Saturday, 2 May 2015

If you only buy one coloring book for adults, it has to be this one...

I don't think I have ever wanted something as badly as I want "Secret Garden, An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book" by Johanna Basford. 

Look, it has been out since 2013, and she been interviewed by everyone from the Guardian to Slate, but I have only just discovered her. I'm late to the adult colouring book party.

love everything about Johanna. I love that she calls herself an ink evangelist. I love that she doodled an entire dog statue. I love that she's sold a million copies - I hope she's bought an island.

I was reading an interview with her where she said that the best thing about her colouring books (there's another one called Enchanted Forest) topping the best-seller lists is that now she has her choice of briefs. She works on what challenges her, and inspires her creativity.

Johanna explained to Digital Arts: "I became a mum last year and nothing could have prepared me for the craziness that is trying to be a working mum. Before, I'd be loathed to turn a client away and – if I needed to work 20 hours days – that’s what I did. I have a little person to care for now and she demands enough all nighters without trying to add a deadline and a conference call into the mix."

Yes, please. I want that freedom.

I just wish I could get my hands on her colouring books. They are sold out at Exclusives, Takealot and Amazon.

In the meantime I'm trawling comments threads and forums and reviews, trying to decide which pencils to use when I do get my hands on a copy (I've heard that fineliners bleed through the pages, and I can't have that, no no no no). 

And dreaming about whipping out my matching set of three Secret Garden mini journals during meetings. Or that we become pen pals, and she agrees to design a tattoo for me.







Read all about the wondrous Johanna here.

Where to get your hands on Johanna Basford in South Africa?

You can pre-order from Exclusive Books (R199) or do a special order through Loot (R197).

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Friday, 1 May 2015

Clean up in aisle 3!

If you have been following our family story for a while, then you know how tricky this shopping thing is for me. Particularly when I am flying solo. Like a momma duck in those watercolour-illustrated children's books from the 70s, with her three little ducklings waddling in a neat row behind her. Quack, quackity, quack, quack.

Except my three ducklings are running at 80km/h down the aisles - because "run" is the default setting for all kids, ain't it? - and repacking the tinned goods from the shelves into pyramids shapes, while stuffing Wonder Bars in their pockets when mom is not looking.

And the Lionheart, he is the worst. He gets all excited, and does his awkward run-walk-hop-shuffle in a tight circle while flapping his hands and giggling. I don't even notice when people stare at Travis anymore. Yes, he is mentally challenged. Yes, he is making weird sounds. Move along.

So imagine my surprise today in Food Lover's Market when a women, who had a little girl on her hip, tugged on my sleeve and asked: "You look like you have your hands full. Is there anything I can do to help?"

You could have knocked me over with a feather! And she had her own arms full with a squirming toddler, herself.

"I'm okay thanks. My husband is away," I mumbled. And then I felt compelled to add: "Isn't it funny how it's only other mothers that notice when a mom is struggling? Thanks for offering your help."

Good people are out there. And they buy freshly ground coffee beans at Food Lovers Market.

And just when you thought this story couldn't get any more heart-warming, here is a 4-second clip of the Lionheart pushing the trolley with his little brothers in it. Why just 4 seconds? Because I had to hit "stop" and rush to catch him before he ploughed into the shelves.

Cute kiddo.


video

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Share your #LindorMOMents and you could win a Lindt hamper worth R900!

If you have read some of my latest posts, like this one about Mom Bosses, and this one over here about Time-Saving Tips, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that all I want for Mother’s Day this year is some ‘me-time’.

I am talking about getting a pedicure while reading a trashy paperback and eating chocolates. Or finally getting a chance to explore some of Jozi’s markets. By myself. Now that is my idea of an afternoon well spent!

The thing is, we talk about making more ‘me-time’, but it never actually happens. So I am challenging you: be selfish! Don't wait for a special occasion like Mother’s Day. Make some ‘me-time’ for yourself this week - even if it is just a quiet cuppa during your lunch break.

It’s the LINDOR Mother’s Day ‘Me-Time Moment competition!

For one lucky Living Lionheart reader who makes some me-time, there is a Lindt hamper worth R900 to be won.






Here is what the winner gets in their blissful LINDOR Me-Time Moments hamper:
  • 1 x book from Exclusive Books’ Mother’s Day reading list
  • A selection of LINDOR products
  • A bottle of champagne
  • A selection of pamper products 

HOW TO ENTER
All you need to do to stand a chance of winning this R900 Lindt hamper is share your ‘me-time’ moment on either Twitter or Instagram, using the hashtag #LindorMOMents.

Remember to tag me, please! For instance:

Twitter
Hey @LindtSA and @MissStaceyVee, here is my #LindorMOMents entry (tweet a pic)!

Instagram
Share pics of your #LindorMOMents, and tag @LindtSA and @staceyvee.

