Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Kalencom Nappy Bags - A Bubba Bags Review and Giveaway


Gather around Mammas of babies and toddlers - there's a bit of an exciting 'Ooh' fest happening here.

I have been called upon to road test a very funky nappy bag which has proven perfect for lugging the essentials and bits that my busy toddler demands I cart about on her behalf. I just love a good nappy bag and this one's right up there with the best of them. (I seem to attract them here on the blog!)

Kalencom New Orleans nappy bags are stunning designer nappy bags that come in the most exciting of styles. (Truly!) I have not seen such funky bags about in all my long years to date as a Mamma.

These bags are just so stand out and original.

We were sent this stunning baby change bag in chevron-like pastels - her real name is the Spa Buckle Bag and I am attracted by her colour, design and practicality for she is not only Pretty. Dang. Gorgeous but durable and compact too without being small or 'stingy' in her required versatility and usability roles.

I have a new bag love!
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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Winter Baking - Pear and Apple Walnut Crumble - Australian Pears Volume 2 Cook Book


I don't often make desserts on weekdays thanks to time constraints. I wish I had more time and energy to do them. I love them. Sometimes there are days where I do make the effort for a second course and it's usually on the coldest days, or days where I am pretty sure the kids are not going to eat much of the main meal before it. (Never would I tell them that though - skip main course and be rewarded with dessert? - No way!)

I love hearty, healthy desserts - especially hot ones like self-saucing chocolate pudding or fruity options with custard style bases. I am not a great lover of cream or ice-cream even. I really don't enjoy the taste of fatty things so much as things with subtle, natural flavours like crumbles.

I have made many apple crumbles in my time but I really hadn't branched into other fruits as an option like rhubarb or pears.
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Friday, 25 July 2014

Easy Family Dinners - A Basic Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni Recipe


I have regular meals I cycle through weekly or fortnightly as a Mum to many. My dinners need to be very easy to make and quick to prepare and pretty much no-brainers.
While the kids are at school, my day is taken up with cleaning, washing, baby care and blogging. I don't even consider dinner while they are gone as there's just too much to do. (Apart from grabbing something from the freezer to defrost, such as meat, on the way to getting stuck into the giant list of duties I face daily.)
Before I know it, 4pm rolls around and there's kids everywhere, and the trails of mess and noise are back in full swing. It's a real why did I bother moment for me; I can barely enter my own kitchen for a sea of little people and the house looks as if I have done nothing all day.
I bet it's the same at your house?
Dinner needs to be fast and easy so that I can stay on top of things into the evening and not drain too much of my fading energy.
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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Dainty Almond Jam Drop Biscuits...


It was late in the second week of the school holidays. The kids had exhausted every avenue of fun available to them. It was grey outside, cold, there was nothing to do - what to do?
I baked!
Baking always makes the kids behave for a small while. I can usually wring compliance out of them too - "Clean up my lounge room or no biscuits!" (Or whatever.)
I guarantee it works every time.

Dainty Almond Jam Drop Biscuits are elegant little thin, almondy flavoured gems and I would otherwise have called them Sanity Savers but it just didn't have the same appealing ring to it.

These are very yummy and a batch makes around 25 delicate biscuits. They would make great lunchbox treats too or bake to take on long car trips and keep the backseat passengers entertained.

I whipped up a batch ready to bake in around 15 minutes so they are nice and straight forward and road tested to be busy-Mum friendly.
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Friday, 18 July 2014

Your Children and The Internet - Introducing LearnMeter Plus a Giveaway...


*This is a sponsored post on behalf of Next Parent LearnMeter.

One thing that has always struck me as both odd and amusing on my journey as a Mum of lots of kids is the automatic assumption made by people that I must be a great Mum, based solely on the size of my family.
On many occasions I have been approached by strangers, who after conducting a visible a head-count of my brood, have exclaimed this very notion. I always laugh it off, (usually blush) and regularly reply with a very intoned "Nooooo!"
Believe me when I say I am not being modest. Yes a large number of kids to care for takes an awful lot of work and maybe even attracts a particular personality type but I will also admit readily that the never-ending parameters of that work mean that I miss a lot of the stuff I should be more focussed on and careful with.

