'll spare her an accommodation review), and finally this very sweet little bookabach in Mt. Eden. We stayed here with some friends of ours, another little family of four, and it was the bestest! So comfortable, convenient and pretty.

This was such perfect, lovely and well-priced accommodation for our little group (it worked out at $100 per night per family), so for anyone planning a few nights in Auckland, here's another option for y'all to throw into the mix.

Included were: heaters, firewood, (huge) flat screen TV, DVD player, wifi, laundry, (real) coffee + chocolate  (I think you just won my heart), BBQ and a big basket of toys to keep our babies entertained. The rooms were cosy, with plenty of storage space for bags & clothing, and the kitchen was well equipped with every possible thing you might need. We were warm. We lounged.  We ordered in pizza. It. Was. Heaven.  

While we do have friends and relations to stay with in Auckland, it's still nice to know there are other options. In this instance we wanted to share our holiday with some of our fellow, country-bound pals. It felt a little risky picking one of the cheaper options, but it sure paid off!  

I intended to share this post months ago, but I didn't love the photos, so I delayed. However, hols are coming up soon, they have a few nights still available, and I thought some of you would appreciate a heads-up. Here's the link if you'd like to check them out. Happy-almost-school-holidays!

Nope, not an official review this time :-) Just a great place to stay, Auckland-side.

Friday, September 12, 2014

'Where is Rusty?' - Sieb Posthuma

Some beautiful books recently arrived from Gecko Press.  Oh happy day!  We felt like Christmas had come early (yes, all of us - we are the Gecko-Press-Appreciation-Society 'round here).  First up (and released this month!):

"A Sweet picture book about a curious young dog who gets lost in a big department store." - Gecko Press.

Rusty is inquisitive, and when he suddenly realises he's in a tight spot, he panics and does the very worst thing.  This was so me when I was little!  Oh, sweet little Rusty, I would've been afraid of those watchdogs too!   The tale is relatable (for me, certainly) and the illustrations are humorous and fun.  There are loads of little details to pick out in this dog-centric word of Posthuma's creating.  The story is playful, and supplies an opportunity to discuss the importance of personal safety (and how we maintain that).  Very useful for our little bunnies, who visit the mall very rarely, and when they do...

Sieb Posthuma is a Dutch author/illustrator, who based this cute character on his own pup, Rintje, super cute!   'Where is Rusty' is published by Gecko Press, and is available now at $19.99NZD.  

My thanks to Gecko Press for the review copy of this sweet tail < har har.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My blogging process...

Weeks ago, one of my favourite blogging ladies, Miriam of Create Hope Inspire (for those who haven't met Miriam in person, I hope you get the chance someday - she is brilliant), tagged me in the 'my process' blog-hop.  She gave me this byline:

''I think beginning work, and making other creative transitions are changing the landscape of how she blogs too and I'm interested in knowing her thoughts on it."

So I will do my bestest to address that for her :-)

1. What am I working on?

I have a couple of posts lined up.  There's the final in a short series about party planning going up soon, as well as a bunch of children's book reviews.  Otherwise most of my posts are quite unplanned.    Content aside, I often think about or work on streamlining my blog.  This is sometimes an exceeeeeedingly frustrating process for me, but I feel the same towards my blog as I do my house, so I do try to make sure that everything is working and looking nice around here.

Outside of blogging I am working on another manuscript edit!  Yuss and not yuss!  This is such a fun and challenging process.  There's nothing more satisfying that taking an awkward piece of text and making it work (which often just means cutting it).  It's also exhausting sometimes, and overwhelming, with alllllll that decision-making.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Hmm, tough question.  I don't particularly think of this as a genre blog, so I'm not sure who/what to compare against...  Er...

I think the best things about blogs is that they are all essentially different.  One way or another the author's personality filters through (and that is how blogging kindred spirits are found!).  So I think my 'work' differs from others, because I am coming at things from my own angle (as we all are), even if I'm posting content that might be similar to that found elsewhere.  Plus, I'm weird, so there's that.

3. Why do I write what I do?

What I write about has really changed over time.  For the past year I've consciously worked on filtering my posts a little more, which means that I have quite a few abandoned thought-streams sitting in my drafts folder (for various reasons relating to privacy/vulnerability/professionalism and so on).  I do try not to go too deep in this blog-space, I've done so before and didn't really like how I felt afterwards.  Some bloggers are skilled at this, but it didn't work for me.

So instead I write about things that I love!  Really, I just love blogging!  I love sharing all the nerdy/quirky/OTT stuff that floats my boat.  I try to share topics, thoughts, photographs that will interest and entertain readers, but for the most part I really just blog for myself.  This is especially true now that we have a more complex work/family/business life to balance.  If I am going to use my (precious) free minutes blogging, it's essential that I enjoy the entire process.

4.  How does my writing process work?

Often I have an idea of what I'd like to share on my blog, so I have some vague plan when I start taking photos.  Almost always this is morphed into something pretty different once I upload photos and sit down to write.  Sometimes better, often worse :-P.  I rarely start a post without photos, regardless of whether the photos or the thoughts are leading.  There are exceptions, like THIS post - where I'm forced to drag something out of my archives to fill the white spaces.