Get creative! Have some fun with your entry! Show me what ‘me-time’ is for you! It can be over the top, or just you having a bubble bath with candles.

Good luck!



Terms and conditions

This competition closes at noon on 10 May. It is open everyone (not just moms), as long as you are a resident of South Africa. All entrants need to follow Lindt SA on Twitter and/or Instagram. All entries MUST include the official Lindt Mother’s Day competition hashtag: #LindorMOMents. Entries that exclude the hashtag will not be valid. You may enter more than once. Lindt will be sending hampers on Tuesday, 12 May 2015.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Have you tried the NIDO 3+ StimuLearn apps yet?

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Being a mom is rewarding, exhausting, terrifying and surprising. It’s like having ‘pure joy’ on tap, even when you’re sleep-deprived. It’s the best thing in your life, even when your mascara goes missing and the first place you look is in your kids’ toy box.

No one tells you this, but being a mom is also a licence to act like a kid again. To make funny noises, and dress up like a pirate, and play pretend and giggle till your tummy hurts. Your kids keep you on your toes from sun up until sun down, and often way after moonrise.

And lastly, being a mom is a full-time job and the biggest responsibility of your adult life…

What you put in is what you get out

I have three sons aged 7, 3, and 22 months old, and if there’s one thing I am sure of, it’s that: “what you put in is what you get out”. They soak up everything I say and do and teach them like sponges!


Pop quiz: what does ‘GUM’ stand for?

It stands for growing-up milk! Nestlé NIDO 3+ is formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of your pre-schooler.

Our Travis the Lionheart lived off it for years, and his little brother Ryan switched to NIDO when he was weaned off formula. It’s enhanced with branded active ingredients and enriched with vitamins and minerals.

Growing young minds

We gave NIDO’s StimuLearn apps a whirl this long weekend. They’re designed by child development experts at the NestlĂ© Research Centre in Switzerland.

There are five game-based apps for kids, and one app for parents for monitoring your child’s progress. The kids’ apps are based on five cognitive pillars to support children’s learning: language, memory, problem solving, psychomotor, and Learning Better Together.


The apps are available for free for both iOS and Android, and I downloaded the StimuLearn apps to our boys’ iPad. The games are for children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old.

My favourite game was Island Market where you shop for items, and then have to give the exact change from a pile of coins presented to you. But my boys’ favourites were Forgotten Castle, a memory card game, and Pearl Beach – think ‘Pac-Man’ for toddlers!

The other two games are Story House, where you can record your own voice, and Mr. Skylab, where you match the drag-and-drop to match the shapes and build puzzles.

This is Forgotten Castle. If you look at the photo right at the top of this post you'll see that the NIDO 3+ team also gave us a deck of the memory cards to play with in real life. Both versions were a hit with my kids.
This is Pearl Beach. Told you it looks like Pac-Man! You have to tilt the screen to get your character to chomp up the pearls.
In Mr. Skylab, you drag and drop shapes into the right spot. How fun is this planet made of sweets and doughnuts?
What’s clever is that after the game, you get suggestions for offline activities like “Ask your child to tell the family what she did during the day. Remind her is she forgets some events. Soon she will learn to tell what happened in the right order.” Then it tells you what age group this activity is suitable for.

The parents’ app has the most functionality. After you’ve registered, you set up a profile for each of your kids. Then every time they play the games, they are rewarded with badges as they progress. There’s also a section with lists of learning activities that you can try at home.


Just a note – if you still have a US iTunes account, you’re going to have to switch to the South African App Store first. And another tip: download the parents’ app first, and then the games.

Join the conversation

Join an online community of like-minded moms and dads. NIDO 3+ recently launched its Facebook and Twitter social channels, and they’re having an awesome Mother’s Day during the month of May.

Tell ‘em the Lionheart family sent you!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Recipe: how to make meringue frosting

My mom-in-law shared the recipe with me for a delicious, light sponge that you can use to whip up a quick kid's cake or a batch of cupcakes. It's called "Hurry Up Cake", and it's become the standard in our household.

So while the cupcakes themselves never change, I do try to do something different every time I decorate them. It's all about the decorating, right kids?



This time I tried to make meringue frosting. It uses a different technique than ye olde buttercream icing, but it's surprisingly easy to do. It quickly hardens, so that it has a crunch on the outside and a gooeyness on the inside that is just heaven.



How to make meringue frosting 

Make sure your cupcakes are out of the oven and cooled before you make it.

INGREDIENTS
200g sugar
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt

METHOD

  1. Put a small pot of water on the stove plate, and get it boiling. Place a heatproof glass (or metal) mixing bowl on top of the simmering water (but not quite touching the surface).
  2. Quickly combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl, and hand-whisk it for 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Remove the bowl, and using your electric mixer, beat the hot mixture on a low setting for 2 mins.
  4. Tip: if you want to add a drop of food colouring, now's the time!
  5. Then beat on high for 5 mins, and it becomes very stiff and sticky (almost like melted marshmallow).
  6. Immediately ice your cupcakes, as it hardens quickly.
Makes enough to ice 12 cupcakes.


