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Month: December 2016

Product Review: Splashout in Speedo this summer!

Product Review: Splashout in Speedo this summer!

Summer is comin!!! Well, let’s hope it is….given Melbourne’s weather so far this season it is debatable! When it does finally arrive, we want our kids to be ready! We were lucky enough to recently review Speedo’s latest range of kids’ swimwear. We also recently had a little family trip to Bondi, and gave the ‘togs’ a go on the iconic beach. Speedo is also such an iconic brand and it’s great to see they have never changed in terms of the quality of their gorgeous bathers. I remember swimming in nothing else. Some things change, some stay the same.

Their new range is just gorgeous. If you are a lover of prints, then the girls’ range will capture your heart. Ella’s bathers were literally almost impossible to take off her, and she wanted to wear them all day long.

You really can’t beat the quality. The seams are thick, the fabric is light but durable, and the prints don’t fade in the wash. Given the amount of times we have to wash out kids’ clothes, then obviously this is something that we loooove!

Their Rashies are great too. Perfect to protect their beautiful skin from the harsh rays of our Australian Sun.

All in all, we loved them. You can find Speedo’s range in most swim wear stores, or online here!

Nothing better than supporting a great Australian Brand in summer! You can also read more about this review both from myself and other local Mums via our write up in Babyology here. 

 

Grief at Christmas & lessons of hope

Grief at Christmas & lessons of hope

Grief is like Melbourne weather. Four seasons in one day. Sometimes you start out the day feeling fine, and then it can quickly turn nasty. Sometimes it feels still and calm, and others it’s like your stuck in a torrential down pour, and all you can do is ride it out. These last four months have taught me a lot about grief. I thought I new. I’d experience loss before. Losing close family friends, and family members. I knew it was hard. I knew it would take time. But gosh, I’ve felt as though I knew nothing. It’s as though I’m a preppie in the school of grief, as I went back to square one. As though I might as well be learning a new language.

The past few weeks I felt as though I was on top of things. I felt a sense of wanting to be happy, and really try to make this up and coming Christmas a good one, as much as it could be. I’ve often heard in previous years, people reminding others that whilst Christmas can be a great time of happiness and joy, it can also be a time of immense sadness for some. For me, Christmas has always, always been the happiest time of the year. These last few days have actually had me realising that this is true, with the loss of our precious Dad. The thought of walking into my parents house on Christmas morning with my children in tow is both something I’m looking forward to, and yet it is a day that I’m sadly anticipating with a sense of trepidation.

I’ve learned a lot about grief these last four months. There are things you are told about grief that ring true, much of it weeks after being told. However there is much I’ve learned that I have found is helpful. Stuff I’ve been told, and stuff I’ve discovered myself. You see my brain is very scientific, and I’ve fond that I actually need strategies, phrases and sayings to help me make some sense of it all, and rationalise the loss. Especially because ours was so sudden. So in an attempt to try to help others who also may be stumbling and fumbling their way towards Christmas this weekend, feeling a little lost but wishing they could feel a bit better, I thought I would share some of the lesson’s I’ve learned about grief. I can only hope they help. Heck, I just hope it’s bloody useful really. I’ve just realised it’s also my 300th post on Happy Ella After. Quite ironic!

 

grief at christmas1. Grief if the price we pay for love

A few days after Dad passed, my Mum told us this: ‘grief is the price we pay for love’. Apparently the Queen actually said it. When you think about this it actuall resolves itself. In an attempt to make the loss ‘not happen’, you would never, ever choose a life without love. Love is in fact the meaning of life. A life of love is a life of happiness. So therefore, grief is an unfortunate, but very rational consequence of loss. This saying has helped me realise that whilst our grief is so intense and at times hard to bear, you in fact wouldn’t want it any other way.

2. Helpful and unhelpful emotions

A friend who lost her Mum whilst we were teenagers told me about helpful and unhelpful emotions. Some feelings can help you through, and some feelings can make you feel worse. The trick is knowing which ones to acknowledge, and which ones to ignore. Sadness, for example is hard to face, but it is in fact useful. It is something that we NEED to feel when tackling grief. Guilt and trying to find answers on the other hand are not useful. They actually cause your brain to stress, releasing cortisol and causing you to physically feel worse. They do not help to keep you calm and feel safe. You can also go out of your mind wondering ‘what if’ and ‘why has this happened’. It’s something I’ve tried to notice and explicitly stop myself from thinking. It has helped.