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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Introducing Lilah Snow Camera Bags - A Review and A Special Offer...


Have you ever wondered about the creative process that goes on behind the scenes of luxury bag manufacturers? Maybe not, but then if you are a dedicated bag lover like myself, you will have found yourself thinking on such important things at one time or another!

When I started my blog, I was snapping all of my images on my mobile phone and while my iPhone can take some pretty reasonable photos, it soon became apparent that I could do a lot better with a digital SLR. And so the need to spend up big on a Nikon became my goal and was conquered rather quickly. (I pretty much had to purchase it within weeks of the desire arising owing to my foot-stomping impatience, plus Mother's Day was just around the corner at the time.)

As soon as my new baby, (named Nikon) was in my hands, it gave rise to another need - a camera bag. Now bags just happen to be my thing and I am a fussy buyer when it comes to quality and style. I headed straight to Etsy after finding myself horrified at the prices of the dedicated camera bags on the retail market. All I could spot that fit the bill were designer styles made of PU leather with leather price tags - no thanks!

On Etsy I found a sweet canvas bag hand made in fabric which cost me a pretty penny to purchase and import from Texas. While I loved it initially, it failed to live up to the task; it was too small; it was collecting dirt fast and I could not fit my essentials as well as my photography gear into it without stuffing it silly and looking the same as a result. I ended up gifting it to my 14 year old who wanted an SLR camera for her birthday - perfect for her needs, just not mine.
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Sunday, 13 July 2014

A Back To School Checklist


The holidays are drawing to a close and as I sit here writing this post, my kids seem oblivious to the impending routine that begins at 7.30am tomorrow; the return to school.

Right now the kids are wearing their pyjamas at 11.30am with no intention of getting dressed whatsoever and little regard for the time of day. Every computer is taken up with gaming and the television is running hot from the Playstation. It's only me who is thinking on the morning to come and the list of tasks as long as my arm.

That's what Mums are for.

Today will be taken up with the following list of to-do's and I seem to find myself doing these same things every Sunday before school heads back. I thought I would share my list here so that I might refer to it well into the future. Maybe it will serve as a reminder to you too, if you have children at day care, kinder or school:

Do the washing. Make sure all of the school uniforms are clean, dry and ready for wear.

Find the school uniforms. Locate everyone's items and stack them into piles and leave them prepared in an easy to find place for the morning to come, right down to socks and underwear.


Ruben won't forget his underpants if they are placed on his head on school mornings!
 
Clean school shoes and make sure they are in good order. My boys seem to destroy their leather school shoes each term. I usually check them on the last day of school to allow myself time to buy new shoes in the holidays. Make sure your kids know where their shoes are too. The number of times we have been late thanks to lost shoes, I couldn't tell you!

Clean out school bags if you haven't already done this on their last school day. Check all of the pockets for nasties like old lunch items, soggy papers etc. (One time my eldest daughter left a boiled egg in her bag - horrid!)

Do you need to bake something for lunchboxes? Make sure you have done enough shopping to get you through the first few days of the first week back at least, to take some of the pressure off. Grab muesli bars, fruits and other healthy treats for easy mornings, at the shops.

Get out everyone's lunchboxes and drink bottles - have them ready for action. Now is also a good time to check these items are in good order too. You can grab new lunchboxes easily at your local store or buy some beautiful ones online. (Make sure you do a coupon code search on a site such as Flipit before you purchase to save some dollars!)

Check your planner. Do you know what is on for the first and second weeks of term? Things you wrote in some time ago may have been forgotten during the holidays and you don't want unplanned surprises at 7am on a Monday morning.

Make sure your car is organised. Did you go away on the holidays? Is your car still full of luggage, bikes or takeout? Make things smooth for the first day back by cleaning it up and checking everyone's car seats are in order. (And that seatbelts are not trapped under seats.)