Sunday, 26 April 2015

By July there will no longer be a “lionheart in my bath tub”

Where do you start with the telling of this kind of news?

I thought about starting right at the beginning, when Travis was diagnosed. When complete strangers helpfully suggested we should institutionalise our baby boy and I said “over my dead body”.

Then I thought about starting this blog post by telling you about the day we broke – the day – I think Travis was four or five then – that we gathered all of our courage and told Trav’s neurologist: “we can’t do this anymore”.

She suggested respite care.

We checked out some places. We were horrified. Shaken to the core.

If you’ve been following our story for a while, you’ll know that then we found the right place for Travis: Oakhaven, opened in December last year.

We didn’t have the money for Travis to live there full-time, but he’s stayed over for a couple of weekends and he is insanely happy there. As in, I have to manhandle him to the car on Sundays when I fetch him because he wants so badly to stay. (Travis is the same way about his school, by the way.)


Thing is, I did such a great job of telling special needs families like ours about Oakhaven, that there is only one spot left for a full-time resident – so they are hanging onto it for our boy.

From 1 July, Travis will be in full-time residential care and he’ll come home every second weekend.

Wow.

You know, right up until I typed that sentence I was feeling pretty calm about this whole thing. Now my eyes are welling up, and I can feel that fire that starts high up in your sinus cavities when you’re about to snot-cry, hard.

Phew. Breathe. Okay.

We’ve given notice at Travis’s school, and this will be his last term there.

The Lionheart’s school has been a part of our lives since he was just over a year old. I can’t imagine a time in our lives when his teachers, and school friends weren’t right there, by our side, holding our hands tight through every calamity.


We are also letting go of his caregiver who has been with us for seven years.

Trav’s brothers – they’re too small to understand the enormity of what’s about to happen, and I am glad for it.



The Husband? He’s keeping it together.

Me?



Let’s save that for another blog post.

We’ll be holding a fundraiser for Travis in the middle of June – to help cover the costs of his big move. 

(Believe it or not, while I am self-employed and our business is doing well, I’ve made some huge financial sacrifices to fast track its growth. In the month of June we're moving into bigger offices, we have to pay out Trav's darling caregiver's retrenchment package and settle Trav's first month of fees. So yes, Trav’s move to residential care could not come at a more tricky time for us. But we HAVE to make this happen for him! Have to!)

We’re going to try raise R15 000 to R20 000 to cover expenses. These include his first month there – we’ll be fine from his second month – and the poor kiddo is in desperate need of basically a whole new wardrobe. Travis literally has one pair of shoes right now. He is very hard on his shoes. So yeah, donations in the form of Mr Price vouchers would be enthusiastically accepted ;)

The Lionheart's standard position at all noisy social events.
  

By July there will no longer be a “lionheart in my bath tub”. 

Except every second Friday and Saturday night - when he can slosh about in our tub for as long as he likes!

It’s a whole new chapter for Travis and for our family.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Give your 'gently loved' kids clothes to Naartjie and get a 5% discount for every item donated

I am spending the weekend clearing out my boys cupboards, to make space for all their winter knits and tracksuits. My boys have the cutest jerseys and winter pyjamas loving made by Ouma, so I’m glad the weather is cooling, and we can dress them in them.

Of course, getting ready for winter also means tossing out old clothes that don’t fit. Like, tracksuit bottoms that don’t even reach my boys’ ankles anymore! It’s like they shot up during the summer months.

If you go to your nearest Naartjie store to donate kids’ clothing that’s still in good condition, you’ll get a 5% discount voucher for for every item donated. Click here to find your nearest Naartjie.



The fine print
A maximum discount of 25% applies to each purchase when redeeming your vouchers. You can collect vouchers until 15 June, and you have until 30 June to redeem them. The Naartjie Love Foundation is collecting ‘gently loved’ clothes for ages 0-12 years, and these clothes will go to the Goedgedacht Path Out of Poverty Project. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Things my three-year-old son Spider-Man says



Three-year-olds are the best. Especially Spider-Man. That’s the name of the three-year-old boy in my house. He insists.

He also insists that his dad’s name is actually Batman. I’m not complaining, because Batman is tall, dark, and… rich.

His little brother is Superman.

And his big brother Travis is Aquaman. 

We don’t know much about Aquaman. He probably likes water, like Travis does, and Vincent Chase from Entourage plays him, and that’s good enough for us.

So I asked tiny Spider-Man, which superhero I am.

Bat Girl?

Na-uh.

Wonder Woman?

Na-uh.

“So who is mommy then?”