3. Let it come and go

In a similar way, you also need to let emotions come and go naturally. Don’t fight it, or dwell on any one point. My sister’s Godfather told us to treat our grief like a wave, ride it when it is high and when it is calm. Just let the waves come and go, and don’t try to swim against it. Everything will in time, calm down and the storm does pass.

4. The new reality

I’ve been seeing a psychologist to help me deal with the loss of Dad. She has helped give me some specific strategies to help me process how I’m feeling. She talked about sufferers of ‘grief’ dealing with needing to create a ‘new reality’. In times of loss, we live in our old reality, but without the person we love. We live in our houses, travel to the same places, carry out every day routines. All reminding us of that person. It isn’t until we create a ‘new reality’, one which involves memories of a new life, new experiences, new adventures that the old reality becomes new. The problem is, this takes time. But knowing this in itself actually helps. Time can’t be rushed.


5. It gets a bit easier

 

They say that the grief doesn’t go away, you just learn to live with it. I have found this to be true. However initially, when I was told t

his, I saw it as a life long curse of being sad . However it’s not like that at all. Four months later, I still feel incredibly sad. I still at times, fall apart and cry my eyes out. But I CAN talk about him sometimes without welling up. I CAN look at photos and smile. I’ve recently been able to look at videos and have a laugh. Someone once drew me a diagram to help explain this:

grief at christmas

In the beginning, grief consumes you. It is the centre of your life. It’s all you can think about and feels overwhelmingly huge. Every thought is about your loss. It’s hard to see anything else.

However over time, the grief is surrounded by new experiences, happy times, love and hope. In time the grief is still there, but it feels smaller and smaller as it is surrounded by new memories. You feel stronger and more able to tackle life and the new reality because it is enveloped in love. I have used this diagram several times to help me realise that everything will be ok.

6. Everyone is on their own journey

This is a hard one, but one that everyone in a family needs to realise. I am one of four children, and we have all lost our Dad, but we are all different and dealing with it in a variety of ways.  Our Mum has lost her husband and those feelings are very different too. We all have to just care for one another, and we do. Just because you are feeling sad, doesn’t mean that others are feeling that way on the same day. In other ways, you may also want to do something positive or happy, but it doesn’t mean that others are ready. We are all different and it takes time. We all need to be respectful of where everyone is at.

7. Sometimes the build up is worse than the actual day

Since losing Dad we’ve actually had a few ‘firsts’. Fathers’ Day, his Birthday, Mum’s Birthday, their anniversary. For the most part, the build up to the day, the anticipation is actually harder than the actual day. You think about what it will be like, you dread it in some ways. But then the day comes, and you realise, it is just another day. You can get through it. You will get through it. Yes you might cry, but that is ok. But you might laugh and smile to. And that feels really good.

7. Hope

There is always hope. There are not always answers to all of our questions, but there is always, always hope. Hope is a good thing. It helps us strive for positive and know that there will always be something happy around the corner. Life is too good not to be cherished. We need to be hopeful that there are better things to come.

grief at christmas

So this Christmas, if you or someone you know is feeling really heavy with the loss of a loved one, then know you are not alone. We are all doing our best to get on with things, keep our chins up and just live a happy life in their memory. At times it really sux, but just know that time does tick over and good things happen all the time. We owe it to them to be happy as much as we can be.

Product Review: DC Superhero Action Dolls

Product Review: DC Superhero Action Dolls

So it’s a week before Christmas. For some reason, actually…because of my hip surgery, I have all my shopping done for my kids. I did it online and it was so much easier. But what if you haven’t done yours yet? Even worse, what if you haven’t got any idea what to buy? Well if you have to buy a gift for a girl between 4-10 then this one is for you! If you have seen my IG feed of late, you would have seen a snap of my Ella kitted out in a Wonder woman dress up from Warner Brothers. She was also holing a Wonder woman Doll: a DC Superhero Action Doll. These dolls are just fantastic. If you live in a household dominated by Superheroes (Huddy’s room is out of control), but your little lady loves them too, then these are your answer.

dc-superhero

Warner Bros have brought out a range of action dolls, based on female super heroes. Beautiful quality, their outfits are bold, bright and colourful. They also make sounds and light up with the touch of a button. What I love about them is the fact they they encourage girls to be fierce. Brave, courageous and risk takers. They can take on the world and save the day! My Ella is somewhat shy and reserved at times, playing it safe. So when she dons her wonder woman outfit and grabs her doll in hand, she becomes invincible! Paired with the wonderwoman dress up, she will want to save the world!

