30 December 2014

Christmas 2014 Big Wrap-Up Extravaganza!

I had high hopes for this month. December is a blogger's dream: advent calendars, Christmas decorations, activities in preparation for the big day, not to mention the big day itself.

What happened? Life happened. The computer didn't rate as a terribly high priority. And that's quite alright with me.

So now, instead of regaling you with many mini posts about Christmas sub-topics, I give you the whole shebang.

There was a bit of playgroup Christmas crafting:

Paddle pop reindeer with antlers made with real twigs

Playgroup's very own nativity scene craft

This was a pretty special Christmas for us, as it was the first Christmas in our new home. Added to that, we had my parents and grandmother over for Christmas lunch, so I got to play in my new kitchen.

I took Christmas Eve off work to spend at home with the family (in the kitchen).

MissyMoo2 (5) took this one :-)
On Christmas Day, we gathered around the table and enjoyed some quality time together.

I'm not the most confident cook around, but I was actually pretty proud of my cooking efforts:


Cassata for dessert, yummy.

A belated Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you had a wonderful time :-)

28 December 2014

Happy 5th Birthday ... To My Blog!

There are two things you may notice about the above picture, which is a screenshot of my first blog post. One is the year - yes, this blog is now five years old!

The second thing you may notice is the exact date ... and the fact that my fifth blogiversary was actually yesterday. Oooops, is this the best example of a bad blogger - forgetting such a milestone as this?!

But let's focus on the positives, shall we?

Happy birthday Francesca Writes Here (for yesterday)

In the past five years, this blog has witnessed some amazing milestones in my life and the lives of my family members.  I have learnt so much about blogging, websites, social media and writing. I have nurtured a hobby I very much enjoy and felt part of a wider community.

You would almost certainly have noticed a change of pace in my blogging in recent months (i.e. from "meandering" to "a snail's pace"). So I will use this fifth blogiversary to recognise a certain maturity and coming-of-age of this blog. Francesca Writes Here doesn't attempt to be a big-name blog. I don't go to blogging conferences or rub noses with the who's who of the blogging community. I feel less and less comfortable blogging about my children now that they are getting older and will have their own online identities to shape in years to come - so I don't think this blog really falls into the "mummy blogger" category either.

The simple fact is that this blog is from me, by me. Francesca. Francesca Writes Here. And Francesca writes about whatever Francesca feels like writing about whenever the inspiration and opportunity arises (sorry about referring to myself in the third person there - a bit over-the-top, hey).

I'll plug my book from time to time. I'll write about writing, reading, languages, music, family life - all of the things which make my soul sing; things which you'll see from reading this blog that I have enjoyed writing about over the past five years. I may also have the occasional whinge, but that's life. Sometimes, blogging may seem just like hard work ... and when it does, I'll have a break. But I'll probably come back - I always have so far ;-)

So happy fifth blogiversary to me, if I do say so myself. It's been a huge five years in many ways. I wonder what the next five years will bring?!

How long have you been blogging?  What's your claim to "bad blogger" fame?

21 December 2014

Messages from Santa

This is NOT a sponsored post - I just really like the Santa messages, so I thought I'd tell you about them.

The jolly big man in red just loves a photo. As kids, my sister and I had one with him every year and Hubby and I continued the tradition with the MissyMoos from the time MissyMoo1 was 1.

But for the past couple of years, we haven't done the Santa photo. Before that, we always did. But a combination of moving house, three kids and negotiating around school hours has meant that the idea of driving more than half an hour to a busy major shopping centre, waiting in line for two hours, then possibly having to get in the photo with an uneasy child, just doesn't float my boat.

And do you know what? The kids don't mind.

They each write a letter to Santa making their present requests. They know Santa is busy getting ready for Christmas - he can't be appearing at every shopping centre beforehand. Santa does take some time out of his busy preparation, though, to send them a personalised video message, telling them whether they're on the nice list or the naughty list.

I request a video message for each child from Santa through the Portable North Pole website. We have done this for a few years now. The message is different each year, although each child sees the same storyline in a given year (personalised to them, though) because I've only done the free one. Next year, I may branch out and pay so the MissyMoos can have a different message each ... we'll see.

One of Santa's elves emails me when the video message is ready for the MissyMoos to watch. Generally it's really close to Christmas because we wouldn't want the cherubs on the nice list getting complacent now, would we?! Santa Claus also mentions that this is the list they're on now, so we all know that Santa is still watching even after the message has played!

Watching the MissyMoos' eyes light up as they see Santa greet and speak to them is precious. It's much less stressful and time-consuming than trekking to shops for a photo, so this is my children's experience of Santa for now, and they love it :-)

11 December 2014

My Family Nativity Scene Has Found a New Home!

Some of you may recall that three years ago, the MissyMoos and I made our own nativity scene out of paddle pop sticks.

