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My very hungry caterpillar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Hungry2 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Hungry4 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Summer afternoons with this little caterpillar are spent lying on the floor, face to face, smiling at each other. They are spent wandering around the back courtyard, looking at the plants and bees that cling to life in the edges and cracks alongside the tiles (we are yet to build a real garden). Summer afternoons are hiccups and spit-ups and tight little fists. Fat-folds and curly toes and dimples in the elbows. A big sister, one shoe gone, racing like a whirlwind around our little baby-mat of calm. Summer afternoons... and mornings, evenings and nights... are the slow minutes ticking through the nursing, just me and Harry and the sound of him greedily sucking. My hungry little caterpillar LOVES to nurse. All. The. Time. But that's ok with me. Those adorable, kissable fat-folds and dimples don't come cheap: they are hard won, out of pain and exhaustion and love, and they are my prize. You could say, if you wanted to, that all those long hours of feeding my hungry little caterpillar are turning him into a beautiful (chubby) little butterfly.

Wait for it...

Hungry9

In case you're wondering, Harry's Very Hungry Caterpillar tummy-time mat in these photographs came from Target, part of an Eric Carle range that makes me want to buy All The Things. Harry has this lovely caterpillar jersey wrap, too, and I confess I also have my eyes on this play-mat, a box of socks, and the world's sweetest caterpillar-in-a-box toy. We are not merchandising-averse in this house (just ask Madeleine and her Peppa Pig collection).

Target was never somewhere I thought of shopping before having a family. But while I still love to buy local, hand-made and unique things for my children, finances and our specific needs don't always make that practical or affordable. Target has become my go-to place for a broad range of cute, hard-wearing clothes and nursery and kitchen items that I use for Madeleine and Harry every day.

So when Target Australia approached me to work with them on this post to help promote their upcoming Everything for Baby Sale, I jumped at the opportunity. They gave me a voucher to go shopping for Harry, and I put my Sensible Hat on, purchasing this video monitor so that we could keep both ears and eyes on our precious littles when they were sleeping upstairs and out of earshot (because it's not at all creepy to watch your children sleep. Erm). But then I saw the Very Hungry Caterpillar range and Sensible made way for Spontaneous. So anyhow...

Here are some more of my favourites from Target's baby range:

* Such a stylish, modernist crib (and the matching change table). Love! * Gorgeous knitted blanket in triangles * If I had another baby girl I would dress her in this and about 100 other rompers from the Catriona Rowntree collection * Adorable knitted rattle * This sweet little fox reversible quilt / play-mat

The Everything for Baby Sale starts on 30 January, and there are some big savings so if you need to stock up for little ones in your life OR find gifts for friends with babies, now is the time!

The Easter craft challenge #3 - wildflower eggs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a super-cute and incredibly easy Easter craft activity. These little papier mâché eggs are laced with wildflower seeds. Tie them up with a pretty ribbon or a piece of washi tape, nestle them into a decorative nest, and you have a sweet little springtime Easter gift for a friend (even if Easter is an autumnal festival, as it is in Australia). 1. Tear up little pieces of paper and put them in a blender. Pour in enough warm water to cover them, then blend them into mush.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. If you are only using one type of seed, mix the seeds into the watery mush (don't blend it any more!), then strain it well. However, I was using three different types of seeds, so I strained my mix first and then separated it into three separate bowls, before adding the seeds. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3. Roll your seeded mixture into little egg-shaped balls. I made mine about the size of those mini chocolate eggs you can buy in bags. Then rest them on absorbent paper or a tea towel and leave them to dry. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat's it! I used some lovely, patterned tape to decorate the eggs. It will come off easily when my friends are ready to plant the eggs to grow wildflowers from the seeds. I also typed up growing instructions and rolled them into a little scroll to go with the eggs.

This post is the third and final one in a series of Easter craft challenges, sponsored by the good folk at Uni Hill Factory Outlets. They sent me a gift voucher to spend at the Kaisercraft Uni Hill store, and I didn't waste a minute.