So if you want to bring a sense of wonder and rebellion to a little girl in your life, then head to KMART and check out these dolls via this link. You can also see other fabulous offerings from Warner Bros via my ‘unboxing’ video below. Hope you like!

kate

 

The products in the video

LEGO Juniors – Batman™ & Superman™ vs. Lex Luthor™

Suit up alongside Batman™ and Superman™ and prepare to take on Lex Luthor™! Get the Batmobile™ ready and arm the Batcave’s bat-disk shooter. Help Superman take to the skies with his launcher before Lex Luthor arrives in his robotic vehicle with grabbing claw and kryptonite-powered laser gun. Save the day with your favorite Super Heroes!

RRP: $29.99

Stockists: All major retailers

 

Mattel – DC Super Hero Girls 12-Inch Dolls

Unleash your inner Super Hero with these DC Super Hero Girls action dolls inspired by the students of Super Hero High! Available in Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Bumblebee

RRP: $32.99

Stockists: All major retailers

 

Imaginext DC Super Friends Super Hero Flight City

Double the fun and double the trouble as Gotham City and Metropolis combine! Let Batman and Superman take flight in the 360 degree flight pack with an additional Super Hero launcher. But be careful – Lex Luthor is always close by.

RRP: $149.99

Stockists: Target, Big W, Toys R Us

 

Nuts about Netflix: The Crown

Nuts about Netflix: The Crown

Since having my hip replacement, I’ve been forced to do, well nothing. Nothing involves having the chance to watch some television and get stuck into some of those TV shows on Netlfix that I never get the chance to watch. Normally it’s my kids and hubby who get to enjoy the variety of NETFLIX options, but this time around it’s me! A few days ago, I sat and watched the entire series of Netflix’s original series: The Crown. IF you are anything like me and love a good ‘royalty’ feature, then this series will knock your socks off.  A biopic drama that is based on the history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth the second, it follows her journey from teenager, to young adult, coronation and reign as Queen. Not only does it document factual accounts of her life, but it delves into the unknown, unspoken world of her intimate relationships, challenges and somewhat moving insights into her world. The life of the house of Windsor.

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What I’ve loved about this series is the fact that it shows the woman, the real person behind the figure that we’ve come to know and see on our televisions and newspapers. It shows the struggle of her dual role: that of a woman and that of a Queen. A Queen, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a woman. Her somewhat strained relationships with her family and the way in which she has to grow quite quickly into the role of Queen. It also gives a fantastic insight into the tumultuous relationship between parliament and monarchy. Travelling through many major historical events, it shows how she draws strength from memories passed, of her beloved late Father, King George and her late Grandmother.

It’s a fantastic drama that anyone with an affinity for the royal family will love. Available on NETFLIX, you can watch it anywhere, anytime!

kate

 

 

Local Legends: Emma from Happy Hands Happy Heart

Local Legends: Emma from Happy Hands Happy Heart

It’s been a while since I’ve done a feature on a local business I love. I used to weekly post about a local gem in my series – Ella Loves Local. Since then, my blog and print business has evolved and grown to become something more than I ever imagined. My own, local, small business has thrived. Through word of mouth. Through local interest. So it’s time to give back and reignite one of my passions, that is supporting small local businesses. Businesses that evoke passion and joy. Business that experience mayhem, milestones and magic to inspire us all. In my new series ‘Local Legends‘, I will be sharing the love of small businesses. Businesses like Happy Hands Happy Heart. If you are a Mum who loves to browse social media then chances are you’ve come across the brilliant idea, passion, brain child and subsequent business of Emma from Kangaroo Flat.

Happy Hands Happy Heart

Happy Hands Happy Heart creates natural, scented play dough. Play dough that you want to touch, smell and actually….eat. It’s not meant for eating, but if you do…then that’s fine! A Mum at heart, Emma saw the need to create a product for her children that ‘encourages creative and sensory play’. ‘It is perfect for fine motor skill development, and is created using plant based dyes to mimic flavours found in nature and scents that encourage general wellbeing and calm’.  Some of her ‘flavours’ include:

Happy Hands Happy Heart

  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Blood Orange (my favourite)
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • Lavender
  • Spearmint…and
  • Liquorice!