Finalise your school notices. Does a child have a camp or excursion notice that is overdue? Do you have payments for school items or events to organise urgently in preparation for the week?

Who has homework?!

Are all your kids items labelled? Check your children's jumpers and other items to make sure they are actually yours and labelled to keep them that way. (See here to purchase your labels and school gear if you are in need.)

Get the kids cleaning! My house looks like a bomb has dropped over the holidays. I clean it constantly but the kids are a force when it comes to destruction and mess. Time to rope in the helpers on a Sunday afternoon. I offer up a prize (chocolate goes down well), in exchange for the best cleaning effort. Have them tidy the lounge, pick up their toys from under sofas, tables etc. and return them to their rooms. My kids regularly vacuum, wipe, sort and put their own washing away in their drawers and unpack the dishwasher. (For the record, they are usually all winners of the chocolate prize but I would never admit that in front of them :D.)


There is always so much to do when the kids have returned to school in terms of heavy duty cleaning and there's nothing better than getting the kids to take some of that responsibility off your shoulders.
Good luck!
 
What steps do you take before school term begins or a weekend ends?
 
 Recent posts on Six Little Hearts:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 






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Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Melbourne Series - Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill - A Review


Let it snow!

'Tis July and the middle of the year. Melbourne is a cold place to be and short, grey days see us locked indoors with kids these Winter school holidays. Feeling like a little joy?
One thing we Australians miss out on is the joy of Christmas in Winter. Our Summers are spent sweating it out on December 25th each year and our fare is, generally speaking, an untraditional salad with cold meats. Not so Christmassy but we do okay.

Deep down I have always longed to experience a Winter Christmas like those depicted on traditional Christmas cards: Snow, carollers, lanterns (and more snow), mittens, scarves, sugary treats...and snow again.

This past weekend we have had the pleasure of experiencing just that and more at the stunning Christmas in July celebrations at historic Sovereign Hill.

For those of you not in the know, Sovereign Hill is a sensational living history museum located a little over an hour's drive from the centre of Melbourne in historic Ballarat, Victoria. The Sovereign Hill experience gives visitors a taste of life in the 1850's in one of Victoria's richest gold mining districts. Ballarat has a genuinely wealthy history in gold discovery and mining.

But let's get back to that snow!

 
We were invited to come and experience the Winter Wonderland these holidays and share our thoughts here. Joy is too small a word to describe the thrill of the annual Christmas in July event held at Sovereign Hill - it's simply magnificent!
 
 
There are snowfalls, carol singers, pantomines, Christmas foods and drinks and loads of smiling faces and all on top of the immense array of regular offerings of things to do and see at this brilliant tourist attraction.
 
 
The carollers in a Winter Wonderland
 
We arrived at Sovereign Hill at around 11am and I would say that is right about when the park really begins to fill up. The daily program of Christmas themed events kicks-off at 11.15am at the Victoria Theatre on Main Street with a performance of A Visit From St Nicholas. Regrettably, we missed many of the performances in the Theatre as there was just so much to do here. The Christmas in July event is extremely well organised with a scheduled program that guides visitors around the park with very few clashing timeslots. Wandering from jam-packed event to event was a lot of fun and we certainly didn't feel as if we missed anything although in two days, we still had not managed to see it all.
 
 
Joaquin gets in on the act with Sovereign Hill's resident Police Officer
 
Sovereign Hill's Christmas in July is a true experience event. There are roving street characters dressed in period costume. Some provide on street performances and others exist to create a living backdrop and give a genuine period feel to your visit. Most are in character too and will not hesitate to pepper answers to any questions you may have with a small snippet or two of interesting and relevant history. They also provide great photographic opportunities and along with the stunning historic street frontage, it all melds together to create an authentic back in time experience and certainly one my kids loved.
 