Mom, you is…




The Boss!


Kids say the darndest things.

Tell me what the funniest thing is that your toddler has said, and I'll share the best comments in one hilarious post next week...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Big families and trailers go together like...

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April has more holidays than my boys have Lego cars. (Parents – you know what I am talking about – the kids have tonnes of Lego, but the bits with the wheels always go missing first.)

With yet another long weekend looming, I’m willing to bet you’ve got a road trip in the works. And road tripping with kids and their “essentials” means: trailers.

Anyway, I asked my boys to choose a couple of toys to take with them on our adventures this long weekend. Here are just a few “essentials” that there’s no space for in a car:



Yup, very essential. 

And very unpractical to squeeze into a car, which is why you need a trailer.

Speaking of things with wheels that go missing, keeping your new family trailer safe is top priority. With King Price, you actually insure your trailer. Along with their super cheap car insurance premiums that decrease every month, you can enjoy your family getaways with no worries.



For more about how you can insure your trailer, car and how to save that little bit of extra cash and time every month, contact #KingPrice for a car insurance quote.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Bacon, and the everyday apocalyse

We’re big on our Sunday breakfasts. No one can put away a plate of scrambled eggs like our Lionheart. And then there’s the bacon – the glorious, lard-streaked, umami of the gods. Who can resist a side plate of bacon?

Travis can. He’ll look at it longingly, he can see himself eating it up with those brown eyes of his. But he won’t stretch out his hand to take a piece off his plate. Why? Because silly, silly mom. She’s doing it all wrong. She’s not sticking to the Rules.

The Rules of Trav, which state: “If mom picks up a spoon and spoon-feeds me my scrambled eggs off my plate – because she knows it’s a bit too messy for me to eat with my fingers like I eat most of my meals – then she has to feed me everything on the plate with that same spoon.”

“She can’t just walk away to eat her own breakfast, and leave me alone with a small mountain of bacon. How will it get from the plate to my mouth? Maybe if I just stare at it, a piece of bacon will levitate off my plate and into my mouth? And it looks so delicious. Hmmm, bacon. Get in my belly. Somehow. I’m just going to stare at it some more. Delicious bacon…”

I’m imagining Trav’s internal dialogue, of course. I have no idea if he even has a voice inside his head. Does Travis shape his thoughts with language, like the rest of us, or does he use “urges” and colours to shape what he is thinking? 

Come to think of it, I have no idea if Travis can see colours. I do know that he has several hundred thousand less optic nerves than the average 7-year-old boy, and I know that it affects the quality of his eyesight, but not if affects the spectrum of colours he can see. Does it even matter to him, if this is the view of the world he was born with?

Back to that plate of bacon.

At first I held out. I watched Travis grow more and more frustrated, trying to figure out a way to get the delicious bacon from his plate – which was right in front of him – to his mouth. It would not compute. There was just one way for it to happen: mom had to put it on a spoon and put it in his mouth for him. Because she can’t just change the system mid-way during breakfast. 

“First I’m being spoon-fed eggs, and now I must use my fingers to eat my bacon? Has the world gone mad?”

Eventually I put down my own plate of food (I always eat last because I feed Travis first) and speared some of Trav’s bacon with my fork and fed it to him. I’m amazed he let me use a fork, when we’d been using a teaspoon before – so he is becoming less rigid in his ways as he gets older.

In case I haven’t mentioned this before: Travis still doesn’t use eating utensils of any kind. He refuses to hold them in his hands. No knives or forks or spoons. 

Although he does have a habit of taking knives from the kitchen counters or drying rack and hurling them to the ground, so we’re very careful not to leave them lying around. All our sharp knives are kept in a plastic jug on the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard. 

He uses a teaspoon – but not in the way a teaspoon is meant to be used. Rather, Trav uses a teaspoon to stim with, tapping it against his lips for hours at a time.



But no cutlery for eating. Nada. Zip. Zero silverware.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this on a Sunday morning. I haven’t been writing about what it’s like raising a mentally disabled child for a while now, because all these oddities, these “bonus behaviours” that come with raising our Lionheart, well – it’s situation normal. An everyday apocalypse.

This morning’s Battle of the Bacon was the first time I’d noticed for yonks just how fucking weird Travis makes things for our family. Daily.

You know what else he did this morning? He went to the pantry, took out a box of chicken stock, and took it back to his room, where he bit into every single one of those blocks of dried stock. Peeled the silver foil off every one, chewed some of them before spitting the goopy yellow stock on his bed and the floor.

What was he thinking? Maybe that it was chocolate?  

“Let me eat this block of chocolate.”

“Ugh, it’s so salty! Throw it away!”

“I wonder if this one is a block of chocolate?” 

“Ugh! Also salty! Yuk, throw it away!” 

“I bet this next block is chocolate though – it’s just got to be…”

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