She also has a special Christmas range including:

  • Raphie Reindeer: Plum Pudding
  • Crystak the Christmas Tree: Peppermint

I also love Emma’s range of accessories including: playdough boards, letter and number stamps and cutters. Honestly it is one of those products that you not only fall in love with, but love sharing with others.

Happy Hands Happy Heart screenshot-2016-12-04-13-34-20

So we caught up with Emma in the lead up to Christmas to find out a little more…

1. Tell us a bit about your business, your dream, your story

When my hands are happy, my heart is happy.  That’s what started it all.  I realised with some help, that for my health and well being, I needed to find time to make and create.  But I needed a creative activity that could involve my little ones as well.  So I started playing with playdough a lot.  My product ideas blossomed, and my little business grew.  I dreamed of making a product that made people happy, helped them find some calm, encouraged them to create and play, and was environmentally and socially responsible…. and my little biz was born.

2. Magic: What is the most magical thing that has happened to you as a small business owner?

The most magical thing about having a small biz for me, is having my little people so heavily and enthusiastically involved with my work.   They create some special type of magic in our little biz, that inspires a lot of what goes on, and it wouldn’t be the same, or half as much fun without my three little business partners.

3. Mayhem: What has been your greatest challenge, moment of mayhem?

Little ones running wild in the studio, drawing on the walls, or work spread across the loungeroom floor..they are typical scenes at HHHH HQ.  There are a lot of moments of mayhem in my little biz.  Its a challenge finding a balance, but that is also what I love most about running my biz.  Nothing ever goes quite to plan, or plans have to change regularly, especially when working from home with little ones, but flexibility is key. Its challenging, but wonderful. 

4. Milestone: What has been your greatest achievement, milestone?

On our 2nd Birthday in October, I tallied up all of the financial donations we had made over the previous year to charities and community organisations.  Realising that our donations had reached over $1700 was something I was so super proud of, just from donating $1 from every jar of our playdough sold from our website or market/ event appearances. Totally Chuffed!

5. Pay it Forward: Who do you love? What small business are you lusting over right now?

I have the biggest love for @seriously_milestones  These are the best baby gifts ever….you don’t ever have to go shopping for a baby gift again, these are it, stock up your cupboard.  So so funny, so so relatable, environmentally and socially responsible and their creator Issy is one of my most favourite humans on the planet. 

Happy Hands Happy Heart

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So if you are after a last minute gift for your little ones, or for another little heart….head to Happy Hands Happy Heart. You will fall in love instantly! PLEASE NOTE Christmas orders close December 10th!

kate

For more information, head to the website above, or read on below….

about-us-happy-hands-happy-heart

The Christmas guide: gifts they’ll want, need, wear and read!

The Christmas guide: gifts they’ll want, need, wear and read!

It’s almost Christmas time once more. Hashtag joy, hashtag chaos, hashtag busy. Busy, busy, busy. This year I’ve had to be extra organised as I recover from hip surgery. For me that has meant knowing that I can’t drive for 2-3 weeks and at Christmas time this could mean disaster. So if I can’t go to the stores myself to do my Christmas shopping, then I guess I need to make it come to me. I’m pleased to report that I’ve done all of the shopping I need for Santa, and have had it delivered straight to my door. Honestly, what did we do before online shopping? God knows!

This year, whilst I’m spoiling my children more than usual in an effort to try to make this Christmas a little happier than years gone by, I’ve discovered a fantastic giving ritual that can help you to contain the excitement, and save a little money too. The idea is that you buy four presents. Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Granted, that my children may receive more than one present in each category…the sentiment behind it is lovely. I’ve also discovered that some families give their children an empty box with a tag ‘ something to give’. Children are encouraged to go through their toys following Christmas and donate to charity. The act of giving, either in the lead up to, or following Christmas is something that we all should instil in our children.

So below are some of my best buys and finds for my children Ella (4) and Hudson (2) under each of the giving categories. Some are snapped by moi on the run as I hide them from my kids, and others are taken directly from their website as they are either too large to snap incognito, or require some assembly from…um…Santa / aka Dad.

Something they want

This year Ella is obsessed with all things Barbie. She is the quintessential girly, girl and loves to dress up, mix and match her dolls. So when Barbie brought out their new ew Fashionistas dolls, which feature a range of new body types, hair colours and styles, skin colours and eye colours. They also have great outfits, so Ella can mix and match. Priced from $12 they are really reasonably priced.

