28 November 2014

Advent Calendar 2014

Long time followers of my blog will know that I'm not so keen on chocolate Advent calendars, which for a chocoholic like me is saying something. Apart from not needing an excuse to eat chocolate, for me, Advent is preparing for the celebration of Christmas being the birth of Jesus and that is what I am trying to teach my children about, so chocolate doesn't cut it.

I like to have activity-based Advent calendars which bring things back to the reason for the season. But my Advent calendar efforts seem to be getting more effortless every year ... in the sense that I'm putting less and less effort into them.

In 2012, I was Advent calendar queen (if I do say so myself). In 2013, there was slightly less effort involved, but I was still prepared.

And here we are in 2014, with Advent beginning THIS SUNDAY! I'm completely not ready. We have had / are having a busy couple of weeks, with a birthday, swimming intensives, a sacrament and school orientation continuing on top of the usual juggling act of having little kids and working.

I nearly succumbed and bought a chocolate one at the supermarket...

But I stayed strong. This year, I bought an Advent calendar at my local-ish Koorong shop (not sponsored). I also bought a Christmas story colouring in book for each child and figured they can each work at theirs at their own pace.

I've also printed off a picture of an Advent wreath with candles for each child. I'm hoping that every Sunday in Advent, we'll colour in a candle, talk about what each candle means and, by Christmas, have completed an easy craft wreath. We did this last year and it was a simple way to do some Advent craft and bring the focus back to our beliefs.

24 November 2014

Song/Artist Review: "Will", KADA

Disclaimer: I was directed to this artist by a PR company. No money has exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

You may not know this, but before starting this blog, yours truly was quite the muso. In my late teens, every spare moment I had saw me with guitar in hand, making music. So, it's really cool that I have an opportunity on this blog to talk music and let you know about an up-and-coming Aussie artist.

KADA is a born and raised New South Wales lass like myself. This is where the similarities end, though! She's quite a bit younger than me and is making her dream of music become a reality, currently living between the US and Queensland.

KADA's debut album was just released last week. It's called "The Unknown" and the first single is called "Will". The song is a bit of a mix of genres: R&B, electronica and folk all rolled in together to make quite a unique sound. If you're interested in hearing it for yourself, check out the official video on YouTube:

Now that you've had a listen, let me tell you something else about this artist. She and her partner have been living through something most of us couldn't imagine and show amazing strength through adversity day after day. Wondering what I'm on about? Read this article. Now listen to the song again and you may find a deeper meaning beneath the lyrics.
It's great to be able to change things up a bit on Francesca Writes Here and to shout out to a debut artist. I know through launching Returning how hard it can be to stand out in the busy internet, so I hope this helps in some small way.

20 November 2014

MissyMoo2's School Orientation

Yes, you read that post title correctly. School. For MissyMoo2!

My middle girl is blossoming into an almost-school girl before my very eyes.

I am so happy for her. She is excited and more than ready. In recent months, my 5-year-old has grown amazingly in confidence and it's beautiful to see.

It seems like only yesterday that it was MissyMoo1's big school orientation ... where did those three years go?

Second time around, I am no less excited for my child, but I at least know what to expect. And for MissyMoo2, whilst school will still be "new" and "unknown", she has her big sister there to look out for her (as well as an eager collection of big sister's friends) in addition to the two beautiful buddies she has been placed with.

This progressive shift in "stages" for MissyMoo2 from pre-school heading towards school has also resulted in a slight shift in dynamic between siblings at home. MissyMoo2 (5) and MissyMoo3 (3) hung out together the majority of the time because MissyMoo1 (7) has been off at school for the past almost three years on her own. Now, the older two are finding that they have a bit more in common again, so they're seeking each other out more and wanting to do more things together. It's not to the exclusion of MissyMoo3, but it's now more evenly spread.

I hope she continues to enjoy her orientation experience and I hope she also manages to enjoy the summer holidays without being too impatient for school to start!

19 November 2014

Book Review: Run Tree Run by Kelly Alsop

JoJo Publishing provided me with a free copy of this book for my review. All opinions are my own.

Run Tree Run
Written by Kelly Alsop and illustrated by Boris Silvestri.
Published by JoJo Publishing
RRP S/C $16.99 H/C $24.99

This is a children's book with a conservationist message. It was written as a protest against a proposed mine near a wildlife reserve at the Cape York Peninsula. The story is written from the perspective of Australian native animals all forced to move away from their homes because "the mine is coming" and they are guided by a wise old tree.

The story introduces some iconic Australian wildlife: a red-tailed black cockatoo, a sugar glider, a couple of galahs, a goanna, a rhinoceros beetle, an archer fish and a cassowary. The book is beautifully illustrated with great use of colour and attention-grabbing design on every page.

Although it is a picture book, personally, I think it would be more appropriate for school-aged children than really little ones, given the themes. And it's those themes which will determine at what age you feel it appropriate to read this book to your child. I did not read it to my 5-year-old, as she is quite sensitive and I felt there was a good chance she would be upset by the ideas. The underlying message of the book is not subtle, so it is definitely one which parents would need to talk through with their children.

14 November 2014

Summer Awaits

If you're anywhere in New South Wales right now, you're probably sweltering in the first really hot day we've had in a while, waiting for the cool change to come.

We're getting our air-conditioner installed ... tomorrow...

This, I guess, is our first real hit of summer with the weather having been pretty much all over the place in recent weeks, ... well, months, really. That's probably why I am finding it so hard to believe that it's already mid-November.

No, this isn't just a post about the weather.

Going through the photos I put aside for blogging and haven't yet used, I found these beauties from the September school holidays. I'd say they were taken about 8 weeks ago. We were lucky enough to catch a couple of gorgeous days in the last school holidays and spend some time at the beach.


If that was Spring, then bring on Summer.

Family time, time out on the tinny, at the playground, playing in the dirt at home. Time to get some relaxation into our systems, time to chill in the heat.

04 November 2014

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

Image source
This is the third in the series of Robert Langdon novels. It has all of the intrigue, plot twists and interesting detail you would expect from Dan Brown if you have read his first two Robert Langdon books (Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code).

And yet, it's the "expecting" which I think also was a little disappointing for me. Although the subject matter was different, perhaps because it followed the same sort of formula it lost a bit of its mystery. Or perhaps because it wasn't set in Europe, it was a little less attractive to me. Or perhaps because it was about masonic symbols which I have no prior knowledge of or interest in, it was less exciting than I had hoped or expected.

Whatever the reason, although I consider it to be well written, I just enjoyed this book less than the previous two. Still worth reading though.

Book: Hardcover. Borrowed from my local library.
Rating: I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.
One-liner: Not bad, but not as good as his earlier books.
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