 
The Town Crier - One of the most instrumental people in the ceremonies of the day
 
And the snow...oh the snow...so lovely! Snow falls occur three times a day at 11.30am, 5.25pm and 6.45pm giving visitors the opportunity to experience the wonder in three differing shades of daylight. (Note times are subject to change depending on weather conditions.) 
The snow itself is artificial and is actually tiny foamy bubbles which look and behave in the air currents as real snow does; there are proper billowing drifts and clumps form, attaching themselves delicately to Christmas decorations, trees and the heads of visitors.
 
 
 Magical!
 
There was much to do and the Christmas spirit is high. Kids can enjoy the all day events including a gingerbread making workshop. There are also workshops to learn how to create traditional Christmas decorations. Enjoy Market Square and admire the decorated buildings and window displays. Visit the theatre for an impressive array of daily performances in a Christmas theme. Hear a reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens or watch Blackbeard the Pirate. A full program is provided to visitors on entry so you won't miss a thing if you are prepared.
 
On the food front, there are Christmas treats galore. The kids enjoyed the giant Christmas tree off Main Street while we grown-ups warmed ourselves with a welcoming mulled wine and took in the atmosphere. There are plenty of eateries to find warming foods, from quick snacks to sit-down traditional Christmas dinners. (Note that Christmas dinners must be booked daily.)
 
 
And sugar; there are so many vintage sugary treats for children to try. Ours kids spent a good deal of our two day visit sucking with delight on toffee apples, all-day-suckers and traditional licorice. Be sure to visit Sovereign Hill's vintage Sweet Shop to sample and buy their famous boiled lollies.
 
 
 Admiring the next sugary treat in the beautiful window display of the Sovereign Hill Sweet Shop
 
Outside of the Christmas activities you can watch genuine craftsmen make their wares: from real wagon wheels, to candle dipping and metal spinning as well as see genuine ingots poured at the gold smelting works. Watch the resident printer produce pioneer 'Wanted' posters the traditional way by hand (and buy one of your own). See the blacksmith forge beautiful home wares and equipment. The shops are filled with the stunning products and produce all made on site and much of it is very reasonably priced. There are beautiful cookie cutters and kitchen baking items for sale and these are extremely well-priced - highly recommended.
 
 
Kids and grown-ups alike will find the fun of gold panning a true delight. My children thoroughly enjoyed sloshing about in the river with their pans and found an impressive number of gold flecks between them. You can buy small jars at the site to keep your gold safe for only $1 and these make great souvenirs.
 
 
No visit to Sovereign Hill would be complete without a mine tour. There are several to choose from and all are at an additional cost with the exception of one self-guided tour called the Red Hill Mine Tour. The mines are a lot of fun and feature everything from ride experiences into their depths and computerised effects. My kids loved these! (Mine tours must be booked on the day so get onto it early to avoid disappointment.) Be sure to ride a horse drawn coach around the township (for an additional cost also), and don't forget to see the Red Coat Soldiers perform a rifle salute at 1.30pm daily in Main Street.
 
The real magic of the Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill event begins at nightfall. (Could there be any more magic?! Stay tuned...I've saved the very best for last.) The Wonder Lights display is the biggest drawcard of this special event. By nightfall, Sovereign Hill transforms under a blanket of snow when the Wonder Lights display commences. Put together by the same company that transforms Melbourne at the popular annual White Night event, this experience is like no other and will be remembered for a very long time. 
 
 
Visitors become spell-bound by a mesmerising display of light projections which dance across the fa├žade of the colonial buildings and crowd. The shops and township become life-sized gingerbread houses, icicles magically appear, giant baubles and wreaths project onto the buildings and all under the enchanting snow fall and accompanying music show. This was truly breathtaking and one of the loveliest things I have experienced in a very long time. The Christmas Wonder Lights show commences daily from 5.30pm onwards. Do not miss this! (Thinking of a wedding proposal? This is the ideal place to do it!)
 
