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Wednesday 29 November 2017

A Christmas Activity Advent Calendar

It's almost time for the advent calendar to go up! Can you believe it's almost December already?

Every year we use the same advent calendar and rather than filling it with chocolate, candies or toys I fill it with vouchers for Christmas themed activities. Ok, I do add chocolates every now and then for an extra treat too.

Activity filled advent calendars are becoming a popular choice for a lot of families, but I often hear from people asking just what kind of activities to include.

Sunday 26 November 2017

36 Fun & Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas

It's that time of year!

Elfie Pokie Nokie, our Elf on the Shelf, is due to arrive back in our home in less than a week. It seriously feels like he was just here yesterday, but here we are again approaching December and his much anticipated arrival. 

I know that for a lot of families the Elf on the Shelf arrives right after Thanksgiving (or maybe even before) and I also know that for a lot of parents coming up with fun ideas for the elf can be a little daunting. So today I'm sharing some more of my favorite situations that we've found Elfie Pokie Nokie in over the past few years. I shared thirty of my favorite ideas a few years back, which you can see here, but it's time for an update with some new ideas. 

Let's take a look at what Elfie Pokie Nokie has been up to in the past...

Saturday 25 November 2017

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Muffins

With the cooler days coming, or already here depending on where you live, fun indoor activities for the kids are on my mind. As Mathilde is getting older and becoming more independent, one fun activity she really has taken a liking to is baking. She loves pouring the ingredients, stirring it all together, cracking the eggs (always her favorite), and at the end of all that fun there's a delicious treat. What could be better?

So while the big kids are at school Mathilde and I have been doing quite a bit of baking together. It really is such a great activity to do together and I love seeing how much joy it brings. Now, I know that this is the season for baking everything pumpkin spice or gingerbread flavored, but I like to mix things up a little so our baking lately hasn't been particularly seasonal. In fact, it's been almost Summery. Blame it on me being Australian and my seasonal body clock (if that's a thing) being all mixed up!   

Our latest baking fun resulted in delicious blueberry and cream cheese muffins. They're so good that I just had to share the recipe with you all. The cream cheese centers of these muffins are my favorite and they taste especially good warmed up. It's kind of like they've been buttered for you to give that extra special treat.

Today I've teamed up with Real California Milk, not only to bring you this tasty recipe, but to share the Seals for Good campaign. You may remember that I shared the Seals For Good campaign and how it is helping communities affected by the hurricanes in Texas and Florida a little while back. The campaign has been extended to send some love and support to those affected by the devastating wildfires right here in California.

To take part in the Seals For Good campaign, simply snap a photo of the Real California Milk logo (which you can see below) on any dairy product and share it on your social media using #SealsForGood. For each share, Real California Milk will donate $5 to the Great American Milk Drive, up to $10k in California and $20k in Texas and Florida. Post your pictures any time between now and December 31st 2017 and don't forget to use that hashtag. No purchase is necessary.

Now here's a look at how we made those tasty muffins...

What you'll need

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on the top
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 3/4 cups frozen blueberries
8 oz block of cream cheese (cut into cubes)

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Pour the sugar and butter into a large bowl. Cream together either using a mixer or with a wooden spoon. I used a mixer for this part which was one of the only steps that Mathilde didn't help with, although she did give it a good mix with her wooden spoon afterwards - while pulling a super cheesy grin in an attempt to look like the cartoon cow on the butter pack! 

Once the butter and sugar mix is fluffy add in the egg, egg yolks and vanilla.

Give it a good mix until it's well combined.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mix to the butter mix a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Stir well in between.

Once all of the flour and milk is mixed in, slowly fold in the blueberries. We used wild blueberries which are much bluer than regular blueberries and made for a purple/blue muffin mix. They also made for purple/blue toddler hands!

After cleaning those little blue hands, line a 12 hole muffin tray (or two 6 hole muffin trays) with cupcake liners. Fill each one about 2/3 full with muffin mix. The mixture made 18 muffins for me, but the original recipe I based this on suggested that it would make 12. If you would like the muffins larger, fill the liners closer to the top.

Place a cube of cream cheese into the center of each muffin and push it down.

Sprinkle generously with sugar - although maybe not quite as generously as Mathilde did!

Bake the muffins at 375F (190C) for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on a rack then enjoy while warm for a soft cream cheese center.