* I used some of their fabulous scrap-booking supplies to make pretty mail * I used their rub-on stencils to decorate Easter eggs with hidden messages * Then I used their decorative embellishments (like birds' nests, doilies and pretty paper) to pull the various elements together into lovely boxed gifts for my friends, complete with handmade cards (see below)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hope my friends like their presents. Happy Easter!

The Easter craft challenge #2 - hidden messages

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast year I saw this post about hiding messages, fortune-cookie-style, inside eggs on B for Bel and couldn't wait to try it for myself. As with many things in life, I didn't get around to it in time, but this year I persevered and managed to make three little Easter eggs for my friends. It was a bit time consuming, but definitely worth it, and not too tricky. 1. To remove the egg from the shell, make a tiny hole in both the top and bottom of the egg. I used a sewing needle and gently tapped it with a pen until it broke through the shell. Continue working on the hole at the bottom to make it a bit bigger. From the bottom hole, push the needle right up inside the egg to break up the yolk. Then hold the egg over a bowl and blow through the top hole to make the egg filling come out the bottom. This takes a little while but once you get the hang of it it's not too bad.

2. Rinse the eggs to clean out the last of the yolk and white. I later learned that submerging them in salt water was the best for this job, whereas I just rinsed them with water from the tap (sorry dear recipients if there are eggy remnants in your presents. Gross!).

3. Paint your eggs in any colour you like. I painted mine a pale yellow colour, because I wanted a nice contrast to the black stencils I planned to use later. I found the best way to paint them was to use toothpicks inside the holes so that I didn't have to have my fingers all over them. I stood the toothpicks in lumps of BluTac to hold the eggs upright while they dried between coats of paint (I used three coats and they actually could have done with more if I'd had the time).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. To decorate the eggs, I used stencils, or "rub-ons," that I found at Kaisercraft at Uni Hill factory outlets. I am so happy with the results! Just cut out the portion of the image you want to transfer, and hold it firmly in place over the egg. Using the back of a pen or pencil (or anything else hard), gently rub over the image. Because the egg is round, you'll need to gently hold the transfer piece by piece over the areas you want to rub, because if you try to wrap it around the egg, the stencil will break apart and you won't get a clean transfer.

P21954565. Write your special message on a tiny piece of paper. Remember: the paper should be shorter than the egg so it can fit inside. Don't make it too long, either, because you will have to roll it up to make it fit inside the hole, and too long a note will make the roll too fat. I used tiny strips of brown paper. I found that rolling the message so that it wasn't exactly straight (making it 'taller' than otherwise) helped to thin it out to fit in the hole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA6. I created a cone of paper and poured some gold glitter into the hole, so it would feel like a bit of a carnival for my friends when they broke the egg open. Once done, I covered the hole with clear sticky-tape to stop the glitter from escaping back out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA7. As a final touch, I positioned the egg in an adorable little decorative birds' nest that I also found at Kaisercraft.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat do you think? Let me know if you try this craft too!

* Coming up next week: plantable papier mâché Easter eggs with wildflower seeds * Last week: Easter snail mail using collage, stencils and wooden decorations

Sponsored by the good folks at Uni Hill Factory Outlets.

The Easter craft challenge #1 - snail mail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is something so very tactile and satisfying about receiving old-fashioned snail mail in the box, don't you think? There is a wonderful theatre to opening it, not knowing what's inside. And a special feeling, knowing that the sender has taken time to write to me by hand, to pack a parcel, to wrap and post and send it. The fact that mail takes such a long time to arrive (as opposed to the instant gratification of email, phone calls and messaging), and has been through so many hands to get to its final destination, only adds to the romance of the post.

When you receive a parcel from me in your mailbox, it has been on a journey. It has seen places you may never see, and has travelled across mountains and highways and oceans to reach you. The stamps and marks and scuffs that you can see when it arrives are evidence of its adventurous passage toward you across the globe.

