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Friday, November 14, 2014

F I V E


Some belated pics from her birthday.  It included a magical mystery tour, which, due to rain, ended up as a visit to the closest restaurant where we ordered ridic expensive ice-cream sundaes (we BYOd some pebbles).


Celebrating five years of Eleanor was pretty special.  Five years with this fun/fierce/songful girl.  Five years as parents.  I still haven't quite gotten my head around it...


And for the big school question?  It's still a bit of a 'watch this space', but we are buying some extra time by waiting until after the holidays.  She's at home for now, and we are counting our blessings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On My Nightstand - Oct + Gecko Press review

Hmm.  There's no way I'm gonna make my goal, but whatevs.  I'm sure the internets will survive, and I know I will.  Anyway, these are my latest reads...

The Volume of Possible Endings (A Tale of Fontania) - Barbara Else


It was fun to slip into some middle grade fiction for a little while.  There are some refreshing differences between MG and YA (and Adult for that matter), my favourite of which was the POV.  Third person, after sooooo many first person narratives!  I know it's a little (and possibly quite geeky) thing to get excited about but yanno.

The Volume of Possible Endings was a fun, fast-paced adventure with some truly quirky characters.  12-year-old Dorrity is courageous and quick-thinking, and must uncover all the secrets from her past in order to rescue Fontania from an evil Count.  There is a real Steam Punk vibe to the story, a quaint setting, and many little adventures, each playing their part in the slow build towards the climax.  There was one aspect of the resolution that I was a little sad about, but as this stand-alone belongs to a bigger series about Fontania, I'm kinda hoping that this thread-line will be picked up in the next (assuming there is a next - I hope so).  I would recommend this to any MG reader, and it would make a fun read-aloud too!  Very magical :-)

Love Letters to the Dead - Ava Dellaira


Laurel writes letters to dead celebs, describing her journey through Freshman Year in high school (friends, boys, parties, ), and gradually unravelling the truth about her sister's possible suicide.

There was a lot that I loved about this novel.  The writing is fresh, and the concept is fun (especially the references to celebs I idolised in my youth :-)).  Some of the phrasing was really beautiful, with some very poignant moments as Laurel worked through her grief.  The pacing worked for me, slower to begin with, gradually picking up momentum as I read.  There were gentle nudges towards the truth throughout, which did mean I figured out the backstory early on, but this didn't make the gradual uncovering of truth any less effective.

Laurel's voice was very young compared to other YA novels I've read recently, and especially considering some of the life events that have shaped her thus far.  This, unfortunately, was distracting.  To me, she sounded like a 12-13 year old (I think she was 15) which made for some uncomfortable reading in certain scenes.  Actually, there were a lot of uncomfortable scenes.  Too many for me.  There's a real sinister edge the entire way through, and while I often read (and enjoy) sad/tragic/dark novels, this one just felt a bit icky.  There were lots of creeps.  And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Overall I liked it, but I wouldn't recommend it to teenagers younger than 16-17.  I'm putting this one in the 'hmmmmm' pile.

The Selection - Kiera Cass


I knew what to expect; a light romance set in a dystopian world.  Sounded fun, and I was prepared for the bad bits.  I liked: The setting - I'm a closet (not anymore!) fan of The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and love a good dystopian, so this was a perfect marriage!  Plus, castles and glitter and pretty dresses.  I'm a magpie, basically.  I quite liked most of the main characters - Maxon in particular.  He's a tad boring, but still likeable.  The pace worked, and I was hooked from beginning to end - I love a fast read!

Didn't like: The protagonist.  I didn't actively dislike her for the most part, with the exception of some especially annoying sequences in which she proved her worthiness as a 'woman of the people.'  Excerpt:

       "America, you're so nice.  All those people at the airport loved you."  
       "Oh, I was just being friendly.  You met people, too," I countered.  
       "Yeah, but not half as many as you."  
        I lowered my head, a little embarrassed for being complimented over something that seemed so obvious.

*gag*.  Unfortunately these moments of 'humility' were scattered the entire way through.  That and an extreme emphasis on physical beauty.  Conversely, being 'curvaceous' appeared to translate as 'unattractive', which made me grind my teeth just a little.

Well anyway I'm hooked now, and even though I already know exactly what is going to happen the entire way through (the mechanics are glaring), I will see this through to the very bitter end.


The list:
YA novels
Forest Born - Shannon Hale
Cinder - Marissa Meyer
If I Stay - Gayle Forman (read)
The Fault In Our Stars - John Green (read)
The Jewel - Amy Ewing (read)
The Selection - Kiera Cass (read)
The Elite - Kiera Cass (reading)
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (read)
Boy 21 - Matthew Quick (reading)
Love Letters To The Dead - Ava Dellaira

Contemporary/Adult lit
The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer (DNF)
Rules of Civility - Amor Towles

NZ fiction
(Middle Grade) The Volume of Possible Endings - Barbara Else (read)
Spark - Rachael Craw (read)

Classics

Non-Fiction
Is It Just Me? - Miranda Hart (read)
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai


Thank you to Gecko Press for providing a review copy of The Volume of Possible Endings :-) Tres grateful.

Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal

I have been planning and stashing and list-making in overdrive.  Guys, Christmas is coming!  I've also been thinking a little bit about the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal, and providing Christmas gifts for precious little people who may not receive any this year.  I know, it's not all about the presents, but I'll be honest, finding gifts for the peeps I love is one of my favourite pre-summer activities, and if mine are receiving them, I wanna help ensure that underprivileged kiddos do too.

If you would like to donate this year, Kmart stores around the country will be collecting gifts for the Salvation Army to distribute (to approximately 45,000 homes this year, with our help).  Donated gifts do not need to be from Kmart, and for the super skilled amongst us, you could donate handmade! *smiley face*.  Alternatively, if you don't live near a Kmart store you can purchase an e-card which will then be converted into Kmart gifts.

And for a bit of Christmassy fun, some printables (via Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal) for your kids.  Advent activity anyone?





And for full disclosure, I was contacted in regards to the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal but this is not a sponsored post (not money or products were transferred).  I was more than happy to help spread the word :-)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mermaid Party


I feel like our summer/party season has officially opened up now, kicking off with this mermaid party.   I'm glad I have an extra day off this weekend, because I actually cannot believe how tired I was afterwards...


Even though I've been working on this party for quite a while, things were kept pretty simple on the actual day.  We had a picnic-y afternoon tea, and then the kiddos headed into a 'mermaid grotto' to listen to a story read by a *real* mermaid.  Bubbles, mermaid dolls, etc.  It was fun.


Afterwards they played in the caves and the rocks.  Like I said, simple.  Which was fortunate because I had a splitting headache and the sun was beaming down.  Simple was just perfect.


I decorated the grotto with bubbles, seaweed and jewels -  using clear christmas baubles found on ebay, strips of leftover mermaid fabric, and a roll of beaded string (also ebay).  Nothing complicated, but it definitely added a little magic.  I also played 'A Little Mermaid' tracks on my phone, and a friend handled a bubble maker for added atmosphere...  


Nope, I didn't make that awesome mermaid tail that Melody (perfect name, right?) is wearing.  I did make a doll size one though (below).  Don't mind the freaky black doll eyes.  She's not really going to eat your brains (maybe).  If you're wondering where the other mermaid tails are - my kids lasted all of about five minutes in them, before they were stripping off...  Erm... Well they have halloween costumes now, I guess.


As usual we used Pop Roc Parties as our source for party supplies, and were sent a couple of extra little goodies - so lovely!  We went with colourful/mismatched, ordering these cute polka dot plates, some polka dot cups, and these stripy gold ones.  I also purchased a couple of these mason jar glasses while I was at it, soooo purdy!  Pop Roc Parties supplied these adorable Toot Sweet napkins, along with some Toot Sweet cake flags which turned out to be a godsend.  I kinda ran out of ideas the night before, and settled on a simple cake (we did a pink pinata thing, but it looked pretty plain from the outside).  The toppers totally saved the day and we ended up with a very sweet looking cake, yuss!


The party wasn't without it's mishaps and plan-gone-wrongs.  Probably a little higher stress than I would have preferred but overall - successful.  Many of my food choices were collected from Pinterest - no point reinventing the wheel for this one.  The (whoops, green) jellies didn't set in time, but were devoured during the clean up afterwards, so, all = not lost.


I'm secretly planning a much more low-key party for Garland ('cat' theme, oh yeah!), we'll hold that one at home which is always much easier.  But '5' just felt like it needed some extra celebrating...

For more Mermaid stuff:

Party favours here and here.
Mermaid tails here.

Disclaimer:  While this is not a sponsored post - Pop Roc Parties did send two of the party items for me to use at my discretion.  :-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kiddo Sews

I've been a teeeeeny bit stressed about producing these mermaid tails.  I didn't want to fork out for cheap looking tails, but no matter how easy I convinced myself these would be, I just pro.cras.tinated like nobody's business.

Eventually I forced myself to sit down and threw them together.  It was crazy.  I let the kids do their own thing for an hour, which mostly turned out okay, and I committed myself to finishing them - no matter how imperfectly.  Oh, they're imperfect.  All you talented sewers out there, I'm super glad you did not witness the way I ATTACKED this fabric with my machine.  It was ugly.  And on several occasions, scary.


But I did it! And one for the doll!  The kids love them and want to wear them constantly.  Despite not being able to walk, or... move... whilst wearing them.  These have a hole at the bottom for their feet, and can be rolled up as far as the knees, with a cardboard tail to disguise toes when needed.  Party pics shortly :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Seashell Jewellery Trays


Super ages ago I had the idea for these (though just a tiny amount of googling informs me that I was not the first), and a Mermaid Party was JUST the excuse to make them.  I *almost* forgot them entirely, and remembered only recently, after some beach combing.  Whew.  


