Home-made Christmas Gifts : Muesli, Hearts & Goodie Balls (with free gift tags!)

Friday, December 13, 2013

I really was indecisive this year as to what to make for Teacher Gifts.  My son's class was sorted - all the Mums put in for a voucher - but I couldn't decide on what to do for my daughter's pre-kindy teachers, who are all superstars and really do excel at their job.  My son also went to the same centre before he started "real school" so these ladies have been in our life for a few years now.  I wanted to give them something a little different to the norm and while I know they do love the chocolates and lollies that come pouring in, I also knew they'd appreciate something a little less detrimental to their waist-lines! 
Last year my sister gave me a jar of her muesli for Christmas - actually a jar of "Shanola" (her name is Shannon - yes, she's hilarious!!) and it was divine.  I begged and pleaded asked her for the recipe so that I could recreate it for my special people this year.  It has a mountain of goodness in it and is toasted in very little oil, maple syrup and vanilla paste.  A lot of toasted muesli's get a bad rap because of the fat content but this one is different... it's good, very, very good.  In fact one of my friends said "You should rename it to Better Than S-x Muesli" (I'd better not put in the full S word in case my site loses its G rating!).  Anyway, I'm sure you can gather from her comment that it's pretty fine stuff.  The perfect Xmas gift (thanks for the introduction, sister) and a great alternative to the bucket-loads of sugary treats around at this time of the year.  Here's the recipe, and just because I heart you all, here's the gift tag to go with it!

For classroom treats,  I was also a little stuck.  Our kids get so many lollies and chocolates at this time of the year from their classmates, which they love and I don't stop them from eating them, that I actually just didn't feel comfortable giving the same treats back when it's not what we eat or buy in our house.  In the end, I decided to make some "Goodie Balls" - a healthy, delicious chocolate ball made from dates and raw cacao.  I think these balls are a delicious snack and both of my kids eat them.  I'm hoping the little ones in my son's class enjoy them but if not, I'm sure their parents will!  I made up a generic gift tag so, although time is now pretty short, if you want to make some for your kids classmates this Christmas, feel free to use the "Goodie Balls" tag.  I used this recipe (the very first one on the page) from Accidental Greenie and just popped four little balls in each bag (actually they looked very much like reindeer droppings but it was too late to rename them!!).

And remember how I said my son's teachers were "sorted"?  Well, they were (as I said above, we all put in to buy them a voucher each) but we did that about a month ago and today as I was driving home from school, appreciating his school and the work both his teachers have put in this year, I just really felt I wanted to put a little something together for them.  Nothing like last minute and at the eleventh hour.  I knew exactly what I would do and I knew I had all the bits I needed. 
My son and I made these - a little beaded heart Xmas decoration for each of them.

Because we really do "heart" them! 
They are very easy to make.  All you need is some florist wire (I bought some about six months ago when I was going to make a headband for my daughter), some beads (I bought the wood beads about six months ago when I was going to make a necklace for my daughter ... can you see a pattern here?  Lots of intention but zero productivity!) and a piece of ribbon.  Thread the beads on the wire (this is the bit my son did), join the wire by squishing the ends together (I didn't really have a good method, I just kept twisting the ends until it felt strong) and then add a ribbon right over the join.  Shape into a heart.  Done.  Pretty.

And that's me, done, for another year.  Now I'm off for a nap. How about you? Do you do the "handmade thing" at this time of the year or do you prefer the ease of "the click", or, goodness-gracious-me, actually go out and do "real shopping"?  I LOVE all three options - it just depends on time, my mood and the occasion.  Either way, it's giving and that's lovely, isn't it?

Winners - "Saving Santa" DVD

Monday, December 9, 2013

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Becca (I hope Master F & Miss O enjoy this), Carlene , Bianca (yay, it's your turn to win something!) and Rosie, and thanks so much for taking the time to enter!  If you email or FB me your address I'll let Santa know so he can make a special, early delivery! x

DIY Pottery Barn Christmas Decoration

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I love Christmas decorations and always buy a new one for my kids, and often other family members, every year for them to add to their collection.  I was browsing through the Pottery Barn catalogue the other week (and drooling, and browsing, and drooling) and spied this bit of glittery Xmas bling. 
You totally know what I thought, don't you?  "Well, isn't that just the cutest little thang? I can do that.".  So I did - although I think mine is an improved version (shhhhh, don't you EVER tell PB I said that!) because they used cardboard and I used MDF letters, which means they will hopefully last the distance and will still be around when I'm rocking my grand-kids in front of the tree, admiring those cute little blingey Xmas initials.

I don't have the best photo of making them because I didn't really plan on blogging about it but I was so happy with the way they turned out, and because they were so super easy, I just thought y'all might want to know how to make them.

 All you need is:

MDF initials (I got mine from my second home Spotlight)
Craft glue (I actually used Modge Podge because my kids had emptied my craft glue)
Fine glitter
Piece of ribbon

First, I asked my husband to drill a hole in each initial. I then covered each letter in glue, starting with the insides of the letters first, and then dusted them like crazy with the glitter. I applied the glitter by gently tipping it straight from the container onto the letter (yes, very technical application), nice and thick. That's it. I added a little red gingham check ribbon and hung them on the tree. 
I do really love them and I think they'd look equally hot in silver.  They sparkle under the lights and really stand out amongst the other decorations.  They may not be PB but they are uniquely ALBOQ ... and that's okay with me ... and my kids!

