Monday, 29 December 2014

The Christmas That Was and a 2014 Wrap Up Link-Up

Phew! Christmas is comfortably over as I sit to reflect on the big day and I am worn out entirely and so are the kids but they are very happy with their gifts and memories.
It's time to officially relax into the season now and treasure another year of sweet family memories.
I am usually so organised in the lead-up to Christmas but this year, it crept up on me so fast that I fell into a total panic when I suddenly realised December had begun but my preparations had not.
And so, one week early in December, I pushed aside all other plans and hit the internet in a big way in order to get the enormous task of providing for six excited children under wraps.
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Thursday, 25 December 2014

#SLHFeaturedThursdays: Camping or Glamping in Style with Coleman

Are you a Camper or a Glamper?

I must admit I have never been much of a camper. My memories of camping have been a truly mixed bag over the years. It was certainly a brilliant experience as a child. (Probably because it was always someone else's responsibility to do all the work, but then, that's why childhood is so great isn't it?)

My last camping experience was 15 years ago now, one Autumn. I was six months pregnant and the night was ruined by the incessant tune of a Spice Girls song which blared from the radio of a nearby group of teen campers who parked themselves right next to us for the night.

The Spice Girls for 12 long hours, non-stop...just imagine the agony of that!

I am told camping can be super fun but I am yet to be convinced in light of my most 'recent' experience. I do know that my Husband and boy children of this household are especially keen to give it a try. I think they just might have reached an ideal age for it too.
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

An Easy Christmas Pumpkin Fruit Cake Recipe

Christmas is a busy, busy time for everyone with things winding up in absolutely every area of our lives. The pace is hectic. Then there's the parties - an endless stream of them. Fun though they are, (not to mention tiring), there's often the requirement of bringing a plate which certainly 'adds to the plate' in the stress stakes!
I like to bake everything at this time of year because that's half the fun of Christmas for me. These party events make me pull out the cook books for take-along ideas that are especially quick and painless. Really, we should all be buying the treats for parties right now but it's hard to do this when everywhere you look has stunning foods on display to celebrate the season. Got to be a part of it and get cooking!
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Monday, 22 December 2014

The End of School, A New Beginning and A Great Start to Secondary with Nuance Dragon

*This post is sponsored on behalf of Dragon Nuance and Digital Parents Collective.

We're so thrilled to find the end of the school year is finally here around these parts. My kids are beyond excited! There is Christmas to look forward to, a holiday by the beach arranged and I am personally looking forward to popping all those school bags into the garage for storage for six whole, glorious weeks while we enjoy the break from routine.

This year marks the end of primary education for my eldest of the boys. I can't believe it all flew by so fast. If you too are also farewelling primary education with one of your children, you will understand that mixture of emotions you can both experience at this time. Besides the inevitable excitement, there's joy and pride and a little sadness too. There's also apprehension and a touch of fear on my Son's part. The end of primary education sees a whole new journey ahead and that's a lot for a twelve year old to digest on so many levels.

From my perspective, it's a busy time just arranging this transition into high school. There are endless orientation days, uniforms and books to buy, bus passes to sort and piles of paperwork to tend to, all before he can step across the new school's threshold in February.

A while ago here, I reviewed the software by Nuance; the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Software. If you missed this post you can read it here. We were given the opportunity to try first-hand, this amazing speech to text program that is invaluable for students and others who have need to transcribe large volumes of work quickly without the hindrance of manually typing.

Despite the plethora of worries that we have for this next stage in our Son's life, I have to say we feel very confident our boy is off to a great start already with his homework and assignments in the new year. Nuance's NaturallySpeaking software has been put to good use by him since he self-installed it on our home PC several months back. Ki has dictated countless stories using it just for fun and really familiarised himself with the program many times over which has been so great to see.

If you are at all concerned about your own child's ability to cope with the volume of work and time constraints of school next year too, please consider the peace of mind that the Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking aid can provide. By simply speaking into the microphone of their PC, your child can have their spoken word instantly transcribed by the software, into a fully typed and formatted document and one that's free of errors too. Considering speech is three times faster than typing, this can be an invaluable tool for capturing those important thoughts as soon as they are formed.

Using the NaturallySpeaking software is a fun way to learn and complete essential projects and for children in this fast-paced era in which we live, it's also an enjoyable and quick method too, leaving them more time to do the things they love. Even children who suffer from dyslexia can benefit greatly by using the program.

For a limited time, you can purchase the Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking Software and receive 10% off the regular purchase price. This great offer is valid until the 31st of January 2015. Your purchase will also place you in the running to win one of 6, iPhone 6 mobile phones. (Hopefully another item of need ticked off your child's long list of school transition requirements!)

Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking is available in Home and Premium formats for Windows and Dragon Dictate for Mac versions.
Do you have a child starting secondary school or university next year?
Are you concerned about your child's transition too?

Christmas on the blog continues and it's a month devoted to reviews and giveaways...

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Friday, 19 December 2014

Have You Discovered Pitchi Yet?

*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Pitchi.

Have you heard of Pitchi yet?

No doubt everyone who is internet connected has at some point in time, searched online to buy, sell or simply discover something new. We're all familiar with the major websites out there that specialise in this in particular. I am a regular user, (if not daily user) of most of them.

Pitchi is a brand new concept in online buying and selling however that differs from the standard offerings that many of us are used to. is an innovative and exciting video selling platform which specialises in forging a very personal and engaging relationship between innovative sellers and prospective buyers in the most intimate and entertaining of ways.

If you're confused as to what this might mean exactly then imagine the potential in this example of a buying experience:

Pretend you need a new coffee table for your lounge room. The first place that you might think to look for such an item is at a regular furniture store. They will certainly have a huge selection to choose from and designs to suit all tastes and budgets. There will be a standard price tag and in exchange you will receive a fairly standard piece of furniture, (probably flat-packed), which you will collect from the store's furniture warehouse. They will happily remove it from their shelves for you, taking it from a pile of fifteen exactly the same. Into your car and off you go.

Just imagine this different scenario: You found a coffee table that you love at a craft market. You had a chance to meet the craftsman, (who also heads the business). He or she tells you all about their wares personally: How their business started, how the wrought-iron table legs are sourced from an abandoned city factory, how the table top is constructed of hand-cut and polished wood from 150 year old baltic floorboards. Yes, they can make one to size just for you...

Pitchi is exactly this experience!

This personal connection is the key when it comes to any transaction of value and Pitchi's powerful platform is unique in the market because it fosters this relationship in a way that no other buying and selling site can: It's very much an entrepreneurial experience.

The Pitchi site itself is such a fun and fascinating place to visit, in this same 'wandering a weekend market' kind of way. There are countless videos arranged under easy to manage headers so that you can hone in on what's of interest in particular or browse and discover new and innovative businesses.

These wander and discover elements are Pitchi's best feature - it's entertaining, it's often educational and definitely inspiring to watch the stories as told by the people behind so many great fledgling industries, realised ideas or just the plain ordinary made entertaining.

There are loads exciting businesses out there and Pitchi is a great place to discover them. Why read about new ideas when you can watch them and even purchase what inspires you while gaining a true feel and connection for something you admire in the process?

I've been hanging about on Pitchi almost daily for several weeks now and I've been everything from informed to straight out entertained. There are many amazing business start-ups and the fascinating stories of the people behind them as told and demonstrated by those at the heart of the business.

For an example, have a look at these beautiful rugs by Corn + Celeste, who import hand-loomed Berber rugs from exotic Morocco:

Another interesting find is this Pitchi video for the Wine Barrel Herb Garden to beautify your home:

Pitchi is all about search and discovery; the enjoy, share and purchase experience and you'll find it a refreshing place to wander. Make sure you pay a visit to Pitchi too, to see what you can find.
For you, what is the most enjoyable part of any shopping transaction?

Christmas continues on the blog - Be sure to read the reviews and enter these great giveaways.


Linking up for FYBF
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Thursday, 18 December 2014

#SLHFeaturedThursdays: Christmas Gift Ideas and Projects for Crafters Plus a Bosch and Dremel Giveaway!

Christmas is a time for crafting is it not?

As if we've not enough to do already at this time of year amidst the chaos that is December, many of us up and decide it's also time to decorate and embark on numerous little projects to beautify our homes, our gifts or just want excite and occupy the kids while we try to get on with things. Is this you too?

It's hard not to be inspired to be artistic at Christmas time but it's definitely harder to make great craft without the right equipment. Today's #SLHFeaturedThursdays is all about tools to make your crafting dreams a reality - an impressive, professionally finished reality. Oh, and there's a lovely giveaway glued to the end of this post so that two readers can make their projects look fabulous this festive season.
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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

DeLonghi Nescafe Dolce Gusto Circolo Coffee Maker Review - Coffee Anyone?

Coffee anyone?

Would you believe that up until very recently, I was extremely hesitant to suggest this very normal query to house guests? Any person that has visited my home for several decades now, has been politely coerced into sharing a cup of tea instead, (or hot chocolate) and with good reason:

My confession: I am a tea drinker.