 
Things you should consider when planning your visit:
 
Ballarat is freezing. Around 40 minutes drive from the outskirts of Ballarat you literally drive through a 'wall' of cold that you can feel in your car and it stays that way until you drive out again. Rug up for this event in hats, scarves and waterproof coats. There are braziers situated in well populated areas at Sovereign Hill where you can warm up your frozen bones which were a very welcome addition. I strongly suggest you wear gumboots too. (I had people practically offering to buy mine off my feet!) There are no pavements, (in-keeping with the colonial feel), and much of the ground is sodden and muddy.
For parents of young kids, make sure you take an all-terrain pram to handle the steep hills and puddles. Don't forget to take a pram cover too in case of rain. We used our waterproof cover to keep our toddler warm and protected from the chill even when the rain stopped and the sun shone on our second day.
Kids get wet (as kids do) when gold panning so take extra pairs of socks for the accidents that they will invariably have. My youngest Son dumped a pan of cold water down his front which pooled in his boot! Not so fun on an icy day.
Take a tub of Wet Ones: The kids get covered in sticky lollies from all those Christmas treats. Be prepared for it as it gets messy!
Get your entry passes date stamped so that you can return for free the following day. Your entry passes also include free entry to the Gold Museum located opposite Sovereign Hill's main entry gate. Sadly we did not have the chance to get to the Gold Museum as we ran out of time.
Allow a good two days to really experience everything and grab a third day if you can afford yourself the luxury. There are many things to see and do and a little extra time would take the pressure off.
Don't be put off from visiting Sovereign Hill in the rain either. Our first day drizzled non-stop but we found it only added to the Christmas experience and certainly made the snow fall appear more realistic.
Don't miss this event. It truly is wonderful!
 
 
Christmas in July and the Christmas Wonder Lights is a themed event at Sovereign Hill and can be experienced from the 28th of June until the 13th of July. Hurry - it's ending soon!
Full details are here.
General information on Sovereign Hill can be found on their website here.
Sovereign Hill is located at 39 Magpie Street, Ballarat, Victoria, 3350.
Sovereign Hill is open 7 days a week from 10am-5pm (except Christmas Day) and hours are extended during school holidays and daylight saving periods.
*Use the hashtags #sovereignhill #lightthehill and #deckthehill on Instagram during your visit
for the opportunity to win prizes. 
I strongly recommend an overnight stay to take in all that Sovereign Hill has to offer. We stayed at the Comfort Inn, Sovereign Hill and enjoyed easy access to the park using an exclusive entry gate for guests which saved us time as there were no queues to battle. There are many accommodation types at the Comfort Inn and as a large family, we were well catered for including the addition of Continental breakfast each day which is included in your room stay cost.
 
 
To book accommodation packages with the Comfort Inn Sovereign Hill visit here.
 
 
...while visions of sugar plums danced on their heads...
 
 
Have you experienced a Winter Christmas somewhere in the world?
 
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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Introducing Bright Star Kids - Personalised Clothing and Goods For Children - A Review and Giveaway


How many times have you visited your local children's wear store and struggled to find clothing that is both attractive and well priced? ("Every time!" I hear you yell!)

Over the years I have taken my kids to birthday parties or outings having dressed them with much pride and care, only to arrive at the destination to find another child wearing the exact same top or coat and feel my heart sink with the effort.

Countless times, I have visited big department stores and smaller boutiques and been disappointed with the offerings on the racks. There is no individuality; no spice and very little spark.

How do you make your child stand out from the crowd in a market drenched with the same?

If you're a Mum to boys, you will definitely agree that there is a huge lack of choice available for them in particular. I really don't understand why. It simply needn't be.

Have you thought of giving your child clothing with personality before? (I'll bet you have!)Personalisation? I am happy to report Bright Star Kids are a company who have swooped in to save us parents from the frustration of so little choice and the embarrassment of 'duplicate' situations, and all without the ouchy price tag of designer wear.


Bright Star Kids have been around for some time now and you may have heard of them before (or recognise their distinctive logo). They are a one-stop shop for all things personalised for children. You can buy everything from bag tags to name labels for your child's school books and even pencils and nursery wall decals. If you have a child in care, kinder or school, this is one place you should definitely visit time and time again to purchase all of your requirements to ensure your valuables return home safely at the end of each day.