Does that answer that question?  Erm.  So my process is to... not... really... have a process.  Yeah.  I'm basically not very organised, and though (very) occasionally I SUPER AM, with idea lists, posts written and scheduled and even a sponsor or two in my sidebar, mostly I am quiiiite lazy about all that stuff and just come at it in a pretty haphazard way.

Okay, that was exhausting.  Please forgive me for overuse of what I call, 'The Slash', eeeehehehe (yeah, I've been watching too much Miranda).   And now I'm going to tag some peeps, who are free to participate or not...  I am curious to see what answers Megan of Mousehouse, Louana of NZ Green Buttons, and Bianca of Goodnight Little Spoon would give to these questions... Any takers?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Crafting Hit & Misses

Maybe it's all this party planning, but I've been hit by a craft-bug lately.  I had this brILLiant plan to make a colourful diamond pillow for our guest bed, it was all just TOO super exciting.  So I found a quiet moment (rare) and Eleanor and I got our craft on.  Erm.  Faaaaaaail.  When finished, Eleanor looked at it sideways and said, "it doesn't really look how you wanted it to look, does it, Mum."  Soooo close to my vision, argh!  

A few days earlier I gave Eleanor all the supplies needed to create some cards for her friends.  Oh, swoon.  I love.  She wished to write 'welcome' on them, so I gave her the necessary letters.  Her style...  Eleanor looooves to draw, but mostly prefers pen, for capturing small details.  So it was extra fun to see her working with colour.

As for my own failed project, I think I'll try again.  I find sewing a little tedious generally, but I really REALLY want a cool diamond pillow or five!

Saturday, August 30, 2014


A work-in-progress.  It's pretty rough, but I'm not too sure I should spend much more time tinkering.  I think it gets the gist across...  Maybe a crown and a few little tweaks...  I can't believe we're closing in on five years as parents.  I know it's cliche, but it barely seems like yesterday that I was a penniless student wandering the streets of Wellington in soggy Chuck Taylors.  Eleanor was our game-changer. Thanks, Mer-chick!

And if I can get my head around png files, I'll be back with some free overlays for ya x

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On My Nightstand - August (review)

'The Jewel' - Amy Ewing

Okay, so the same day this ARC arrived in the post, I also received a package of jewels intended for Eleanor's birthday celebrations.  I mean, c'mon!  Naturally:

This cover is already pretty (gold lettering?  Um, yes please!), but the plastic jewels...  Ahhhhh....  I get my kicks where I can.

Jewels and pretty covers aside, I felt this was another solid YA debut novel.  The book blurb had me at 'auctioned as a surrogate', which is weird, because normally that line wouldn't exactly float my boat ;-).  But when it comes to YA fiction, the crazier, the better (general rule, only).

I was lured in by the premise, and after a slightly shaky start, Ewing ensured there was tension and intrigue aplenty throughout the novel.  I especially enjoyed the relationship between Violet and her 'owner' (yeah, creepy alright), and some of the side characters were favourited early on (for those who read it - Raven & Garnet - let's discuss).  The setting was luxe and this is one aspect that I particularly look forward to seeing described further in the next two novels.

The writing, though in general very smooth (the pacing really hit the sweet spot - not too crazy-fast, and def not slow), contained a few descriptions that were either clunky or unnecessary.  This occasionally grated.  Also, I would've loved to see more fleshing out of Ash's (romantic lead) character.  It didn't feel as though there was time enough for me to fall in love with Ash, so I mean, how could Violet?  Lolz (but true).

On the flip side, this really didn't resonate as a romantic novel (though the final act dedicated a bit of time to the romance, it still felt secondary), and to me that was actually a strength.  I think this story would have been every bit as interesting without any romancing, and that's to Ewing's credit.  The other relationships had enough substance to add flesh to an already interesting plot, and there were definitely enough twists and turns to keep you hooked.

I have to say, I dug the cliffhanger at the end and I'm definitely keen to see where things are taken in the follow-up novels.  Exciting possibilities = opened up.

On reading the synopsis, my mind immediately swept to 'The Handmaids Tale', but there actually isn't much that is similar.  There have been comparisons drawn with 'The Selection' (reviewed here by Angela of Striking Keys), and 'The Hunger Games' - To that I would add the 'Birthmarked' series too, both in terms of setting and themes.   This should give you a fair idea of whether you have a place for 'The Jewel' on your bookshelf.

'The Jewel' by Amy Ewing (published by Harper Collins) will be available September 2nd :-)

Harper Collins provided me with a review copy of this book.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Disney yo

My whipper snappers are pretty lucky.  Our Playcentre paid for a trip to Disney On Ice a few weekends back, and it was almost too much excitement for our country bunnies.

They only knew who a few of the characters were, so there was lots of questioning.  This did not detract in the least from their enjoyment.  Mine either.  I didn't grow up on a diet of Disney, but I knew most of the stories one way or another.  

I wasn't sure it would completely be my cup of tea, to be honest, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Okay, some scenes dragged, and there was this whole 'pretty princess' bit that did my head in, but watching these little faces light up when Peter Pan descended, or a song began.  So worth it.

It was a lot of traveling, just for one night out, which made us all the more glad to arrive home to this.  Hello, Happiness!