Having been a tea drinker always, (and not even a very good one at that; a herbal one only), I have artfully dodged the embarrassment of not being able to even make a cup of coffee at all - for years.

I have never understood the whole coffee 'thing' or the types and varieties - the entire coffee universe if you will, but mainly, I've just been avoiding the embarrassment of being utterly useless with the whole brew thing.
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Monday, 15 December 2014

Guest Post: Meet Natalie of Sophisticated Mumma Blog and a Special Christmas Recipe to Share

I am so excited to be sharing my blog space today for the very first time ever by featuring a special guest post from a blogger whose work I really enjoy reading.

I have been stalking Natalie's blog, the Sophisticated Mumma, for many months now. I really enjoy visiting her space on the web and reading her posts which range in topic from beauty to fashion and cuisine. I especially enjoy her great reviews of products and she has been responsible for me spending more than a few pennies over time, thanks to her up to the minute, informative style. (I am pretty sure that's great, being influenced to spend cash!)
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Thursday, 11 December 2014

#SLHFeaturedThursdays: I Am Two! A Very Special Birthday Thanks To Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses and a Giveaway

There may be lots of uncertainty in the world but if you're a parent, one thing is for certain and that is, your kids will just keep on growing up year after year!
The inevitable two's have arrived yet again at our house just a short week or so ago. I can't believe we've got here and so fast! Where does the time go?
Celeste's second Birthday was a small celebration with just our family. (There's nothing really small at all about living in a family of eight so I promise it wasn't too quiet an affair.) 
We celebrated outdoors on our balcony on a perfect 'last days of Spring afternoon.' While I am pretty sure Celeste understands zilch about the significance of Birthdays, she did have an innate sense that something big was going down and that she was happily at the centre of it. There were lots of "Happy Birthdays" bandied about and by the day's end, Celeste was also wishing everyone else a Happy Birthday too! Even managing to sing a decent part of the famous tune.
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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A Tiger Tribe Mega Christmas Toy Review and Giveaway!

Becoming a parent makes us so sentimental for the playthings we once enjoyed in our childhood doesn't it?

I know that growing up in the '70's meant there was still a lot of retro styling evident in the toys that I enjoyed. Toys from that era and earlier were a mix of beautiful colours, themes and classic, basic ideals. Imagination was nurtured, minds were occupied and children were entertained with all but the simplest of playthings.
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Monday, 8 December 2014

Taking Care of Me, Now and In The Future...

*This post is brought to you in collaboration with CareSuper.

I was shopping at the supermarket just this week with my toddler in the stroller. I had a list of things to buy a mile long and I'd stupidly parked the car a little too far from the store which meant I was stuck with the limited space in which to poke items a pram provides as compared to the ample shopping cart alternative.

As I creatively packed my stroller with my checked off needs, I juggled, I tossed and I dropped things all over. I managed to balance a store basket on my pram to increase my load capacity which worked temporarily but was quickly followed by more of the same.

I hurried to find everything that everyone had written on my shopping list: Things for lunches, snack requests, treats and rewards earnestly requested that I couldn't recall kids earning, the never ending school essentials and more. Before I knew it, I'd reached maximum load capacity and could carry no more.

It was time to bail-out.

As I proceeded to manage my haul past the dairy case, I had a bit of an epiphany: Staring at all the delightful gourmet adult foods in which I am rarely given the chance to indulge, I was surprised when a little voice inside my head softly suggested:

What about you?
What about your needs?
What was I going to have for lunch that day in a house bereft of food? (Other than the kid indulgences I was struggling to cart.)

And that's when I realised it:

As usual, I had put the needs of everyone else well ahead of my own.

I was instantly hot, flustered and stressed and the Christmas carols blaring over the store's PA were heightening the sudden impact of it all. I had not given any of my own needs a glance in the rush and grab of the supermarket that had become my metaphor of Motherhood. As a result, I was on my way out with nothing for myself.

It's all too easy to do as a Mum isn't it? We all do it.

Okay, so I may be talking in food terms here but believe me when I say it was this little everyday scenario that got me spiralling off on other major me-less tangents as well. My thoughts raced about the immense scope of my frequent oversight and inevitably turned to my miniscule superannuation account. Just another of the big things sitting unattended in the background of my life.

Being a stay home Mum means I am scoring a whopping zero on the super front. I've not worked an official tax paying job since my first child was on the way 14 years ago and as a result, my sparse nest egg is something that plays out amongst the plethora of worries I find myself turning over in my mind in the small hours of the morning.