Even if you have heard of Bright Star Kids before, you may not have been aware that they just so happen to specialise in personalised clothing too. We were lucky enough to receive these gorgeous goodies in the post recently to try out on my youngest little Boo.

 
I happen to love dressing my kids in clothing with cutesy slogans so having the opportunity to select these cute pickings was so much fun. There are loads of designs for both boys and girls to choose from on their website and with the inclusion of your child's name as an option on many of them, you need never sulk over the lack of originality in children's fashion ever again. If you are a parent of multiples or same sex kids in similar age brackets, you will love the ease of sorting named items on wash day too!


Quality-wise, the tees and singlets on offer are available in a beautiful organic cotton which is smooth and warm and kind on delicate little skins - especially good if your child suffers eczema. Celeste was instantly smitten with her Tee and almost seemed to sense that this was something extra special. (Possibly due to the fact that Mummy was aiming her camera at it?)
Nah! She just loved the girly design...and the attention.

 
 
...You most certainly are my little Missy!
Celeste's Tee design can be found here and is priced at $24.95.
Available in sizes 2-8.
 
These Tees are washable in a gentle cold cycle and are not recommended for tumble drying so they are a great choice for the environment too. (They can be ironed on a warm setting to keep them looking smart.)
 
The sizes are generous too. Celeste is wearing a size 2 Tee even though she is only aged one. She's a slender little thing and I am guessing this will still fit when she's approaching three. I always like to buy larger sizes anyway so that I can maximise wear and for something as cute as personalised clothing, I suggest you do too. 
 
 
Celeste's singlet, (featuring a slogan I am in full agreement with: I'm cute, Mum's cute, Dad's lucky! :D), is constructed in the same great quality fabric and retails for $19.95 and can be found here. The singlet has a good length to it so it tucks in well and doesn't ride up as easily as others.
 
There are gorgeous gift sets for babies which include a printed onesie, bib and hat priced at just $34.95. Singlets and Tees are available in a range of sizes from 00 right up to big kids sizes (8), all featuring the most chic of fashion icons; from moustaches to chevrons plus popular kids choices like owls and bears. There's even special occasion clothing like birthday numbers and milestones such as 'Big Brother or Sister' shirts. These are brilliant designer gift ideas for any little special person and at low cost. I am loving it!
 
From the time I placed my selection on the Bright Star Kids website, I had my order promptly within around 10 days or so. There are many great offers available on their easy to navigate website too so have a little squiz to see what you might be interested in and maybe pick up a few gorgeous named school essentials while you are there. 
 
 
Speaking of picking a few gorgeous essentials, two lucky Six Little Hearts readers have the opportunity to do just that for free and to the value of $50 each! Yippee!
 
Thanks to the generosity of Bright Star Kids, I have two vouchers to giveaway here on Six Little Hearts to shout yourself to whatever takes your fancy on their website. That makes this giveaway suitable for all kidlets - from babies to beyond. You might like to grab some name labels or a new school bag - the choice is entirely yours!
 
Please share the love! If you know someone who would love to win this prize, please let them know about this giveaway by spreading the word using the social media tabs below. (Google Plus, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and email - too easy!)
 
Entry is easy. Just follow the prompts using the Rafflecopter App below. (App may take a few seconds to load.) Please note, four of the entry requirements are mandatory so be sure to follow the simple steps to ensure all of your entries count.
Please play fair as others do take the time to complete their entries.
All winning entries drawn are screened to ensure they conform to these requirements and those that do not will be disqualified.
This is a game of skill and the most creative two answers as deemed by the judge will win.
 
 
To Enter:
 
1) Subscribe to the Bright Star Kids newsletter here.
2) Visit the Bright Star Kids website here and tell me how you would choose to spend a $50 voucher if you won using the comments form below.
3) Follow the Rafflecopter App below to complete your mandatory entry likes, details and answer.
*Important: Please leave your name along with your comment so that I can find your entries!
 