They were a little time-consuming, but def worth the effort.  I think I used about four coats of paints, and probably couldn't done another coat or two.  I had ten to make, and I ditched early.  I think they look fine *crosses fingers*.  I also wish I'd glued the 'pearl' after painting the shell.  I made the call to glue first, hoping that I could tidily paint around the pearl and disguise the glue.  It didn't work out marvellously, but I ended up kinda blending the pearl into the shell with white paint, so I guess that's okay.


My original idea included iridescent paint, but that stuff is expense!  So I used what I had on hand, and a little bit of glitter looked just as good.  A fun, simple idea that was easy to execute.  Perfect.

Edit - The placement of the pearl is not especially accurate - but we wanted the pearl as a placeholder for rings 'n things.  Yanno.  Creative licence and all that.  I mean, it's a scallop shell so we're not going for complete accuracy here ;-)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

On My Nightstand - Aug/Sept/Oct

So at the beginning of the year I set myself the challenge of reading 40 books in 2014.  During the past few months I hit a reading slump, switching reading with binge-watching comedy series.  You know what?  No regrets.

I had a number of books on my 'to read' list, many of which were YA (genuine love for this book category, and shorter book length totes helps with this challenge *smileyface*), and I've had some excellent recommendations along the way.  I've also switched out some of my original selection to make way for some newly acquired reads.  Basically, I still have a ton of reading to do before we hit the end of Dec, so I'll prob stick to YA, yeah?

And before I forget - the winner of 'Spark' has been drawn (yes, I did forget).  Congrats Alisa!  Please email me your address - thegoldenadventures(at)gmail(dot)com

'Is It Just Me?' - Miranda Hart


This was a fun, light read, and exactly what Miranda fans would expect to find.  Lots of silliness (the good kind), self-deprecation (my fave kind of comedy) and thoughts on life.  I enjoyed it, though I wouldn't say I loved it.  I think I love Miranda best onscreen, and many of the sequences in the book  were more like skits anyway, so I don't know that it offered anything fresh.  You know, the perfect book for reading in a hammock under the apple tree, but nothing you are likely to remember past closing the final page.

'Spark' - Rachael Craw


Reviewed here.

'The Jewel' - Amy Ewing

Reviewed here.

'The Graveyard Book' - Neil Gaiman


Ermagerd I LOVED this book!  Which was a bit of a surprise because the jacket description left me cold.  Who knew a graveyard would make such an appealing setting for a novel?  So, Bod (short for Nobody), is raised in a graveyard by a bunch of ghosts and so on.  Sound like a delightful read?  It actually is!  Gaiman manages to make sleeping in a coffin/tomb sound super cozy and safe, rather than supremely creepy (the actual truth). Each chapter is a self-contained story, and each contributes in it's own way to the grand finale.  Gaiman's writing is flawless and also brilliant.  I paused on a sentence every now and then, just to let the weight of it sink in.  And they may be few (and spliced between some truly horrifying sequences) but there are some sweetly comedic bits too.  Just perfect.

Plus, Silas.  #newfavouritecharacterever

I will say, I really don't know that I would recommend this to any child (even though Bod is himself a child for most of the novel), and with hesitance to many younger young adults.  I'm quite amazed by Gaiman's ability to turn some truly dark subject matter into a fun, adventurous, emotion stirring story, but eeek, the chapter bookends are super chilling.  And I'm a fan of CSI.

Stoked to have found this in an opshop for 50c (opshops ftw), and super looking forward to the film release.  Assuming it actually gets released at some point.  Fingers crossed.


More book reviews here.  xx

YA novels
Forest Born - Shannon Hale
Cinder - Marissa Meyer
If I Stay - Gayle Forman (read)
The Fault In Our Stars - John Green (read)
The Jewel - Amy Ewing (read)
The Selection Series - Kiera Cass
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (read)
Boy 21 - Matthew Quick

Contemporary/Adult lit
The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer (DNF)
Rules of Civility - Amor Towles

NZ fiction
(Middle Grade) The Volume of Possible Endings - Barbara Else (reading)
Spark - Rachel Craw (read)

Classics

Non-Fiction
Is It Just Me? - Miranda Hart (read)
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

Friday, October 3, 2014

Messages in bottles


I've started some makings in preparation for Eleanor's party.  These little bottles contain glittery sand, a tiiiiiiny plastic jewel, and a wee scroll.  Of course I still need to find some chains before they are complete.  I decided not to seal the cork with glue, so they can switch the sand etc. out and replace it with something else (mini terrarium, beads, whatnot), if they choose to.  I found the bottles on Trademe and they were inexpensive.  The tiny chest I found on eBay, but have seen these in $2 stores too.

Now to make a mermaid tail or three *scared face*.