Often, I like to draw or paint pictures to embellish the addresses on the mail I send, like these. I also use string and wax and ink stamps to add to a parcel's beauty. (This is for the benefit of both the recipient and all the postal workers who handle it: the woman at my local Post Office loves it when I come in with a new parcel, turning it over in her hands and saying "Oh, lovely," before affixing the stamps.)

But lately I've been exploring other ways to make the mail I send something lovely to look at. And after a recent trip to Kaisercraft at the fabulous Uni Hill factory outlet precinct for inspiration, I came up with some new ideas using collage, stencils and wooden embellishments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey were super easy to make, and I'm really happy with the results. If you want to have a try, just wrap your parcel in plain paper, then have a play. I used PVA glue to attach the wooden and paper collage pieces, although double-sided tape would probably do as well. For pieces that absolutely couldn't fall off (like those containing the addresses!) I reinforced the corners with pretty printed tape. The wooden eggs were plain when I bought them, so I painted them before gluing them on.

Some mail tips for embellishing mail (so that they won't get mad at you at the Post Office):

* Make sure you leave space on the top-right of the parcel for the stamps * If your parcel is going overseas, leave space for the airmail sticker to go on the top-middle or left * If you need to make a customs declaration (most Australian post going overseas requires this), leave a good area on the back to stick the form so it doesn't destroy your lovely artwork on the front * It's a lot easier to send 'fancy' mail if you are sending something with a flat surface, like a book. If your mail is bumpy or squishy, consider putting it in a small box before wrapping it in the brown paper, so you can more easily decorate it * Since you're using paper in place of an envelope, take a few extra steps to be sure it is strong enough to survive the journey. I make sure there are a few layers of paper around my parcel. I also reinforce all the fold-lines of the paper with sticky-tape, leaving nowhere that it could catch or tear. Finally, I put a piece of sticky tape on every corner to protect it from tearing if it bumps around with all the other mail.

I found all the supplies I needed to decorate my mail from the the amazing new Kaisercraft University Hill store. This included PVA glue, printed sticky tape and a craft knife, as well as the following 'features' for each box:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1: Packet of mini playing cards 2: Packet of Rub Ons - easy-to-use stencils in various designs 3: Packet of "Timeless Tags" - more than 50 pieces of die cut shapes 4: Two packets of three wooden Easter eggs

Coming up next week: Easter eggs with hidden messages inside.

Sponsored by the good folks at Uni Hill factory outlets

A very Australian Christmas, plus a giveaway

Target has designed a range of beautiful Australian-themed Christmas ornaments this year, for sale exclusively in Target Australia stores. I've bought two of each!

As a blogger, and as a person who has lived for some time on the opposite side of the world, I am lucky to have friends in many places and from many cultures. And when Christmas rolls around, I am almost always asked "How do you celebrate?" by my northern hemisphere friends. Here's a taste.

Long, lazy summer school-holidays, Daylight Savings, the smell of jasmine, Carols by Candlelight in every park. Stockings for Santa on Christmas Eve, a great big pile of toys and tinsel and wrapping paper and smiling children on Christmas morning. For some families, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve or Church on Christmas Day. Ham and trimmings in some houses. Seafood platters in others. Food comas by mid-afternoon in almost every home.

What else happens on Christmas Day?

Water fights in the back yard. Christmas crackers with silly hats and bad jokes. Christmas carols playing on repeat. Watching the Queen's Christmas Day message in the hope that she will say something as hysterically funny as "annus horribilis" again so that you can make more crude puns. At least one broken toy. At least one uncle or family friend drinking too much and turning obnoxious.

I photographed these adorable Christmas ornaments in the park this week. They were designed exclusively for Target this year and, with prices ranging from $4 to $6, they're very affordable too!

They'll make great gifts for overseas friends and I plan on pulling together an Aussie care-package or two, adding in some other items new to Target this year, like Australian-themed crackers, glass baubles painted with Australian flowers, and a range of rather tasty sauces made with native Australian ingredients.