While these muffins taste best warm, they're pretty tasty at room temperature too making them perfect for lunchboxes or picnics.

Don't these muffins look so good? I must admit I've eaten way too many of them in the past few days. But all those blueberries make them healthy, right? Right?!

When you go buy your dairy products to make these tasty muffins (and for all your other baking needs) make sure to look for the Real California Milk seal on the pack. And don't forget to share a pic on your social media to help support the Great American Milk Drive.

For more information about the Seals For Good campaign click here.

Friday 24 November 2017

Photosynthesis at Conservatory of Flowers

The season of sparkling Christmas displays is almost upon us, but before we get into festive twinkling lights, there's an amazing illumination display that everyone in San Francisco needs to see. And it's only around for a few more days!

Photosynthesis is a nightly illumination display that lights up the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. The display is part of Illuminate SF which brings lighted and glowing art to the city. If you thought that the Conservatory of Flowers was beautiful during, and it is, just wait until you see it at night lit up with colorful botanical illuminations.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Give the Gift of Music with Fender Play

Earlier this week I shared my favorite gift ideas for families that love adventure. Today I'm continuing the holiday gift theme and sharing another out of the ordinary gift idea.

If you have a music lover on your gift list this year, how about giving them the gift of learning to play guitar? Whether they're a complete novice or have a little experience, Fender Play is a fantastic learning resource that will have them playing in no time. 

Fender Play is an online and mobile app that teaches budding musicians how to play guitar at home and at their own pace. The app offers not only hundreds of simple, instructor led song and technique lessons, but also the flexibility to learn where ever, and when ever, works best for you. Fender Play works on your home computer, lap top, tablet or phone. It truly is a flexible learning environment that can go anywhere with you and your guitar. 

Fender Play's "bite size" lessons are structured to keep players inspired and motivated as they learn using the "Hear It, Learn It, Play It" approach. The app really is perfect for adults and children alike. The whole family could even learn together! Fender Play also allows parents to keep track of their child's progress, which is such an important part of learning any new skill. 

Ava has been really keen to learn guitar for such a long time, but with her already busy after-school schedule of karate, swim team and student council we just haven't been able to find the time to fit in lessons. I love the idea of my kids learning a musical instrument as it's so beneficial to their overall learning and emotional intelligence (plus it's fun), but time constraints don't always make this easy. Being able to simply open an app on her tablet and start learning at home would definitely make things much easier. A new guitar and a subscription to Fender Play just might be found under our tree on Christmas morning. Shh... don't tell Ava! 

Fender Play subscriptions are just $19.99 per month for all access. Just in time for the holidays, Fender have released pre-paid gift cards for 6 and 12 month subscriptions. Wouldn't a subscription to Fender Play make such a great gift? 

Interested in trying out Fender Play for yourself? Click here to sign up for your free 30 day trial. 

Do you play guitar? Or maybe another musical instrument? I always wanted to play piano or guitar when I was a kid so I'm thinking I might have to give the guitar a go with Fender Play too!

Monday 20 November 2017

Gift Guide for Adventure Loving Families

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Micro Kickboard. All photos and opinions are my own.

The holidays are just around the corner which means it's time to start thinking about gift ideas. 

I'm a big fan of giving gifts that encourage the kids to get outside and play, even more so if it's a gift that encourages the whole family to play together. So today, I'm sharing some of my favorite gift ideas for families that love exploring, spending time outdoors and doing adventurous things together. 

Stay tuned for a fun give away at the end!

Micro Kickboard Scooters
For our city living family, scooters are a handy way to get around town. They're faster than walking, more convenient than bike riding and they're a ton of fun! My big kids have been getting around by scooter for years, and thanks to Micro Kickboard, Mathilde and I have now joined them! 

Ava and Lola ride the Sprite scooter which is designed for older children through to adults. It's a classic style two wheeled scooter that comes in a large range of colors. It's light enough for the kids to easily ride, but strong enough that either Kim or I could jump on and take it for a spin. The girls love that it has a handy kickstand so they don't always have to find something to lean it against when they get off.  Because the Sprite is lightweight, it's easy for the kids to carry around when folded too.