Barbie Happy Ella After fasionistas Kmart

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A girl can’t have barbies without a dollhouse to play in! The new ‘mansion’ dollhouses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, designed especially to fit Barbies. It even has a lift! Ella may just be receiving this one from KidKraft underneath the tree…put together by Santa himself!

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Something they need

For both of my kids, you can’t go passed play dough. Tactile, tangible, terrific. There is something about giving your kids new tubs of play dough. They just love opening the new colours of squishy, untouched dough. Perfectly soft and subtle. I will be loading their stockings up with tubs bought from Target.

They also love drawing, but I struggle to get them to focus on their own posters on their small play able. These giant colouring posters from OMY are genius. Huge patterns and pictures, you can put them on the wall or chuch them on the floor. Hours of fun! Available from Leo & Bella here for $25.95. 

OMY poster Happy ella After Christmas omy-giant-coloring-posters-magic-kids-play

When it comes to useful gifts that actually HELP with something, this one takes the cake. In our house, we have needed the gift of sleep more than anything. In the last few months our little man has finally turned the corner. I don’t know how or why. We haven’t done anything different, except use this little gadget that I think has been the little thing that has helped enormously. The Gro Egg light and monkey cover from the Gro Company has given Hudson a sense of comfort and safety. It works in two ways. Firstly as a soft night light that helps little ones feel secure when they wake in the night.You can use it as an egg, or pop on their adorable little covers, making the little characters come to life.  It also changes colour depending on the temperature in the room. The second clever operation is the fact that it keeps track of the temperature in the room, indicating which GroBag to wear for their level of comfort. Genius. So if you’ve got, or know a little one who is still struggling with sleep, then this may just be your answer. Available in shops nationally, but you can also check it out here. 

Gro Egg Happy Ella After screenshot-2016-12-01-10-56-34

Something to wear

For me, you can’t go passed Cotton on Kids for variety, colour and quality. Their prices are so affordable, and these days their discount sales run almost every fortnight. My Ella is literally obsessed with wearing ‘spinny’ dresses almost every day, so this gold pom pom dress will be on high rotation all summer I would think!

Cotton on Kids Dresses Happy Ella After

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In terms of ‘wear’ my kids are also needing bigger and more robust back packs. For kinder and sleep overs at Nanna’s you can’t go passed Smiggle for their new range. Gorgeously bold and bright, with dozens of their signature zippers, there is a space and a place for everything. I love the handle on the top which means they can carry it in their hands and their straps are adjustable to fit almost any child! Throw in a few packs of their equally rad pencils, and you are good to go.

Smiggle Happy Ella After Back Pack Christmas

And finally every kid needs some cool pyjamas to wear at Christmas time. These awesome Batman Pj’s from Peter Alexander from Warner Bros are the perfect ‘jammies’ this summer. They even come in a super cool bag that the kiddies can use and reuse! You’ll also notice the cool batman eye mask from Typo….perfect for sleeptime!

Peter Alexander Superhero Batman Happy Ella After Typo

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Something to read

For Ella…she adores, adores, adores the Ella Bella Ballerina series. If you have a little dancer in your house, then you cannot go past this gorgeousness. In each of the four titles, Ella Bella begins her dance lesson in class with Madame Rosa and ends up being swept up into the beauty of one of four famous ballets: Cinderella, Swan Lake, the Nutcraker and Midsummer Night’s dream. Beautifully illustrated they are the perfect length for a young child who loves ballet. Perfect for bed time dreaming. Available from Booktopia.

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Huddy is tactile and still loves the ‘That’s not my series’. This Christmas I’ve added a few new titles to our collection including ‘That’s not my’…..tiger, tractor, plane and Santa!. For an extra sense of fun….find the mouse!

That's not my

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Both of these titles are available from The Book Depository or Booktopia.

To finish…i couldn’t complete this post without a mention of Arlo & Co and their gorgeous SIMPLICITY bamboo gift tags. Personalized for each type of gift, you can label your presents with ..

  • something you want
  • something you need
  • something to wear
  • something to read

Christmas Happy Ella After

Available here for $25, you are supporting an amazing local Mum. Remember that including local products in your gifts this Christmas actually puts a smile on the face of a small family. The support system of those, who like myself, run small businesses for the love of it. So when you can, include local, small businesses in your shopping this Christmas.

We all WANT  and NEED some love this time of year. I hope you both give and receive it in bucketloads.

kate