Do you worry about these same things too?

So how is your super?
Are you at all concerned?
What steps have you taken to ensure your future is financially secure?

According to the Australian Taxation Office, Australian women retire with a superannuation nest egg that is on average, 43% less than men and yet, studies also show women outlive men by around five years.

That's a significant set of facts to consider.

Making up these troubling statistics are the fact that women continue to be underpaid in the workforce compared to our male counterparts by an average of 17.5%. Biology sees many of us step out of the workforce, (either temporarily or completely) while we raise our families and though over 84%, (or 4 out of 5 Mothers) will return to work on a part-time basis following the birth of a child, we are clearly at an even greater disadvantage from the outset when it comes to building up a nest egg for our retirement.

Are you as alarmed as me? Take a look at this superannuation calculator on the CareSuper website to see how you too are faring in the retirement stakes.

There are certainly ways we can lessen the impact of this financial disadvantage on a simple level. Here are a list of helpful tips that may aid you to build your retirement fund:

Make a check on your superannuation statements and check your balance. Does the superfund you are currently with have your Tax File Number on file? This is extremely important and will ensure all monies owing to you will find to you when you need it. Regularly update your beneficiary details and if you move house, make sure your super fund has your current residence and contact details on record.

Do you have more than one super fund? It is possible that you may have super funds you weren't even aware of. You can check this easily by using the ATO's SuperSeeker. (I found $200 owing to me several years back.)

If you do have more than one account, consolidate them into one to save on account keeping fees. You only need one super fund and the larger the balance of this, the greater the interest. Choose the one you prefer and transfer the balance of all others across. This is usually done by signing a simple form which you complete with the company you wish to exit from. They will take care of everything for you.

Consider making contributions to your super. Even without an income or on a low to middle income, if you can manage personal, after tax contributions to your super fund, the Government will make a co-contribution on your behalf to a maximum of $500 per annum. To find out if you are eligible for this fantastic super incentive, visit the ATO website here to learn more.

Your partner, if you have one, can make contributions on your behalf too and this is an excellent way to boost your retirement savings.

There's no time like now to start thinking on the importance of looking after ourselves. Try to find the time to do it daily and make it a priority. Planning for the future in the face of the facts is an incredibly important aspect of our lives today. Make sure you consider you too.

*Disclaimer: I have received a fee from CareSuper to blog about super, however this post contains my own opinions. While I am not personally recommending CareSuper, information about superannuation can be obtained from their website and it’s always good to get your own advice about financial matters.
Do you consider your financial future too?
Have you got a system to save in place?
Recent posts on Six Little Hearts you may have missed:

Linking for Open Slather and Mummy Mondays

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Friday, 5 December 2014

A Boowiggie Arizona Baby Bag Review Plus Win an Arizona Nappy Bag Valued at $250!

I am so very excited to introduce Australia's Boowiggie baby bags here on the blog and in particular, their very latest stunning designer bag to hit the market - The Arizona tote. I am even more excited to say there's a fantastic giveaway attached to this post so hold your breath as you read on - one very lucky Mum will be incredibly delighted this Christmas!
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Thursday, 4 December 2014

#SLHFeaturedThursdays: Christmas Gift Ideas for Girls Plus a Christmas Toy Giveaway!

If you caught my post here a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how I have begun a new Thursday blog feature. I have been asked to review so many things in the lead-up to Christmas here on Six Little Hearts, that I have started my new Featured Thursdays, just so that I can get all these great items out there! (#SLHFeaturedThursdays.)
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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

dish'd Food Store Review Plus Win a $50 Voucher to Try dish'd Yourself!

*This product talk post is brought to you by Nuffnang and dish'd Food Store.

I am literally jumping for joy that I have been introduced to the unique dish'd Food Store and invited to share news about it here. This is one business that has brought an exciting array of foods to my freezer and family and it has done so quickly and effortlessly too, via their exciting to browse and easy to use website.
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Monday, 1 December 2014

Christmas Gift Ideas For Everyone From Bookworld...

*This post is brought to you in collaboration with Bookworld.

Ho Ho Ho...hum!

Christmas is literally around the corner now. Have you started shopping yet?
Go you if you have! I am rather envious of you.

Let me tell you, I am feeling very disorganised this year. It's more than a feeling too - I know I am not prepared. I have not officially started anything Christmasy which is a bit of a major disaster when there are six children to plan and buy for as well as everyone and everything else that goes down in the silly season. Usually I am well underway by now; the big day's dinner is planned, gifts are wrapped and a date is set to unveil another year of the tree raising event.
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