Entry is open to residents of Australia only.
Chance plays no part in this promotion.
This is a game of skill - most creative answer wins.
The winners will be notified via email and given 48 hours to respond.
If no response in this time, a new winner will be drawn.
The total prize pool is $100 consisting of two, $50 vouchers for two individual winners to choose their own selection of goods on the Bright Star Kids website to the value of $50 each.
Prize is not redeemable as cash.
Winners will be announced here approximately a week from the giveaway's end.
The winners' details will be forwarded to Bright Star Kids for prize distribution and may be announced on prize related social media sites.
Six Little Hearts is not liable or responsible in any way or form for prizes that are subsequently not delivered by a third party or arrive damaged or late.
Judge's decision is final.
Good luck!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
 Have you struggled to find decent clothing for your child?
 Have you ever dressed your child in personalised clothing? Did they love it?!
 
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 Linking up for IBOT.
 
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Sunday, 6 July 2014

Ways to Preserve and Display Your Precious Family Memories

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

One of my all time favourite memories in my childhood was visiting my Grandmother's house. She lived in Balwyn. (As we ourselves did also, my children becoming the fourth generation to live in her house.) I used to love visiting her suburb, lined with evergreen trees and old weatherboard houses of a bygone era. It was such a beautiful place to be.

My Grandmother's house was built in the 1920's and furnished in a blend of interiors ranging from the 1930's through to the 1970's. Funky wallpapers met with 1950's rosette carpets framed by casement windows with 1950's blinds and curtains. It was an odd mix but so homely and welcoming.

My favourite pastime as a child at my Grandma's house was to browse her twenty-strong 'antique' photo album collection. These were the heavily bound type with the black card pages featuring hundreds of carefully placed black and white images all mounted with photo corners. I loved the smell of those musty pages; the feel of the starchy cardstock in my fingers as I flicked through the years of my own Mother's and Grandmother's childhoods and the look of the albums in general. I even loved the slightly dusty smell of the old-fashioned carpet as I lay on the floor under those big windows in the sun, (add some dust motes too), while I absorbed the pleasure of those precious images.

And here we are today in the digital age.
Never before have we had such rapid access to images and information. Our cameras travel everywhere with us easily and document our daily lives with a freedom we have never experienced. It is wonderful but it can also be overwhelming.

My first two children arrived on the cusp of the digital revolution. (Actually, the revolution was happening a lot earlier but I was stubbornly refusing to catch on, hoping it would go away.) I was back then, photographing my babies with a real SLR camera that used actual film. My photos were very thought out as wasted shots would cost me in printing paper. As a result I have some really beautiful photo albums of my first babies. The images are specific, easy to recall and identify, precisely because I was so careful with each shot. Looking at these images brings back the memories as if they were yesterday.


My eldest of the boys and second born Ki, aged just a few weeks.
I took this photo with my beloved SLR camera on real film.
Seconds after taking this image, he smiled his first ever authentic smile - at his Dad. (Which I also captured.) They both still tease me about it to this day!
 
On occasion I will find my kids upstairs quietly looking through these albums of real photos that I have and that makes me so happy to see. There is so much enjoyment, laughter and happiness around them when they look over their memories and this really is the reason why we hoard the images of our lives; the joy. Our daily lives are rapid and the stillness is so often lost but a photo lasts a lifetime.

 
A digital memory from this week - The Embrace.
 
I take many pictures, everyday. Currently there are over 4000 on my mobile phone alone, my computer has many thousands. I have countless memory cards. I have image overload! Thanks to the digital age, we are prone to taking too many photos of the same subject and it can be so time consuming to review and edit so much information. In the past few years, my digital memories have exploded and I now find myself  knee-deep in memory cards. I realise I have no hope of collating this amount of data that is just too precious to discard. I have had to get picky about which images to display, ways to display and ways to store the excess. I am sure many of you will relate!

 
Toddler busyness in the kitchen. I took many photos of my baby exploring this week. Will I delete some? No way!
 