While we're having this conversation, did you know that Target now stocks a range of high-end fragrances, like Marc Jacobs, Bvlgari, Issey Miyake and Versace, at discount prices? This was news to me until recently, but very happy news when it came to hunting down Christmas presents while watching the budget.

Competition time

Last week Target contacted me and asked if I wanted to give you guys a $40 gift voucher. Since we're heading into Christmas, I thought that would probably be one of the handiest things you could have right now, so I said "of course!"

To be in the draw to win a $40 gift voucher to spend at any Target, Baby Target, or Target Country across Australia, simply leave a comment below and let me know how you celebrate this holiday season in your family.

For a second chance to win, Tweet about this competition and use the hashtags #targetchristmas and #targetlovesbloggers.

For a third chance, share this post on Facebook, and let me know about it.

Overseas readers

These gift vouchers are only valid in Australia, but I don't want you to miss out so I'm going to give away a second prize.

I'll randomly select one overseas person to win some of these lovely Christmas ornaments, plus an assortment of other goodies that I can gather together, and I'll post them all out to you anywhere in the world. (I might even make the mail look pretty, like this). Just let me know what country you're from in your comment when you enter.

Both prizes will be drawn at 9pm on Tuesday 11 December (Melbourne time). Good luck!

This post was sponsored by the lovely folks at Target. Perfumes and Australian-themed ornaments sold throughout Target Australia. Baby drool comes separately.

UPDATE: This competition is now closed. Congratulations Amber!

Gloriously lost

Sometimes you don't realise how desperately you need a weekend outside of the city until the ocean air is in your lungs, dense forest canopy shades your face, and your mobile phone is useless. We are just back from three days of hiking in the bushland surrounding the Great Ocean Road as part of a group that's raising funds to support cancer patients.

Madeleine absolutely loved it, singing lustily from her carrier as we hiked our way through the trees, and laughing every time anyone talked to her or squeezed her chubby cheeks (which happened quite often).

She kept on laughing while we trekked through rainforests, up mountains, along clifftop paths and over sand dunes. She laughed when we got back to our cabin in the bush wayyyyy past her bedtime, and laughed at the very suggestion of going to sleep while the sun was still up. She laughed even more when I gave in and took her down to have dinner with the rest of the group.

We all sat together around long tables on a wide verandah, drinking wine and eating cheese and making our own pizzas in an outdoor oven. In the darkening sky, koalas growled and kookaburras chuckled. Without warning, a big, blustery, summer storm broke overhead, sending down sheets of rain and at some point, while thunder rolled and lightening split open the sky, Madeleine finally fell asleep in my arms.

Later I put her down in a travel cot beside our bed, a gift from Baby Bjorn, and she slept beautifully all night. Slept like a baby, in fact. She barely moved until I woke her up for her next feed.

I'm so thankful to Baby Bjorn, because the cot was fantastic. You just pull it out of the case and it bounces into place: you don't need a physics degree to put it together. It was small enough to fit in our tiny cabin room, but big enough for Madeleine to keep using it as she grows. The sides are at a kind of pyramid angle, making it super sturdy and safe, something very important to me because when she HASN'T been hiking all day, Madeleine thrashes and bumps around in her sleep like a washing machine full of towels. Plus there's mesh all around which means my baby gets all the airflow she needs, and I can see her through the sides, but she still feels snug and secure.

I also used the travel cot as a playpen for her during the day when we weren't hiking, putting it out on the verandah in the late afternoon sun to give Madeleine somewhere safe to roll around and play with her toys and show off how good she is at tummy time nowadays (really good).

How was your weekend, dear friend? Have you had a chance to get out of town lately?

* This post was sponsored by Baby Bjorn and Digital Parents Collective. Thanks so much for your support you guys. We couldn't have left home without you!

Madeleine grows up

You are three months old, Madeleine. Your whole life stretches before you. Life was the first gift I gave you. In 70 years, 80, 90, this world may still know you. Lucky world! I wonder what it will look like then.

What will you do with all those years? They are your very own to grasp and love and celebrate, my darling. What a bounty!