This ridiculous craft frenzy with, at the time, a newborn baby and two older children under school age, was inspired by my childhood memories of my Nonna's nativity scene which she made herself. When we were kids, my sister and I would look at the nativity scene and move the characters around. We'd make the wise men walk over the mountains to get to baby Jesus. The sheep would nudge a snoozing shepherd. The cow would moo. And it was there every Christmas for us to enjoy.

My Nonna made the nativity scene around 40 years ago.

Here is a photo of my sister and I with it 28 years ago:

The last Christmas I spent in its midst would have been around 16 years ago.

And now, here is a photo of it taken this week in my new home:

Yes, for the first time in 16 years, I am spending a Christmas with my Nonna's nativity scene in the house, only this time, it is in my home being enjoyed by my children - the fourth generation of my family to see it.

It's a little something from my Nonna, left behind for us to enjoy again after all these years. It's something I can tell her great-grandchildren about her and something of hers they can see for themselves.

Thank you to my Zia for keeping it safe all these years. Thank you to my parents (known as Nonna and Par on this blog) for driving interstate to bring it to me for the next generation to enjoy. And thank you to my Nonna. I miss you, but I am so happy to have this reminder of you in my home.

Buon Natale!

08 December 2014

Returning as Rated on Goodreads

I was pretty chuffed when I saw this the other day on Goodreads:

It's the ratings graph for my novel, Returning. Now I know there aren't a lot of ratings in the scheme of things and not everyone rates books on there anyway, but it was still very nice to see the graph looking like that :-)

If you don't know what I'm on about, I wrote a book! Check out my website for more info: www.francescasuters.weebly.com

07 December 2014

What's in a Bookshelf?

When we were living in the rented house, a lot of boxes remained packed, as we knew we would be moving again soon once our house was built. One category of boxes which remained packed was my books. One of my bookish friends looked at me as if I had three heads when I told her that and many of you book-loving blog readers may share her sentiments. I thought it a sacrifice worth making to save packing angst later on, plus, I made great use of the library while my books were packed away.

So, in the rented house, this was our bookshelf:

Yes, it's lego.
Now that we've moved into our built house, the lego has its own place and I have reclaimed the bookshelf!

When I started unpacking book boxes and filling the shelves, I instantly began feeling more settled and "at home".

Getting there :-)

06 December 2014

Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

Image Source

So, this book is an award winner. But I only managed to read it on my second attempt. Going back to my first attempt, if you are a freaky stalker of this blog have an uncanny level of attention to detail, you might remember seeing the cover in a blog post from March 2014, and even then I think it was an old photo. I had borrowed Caleb's Crossing from the library and could not get past the second chapter. That was when I did something I rarely do: I gave up on the book and returned it to the library.

My second attempt was out of my control: it was nominated as an Old Ducks Book Club book. That is why I borrowed it again and that is why I pushed myself to finish it.

It wasn't a bad story. It was just reeeaaaallly slow. I also felt a little cheated at the end, having read through about three quarters of the book (hard slog) to then have the last quarter cascading into what seemed a very rushed conclusion. Now I don't mind a change of pace to reach a climactic end to a book, but at around that three quarter of the way through mark, the pace changed so dramatically that it hardly seemed like the same book.

I gave it three stars because of the language. Set hundreds of years ago, the author must have immersed her mind in the language and culture of that time and place (to the extent possible) to recreate a bygone era and that, my friends, really earned my respect.

Book: Hardcover. Borrowed from my local library.
Rating: I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.
One-liner: Cleverly written but difficult to read. Slow for most of the book, but the late change of pace left me feeling unsatisfied.

05 December 2014

My Baby Still Hasn't Had a Haircut

My baby still hasn't had a haircut ...

... and by "baby", I mean "3-year-old".

But seriously, how did my baby get so big??

04 December 2014

Homecoming - Cathy Kelly

Image Source
Although it's been a while since I blogged about books I've been reading, I've still been reading them. Now I shall play catch-up on the blogging scene :-)

The story is about a few different women, all at turning points in their lives, who cross paths and whose stories intertwine. As it was set in Ireland and in a small neighbourhood, I couldn't help but be reminded of Maeve Binchy.  I got into this book and read it quite quickly. It was an enjoyable, warm read, but not a stand-out, must-read-again book.

Book: Paperback. Borrowed from my local library.
Rating: I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.
One-liner: Enjoyable story, interesting characters, well-woven

03 December 2014

Playgroup Fun

I'm a huge fan of free play for my kids. The MissyMoos are at school, preschool and daycare with varying forms and amounts of structure ruling their day. Don't get me wrong, structure is important, but so is freedom to explore their imaginations and find their own way socially.

This is why I love my playgroup. I get toys out for the kids and prepare a craft activity each week, but the kids direct their own play. (It's usually the mums/grandmas who end up doing craft because the kids are too busy dressing up or riding tricycles!)

Kids grow up and move on. We're preparing to farewell another three kids in a couple of weeks (one of my MissyMoos included) as they "graduate" to big school next year. Hopefully new people find their way to us over time and we make new friends and playmates. It's a beautiful little community with strong bonds formed over a cuppa to the sound of children's laughter.

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