Here are a few of the ways I preserve and display my large family's biggest memories (and tinsy ones too!):

Go ahead! Take as many pictures as you wish and don't hold back - this is the digital age and you can always edit them later. (Good luck with that.) I don't know about you but I couldn't possibly delete any photo of my baby eating mushy peas for example - even if there's 20 of them that are almost the same image. Each one might have the slightest variation of expression on that little face and I just couldn't bare to lose it. Babies grow all the time and change. I am not parting with any memory there. (Ok, I draw the line at blurry - they are always erased - unless they're especially cute...)


These days after I have filled a memory card to the brim and uploaded it onto my computer, I do not erase the memory card so that I can re-use it. Memory cards are cheap to replace. Treat them like the storage disks they are and store them. (Think of them as modern day negatives.)
I place each memory card in an envelope and write a brief outline of what pictures are on the card. If you also choose to do this, keep it somewhere safe and away from extremes of weather. Memory cards will not last forever. Expect several years of use if you re-write them constantly. They will keep longer if used in a single episode as I do. Countless times having this system in place has been invaluable for school assignments when the kids have needed specific images fairly quickly.

Invest in a hard drive. Hard drives allow you to store a massive quantity of information in a compact unit which is portable. Back up all of your images onto one of these. You can buy hard drives for less than $100 or more depending on the size of the storage you require. Really, every person who owns a computer containing any valuable information at all, should be using one of these.


Display your images in an actual photo frame. Seems silly to write it here but these look beautiful and homely around any abode and give you that instant gratification whenever you lay your eyes upon them. Target and other home wares stores often have great and inexpensive multi-frames or frame packs which give you some fantastic and easy display alternatives if you are not too confident at designing your own.


Invest in some canvas photo wall prints. Making your own fantastic wall art with your own images couldn't be easier. It is surprisingly simple to do online. (Give Photobox a try for starters.) Just upload a photo you love, choose your canvas size for your intended wall space, tweak the image to your requirements and check out. Within a couple of weeks you will have a beautiful and quality piece of art for your wall featuring your favourite image. I have bought several of these since we had baby number six and I have stopped visiting professional photographers where we used to buy similar at exorbitant prices. I have to say, I am a lot happier with my own images too.

If you haven't got the time or the funds to constantly make actual photo albums, try making a photo book online. I have made several of these easily and quickly online and they are really inexpensive too. I have amassed a collection of hardbound photo books which look so professional and give you that same sense of joy that can be gleaned from those photo albums of the old days. Photo books come in a variety of sizes, cover types and page designs and it's all up to you how creative you'd like to be with them.

Have you tried a digital photo frame yet? I haven't bought one and I used to laugh hysterically at the idea several years back. Lately, I have changed my tune and I might even admit to the fact that I am seriously considering one. Digital frames allow you to display many images and will store hundreds, constantly streamed to you on display. There's even an Instacube which wirelessly streams your Instagram pictures in real-time and at three times the screen size of a smart phone. These are definitely something I will be considering gifting myself in the near future.

Try making an actual photo album! Buy a beautiful acid-free album, some photo corners and hand-mount your very special images for all-time keeping. Make a project of it so that it is not a dull undertaking if you're sitting on billions of images like me. There's some great ideas on Pinterest for going even further with your images like scrapbooking.

Make sure your real photographs are stored correctly too. They should be kept in acid free conditions and not under plastic. My children's kindergarten images always arrive in plastic sleeve albums. Remove the pictures from them as soon as you receive them however to avoid damaging the photos in the long term. As bothersome as it seems in our busy lives, make sure your memories are sorted fairly quickly into long term preservation methods when dealing with actual photographs. Cool, dry and dark conditions are best.

My goal ultimately with my images, is to have the very best on display or in books for immediate daily enjoyment. I will hold onto the excess images too for one day I may wish to find something extra special hidden amongst the multitudes. They are our special memories and a record of our family's everyday history and I will move through life with them around me no matter how inconvenient that may be.

How do you store your best family images?
Are you an image hoarder like me or are you ruthless and cull?
Have you got a special way of displaying your memories you can share?
  
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