Will you plant radish seedlings and watch them grow? Will you kiss a cat? Will you curl up for hours with your favourite books? Will you giggle for hours with your best friends? Will you make silly smiles with orange quarters? Will you lie in the sun and dream animals out of clouds? Will you draw and paint and stick and shape? Will you squeal and run and chase and jump?

Will you ride horses like your mama? Train chickens like your dad? Sew costumes like your big sister? Take photos like your middle sister?

Please be kind and loving to others. Please help those who are in need.

Please know that you are deeply loved. Please know that you are infinitely precious.

I wonder what you will do when you are big.

Will you be Prime Minister? A shopkeeper? An artist? A child-raiser? An archaeologist? A chef? A fundraiser? A scientist?

There is so much you can do with your life. And you don’t have to stick to just one path. After all, you have all those years in your pocket. Those many, many decades, in which to tell the world: “I AM MADELEINE, HEAR ME ROAR,” and then give it a kiss on the nose.

And I will help you. I will love you. I will dream with you. I will support you.

ALWAYS.

This world will hear you and love you long after I am gone, Madeleine. (Oh, I am so jealous of this world!) But even death won’t stop me helping you. Nothing can. We've made plans, my sweet. You are in safe hands.

Oh and Madeleine? No power in this world or the next could even TOUCH the love I have for you. That, my angel, is eternal.

And then some.

Disclaimer: I am participating in the LIFE Awareness campaign. I received a VISA gift card for this post courtesy of Life Insurance Finder, via Digital Parents Collective. I am also in the running to win an iPad3. As always, all opinions are purely my own.

That was the official disclaimer. Here's what else I have to say: Mr B and I both have life insurance so that our girls can know every opportunity life has to offer them, even if we can't be there to give it in person. So I am completely comfortable putting my name to this campaign, which is all about thinking about how you will care for those you leave behind. >

Madeleine grows up

You are three months old, Madeleine. Your whole life stretches before you. Life was the first gift I gave you. In 70 years, 80, 90, this world may still know you. Lucky world! I wonder what it will look like then.

What will you do with all those years? They are your very own to grasp and love and celebrate, my darling. What a bounty!

Will you plant radish seedlings and watch them grow? Will you kiss a cat? Will you curl up for hours with your favourite books? Will you giggle for hours with your best friends? Will you make silly smiles with orange quarters? Will you lie in the sun and dream animals out of clouds? Will you draw and paint and stick and shape? Will you squeal and run and chase and jump?

Will you ride horses like your mama? Train chickens like your dad? Sew costumes like your big sister? Take photos like your middle sister?

Please be kind and loving to others. Please help those who are in need.

Please know that you are deeply loved. Please know that you are infinitely precious.

I wonder what you will do when you are big.

Will you be Prime Minister? A shopkeeper? An artist? A child-raiser? An archaeologist? A chef? A fundraiser? A scientist?

There is so much you can do with your life. And you don’t have to stick to just one path. After all, you have all those years in your pocket. Those many, many decades, in which to tell the world: “I AM MADELEINE, HEAR ME ROAR,” and then give it a kiss on the nose.

And I will help you. I will love you. I will dream with you. I will support you.

ALWAYS.

This world will hear you and love you long after I am gone, Madeleine. (Oh, I am so jealous of this world!) But even death won’t stop me helping you. Nothing can. We've made plans, my sweet. You are in safe hands.

Oh and Madeleine? No power in this world or the next could even TOUCH the love I have for you. That, my angel, is eternal.

And then some.

Disclaimer: I am participating in the LIFE Awareness campaign. I received a VISA gift card for this post courtesy of Life Insurance Finder, via Digital Parents Collective. I am also in the running to win an iPad3. As always, all opinions are purely my own.

That was the official disclaimer. Here's what else I have to say: Mr B and I both have life insurance so that our girls can know every opportunity life has to offer them, even if we can't be there to give it in person. So I am completely comfortable putting my name to this campaign, which is all about thinking about how you will care for those you leave behind. >