Mathilde rides the three wheeled Mini Deluxe which is suitable for children aged 2 - 5. The Mini Deluxe steers by pushing on the handle rather than turning it. It took Mathilde no time at all to pick it up. Just like a big scooter it has a rear brake, which is something missing from other toddler scooters on the market. And trust me, she zooms pretty fast keeping up with her big sisters so that brake comes in handy! 

My scooter is the Micro Black which is the best selling scooter for adults. It's really comfortable to ride and adjusts to suit a large range of sizes which means that Kim is able to ride it too. One of my favorite things about my scooter is that my kids love that I'm joining in the fun with them instead of just watching from the side lines. 

One thing I love about our scooters is they make for the perfect day out of fun. They're so easy to throw in the trunk of the car and take on adventures with us. Because the larger scooters fold up they take up very little room which means we can even take them on longer road trips and camping trips too. They're so much more convenient than taking bikes on our adventures, and just as much fun.

Wouldn't scooters for the whole family would make such a fantastic gift? Head on over to microkickboard.com for some great Black Friday deals with up to 40% off scooters for the whole family starting November 22. Don't forget the helmets for the kids. 

Oh, and stay tuned for a fun giveaway at the end of this post!

Sunday 19 November 2017

Hoes Down Harvest Festival 2017

Back at the start of October we attended one of my favorite annual festivals: the Hoes Down Harvest Festival at Full Belly Farm. This was our fourth time going to the Hoes Down and the event's 30th anniversary so it was a pretty big celebration.

As usual, we camped out in the car camping section, so upon arrival we set up our tent, grabbed a few snacks and then made our way towards all the farm fun.

Our first stop was at a big chicken coop filled with chickens that were not quite full grown but not longer baby chicks. The girls thought they were so cute (if smelly!) and spent quite some time talking to their new feathery friends.

Friday 17 November 2017

The Perfect Snack for Little Adventurers

This past Sunday the weather was absolutely glorious here in the Bay Area so we decided to spend the day out and about enjoying the sun. Despite living here for six years we've never really spent any time in San Francisco's Presidio, the large park and former army barracks next to the Golden Gate Bridge. A visit was definitely in order and this sunny day was just perfect for it. So we packed up the kids' scooters, our sense of adventure and lots of snacks and headed into the city for an afternoon of fun in the sun.

The kids had a blast exploring the Presidio. They enjoyed playing on the old canons displayed throughout the park, doing cartwheels and somersaults on the expansive lawns, watching the container ships and sailboats on the bay (especially as they went under the Golden Gate Bridge), and riding their scooters around on the many paths and trails.

Saturday 11 November 2017

Tile and the Lost Snoopy

This is the story of three little sisters, a lost Snoopy toy and a happy ending thanks to Tile!

Once upon a time three little sisters went out for lunch on a rainy day. 

The littlest sister took her favorite plush toy with her: a cuddly soft Snoopy. Snoopy was a very special toy. He had been with the littlest sister since she was six months old when she found him at the Charles M Schulz Museum. It had been love at first sight. She cuddled him in bed every night and during nap times. He traveled everywhere with the littlest sister, from the supermarket, to preschool and  even all the way to Denmark on vacation. He even went to hospital with her when she had her tonsils taken out. Snoopy had his tonsils taken out too. He was a very special and much loved cuddly toy indeed. 

While the sisters ate their lunch Snoopy sat on the bench beside them listening to their conversations. He was a very good listener, this Snoopy. 

Monday 6 November 2017

Lola's Art Party

October is always a super busy month for our family. Between Halloween and all its preparations, visiting a pumpkin patch, school festivals and harvest festivals it's already a pretty crazy month. Throw in Lola's birthday right in the middle of the month and crazy takes on a whole different meaning!

This year we celebrated Lola's 7th birthday with an art themed party. As usual, she came up with the theme and was eager to help plan all of the fun. It was such a great party theme with endless options for creative fun. Let's take a look...

For the party invitations I had a ton of different ideas going through my head (as did Lola) but none of them seemed quite right. Then an image of Lola as an artist popped into my head and I knew that it was perfect. So she dressed up in a striped shirt, placed a beret on her head and added one last touch - a paint brush balanced perfectly on Lola's duck face pout! If you know Lola, you'll know that she is the self described queen of duck face (take that Kylie Jenner!) so it seemed only fitting that her favorite selfie pose be included on the invitation. Plus it totally worked with the whole French artist look!

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