Ho, Ho, Ho! It's a Giveaway : "Saving Santa" DVD

Monday, December 2, 2013


Hi everyone - just popping in real quick to let you know I've got another great little giveaway happening right this minute.  It's the "Saving Santa" (Adventures of a Time Travelling Elf) DVD from those wonderful people at Roadshow Entertainment (love those guys!) and this time it's actually about Christmas.  The perfect DVD for this time of the year and one you can watch together with your kids in the lead up to this very special, family time of year.  It would also make a fantastic stocking filler or, and this is what I've done for the past couple of years, pop a little note in their Advent Calendar (if you do one), which reads "Christmas Movie Night".  Then surprise them with the new DVD!  Perfect, and no lollies in sight ... although some popcorn would be kinda cool to go with the movie ... 
This is what my 6 year old son had to say about "Saving Santa":

Me:  "Did you like it?"
Him: "Yep."
Me: "Would you watch it again?"
Him: "Yep."
Me: "What was your favourite part?"
Him: "When the baddies turned into goodies.  No, wait, actually it was when the girl, who the boy loves, sang a song.  I think she loves him too."

And, FYI, he has watched it now four times since we got it in the mail last week.  Must be good.

Here's a quick synopsis:
An upbeat tale of the ultimate holiday rush, Saving Santa starts at the top – the top of the North Pole, that is – where Bernard, a low-ranking Elf, dreams of one day joining Santa’s elite team of great inventors, the very elves who make the magic of Christmas possible! But when one of Bernard’s wacky inventions accidentally reveals the secret location of Santa’s workshop to an eccentric billionaire scoundrel, Santa and Christmas itself are in jeopardy. It’s up to Bernard to time-travel (again and again) to get Santa home in time for Christmas! Source

You can enter below via Rafflecopter, and I've got 4 copies to give away so your chances of a win are pretty good - consider it an early Christmas present from me!!  Merry Christmas!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Xmas DVD Giveaway : And the Winners are ...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank you to everyone who entered the 3-pack Kids DVD competition, courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment, and to those who left a blog comment (which is always lovely!).  The four winners are ...

a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you can either Facebook Message me your address, or alternatively send it via the Contact Form here on the blog, I will get the DVD's off to you quick-smart.  I hope you and your little ones (and grandchildren in the case of Madonna!) enjoy the DVD's and it helps to keep them happy during their lovely Xmas break. Well done and thanks again for entering!

I Chatted to Play School. Yes I Did!

I have been blogging for just over a year now and it has been a quiet, no-fuss affair with a small but very lovely group of followers. Nothing big, nothing fancy - just a bit of sewing here, a bit of crafting there and tapping out some blog posts when I get a spare breath.  So, I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when the Publicity Co-ordinator at Roadshow Entertainment contacted me asking if I would be interested in having a "chat" with the two new presenters of Play School, Michelle Lim Davidson and Zindzi Okenyo.  Ummm, pardon? Me? Play School? Was he serious? Had he made a mistake? I was, of course, very interested.  Ridiculously interested.  So before he had a chance to tell me he'd emailed the wrong blogger, I sent back a reply in about two seconds flat. Yes. Yes. Yes.  I was absolutely interested! 

So, it was arranged.  He asked me to send off "a few" questions to both Michelle & Zindzi and then they would send me back their replies.  How wonderfully fabulous is that?  How wonderfully fabulous is Play School?  I am a BIG fan (really big, I always preferred it to Sesame Street) and have been watching it since the early '70's during the days of Benita and Lorraine, and I'm still watching it today with my kids.  It is my daughter's favourite show as is "Little Ted's Big Adventure".  It, without doubt, has a winning formula, there is no other show like it and I am so happy to see it has remained mostly unchanged over the past forty years that I have been watching. It is legendary and I honestly have a lot of love for it.

Before I get on with the questions, let me introduce you to the two newest (and lovely) cast members of Play School and share with you their bio's:
Play School was without a doubt my favourite television show as a kid! My sister and I would dance and sing around the lounge room and try and recreate the craft activities at home. I loved listening to the stories and particularly enjoyed watching the cooking segments. I feel very honoured to be given the opportunity to be a part of such a special and unique program.

I went to dancing and singing classes as a child. I never intended becoming an actor but as a teenager I enrolled in acting classes and the rest is history. I studied a Certificate IV in Music Theatre then moved to Perth and continued my training in the full time acting course at WAAPA.

At my audition to be a presenter I was extremely nervous but that quickly turned into excitement! It was like I had stepped into my television and suddenly I was revisiting my childhood again. Meeting such experienced industry professionals as Humpty Dumpty and Jemima for the first time was slightly overwhelming but they were both of course incredibly welcoming and generous and made me feel right at ease.

It is a privilege to be part of the Play School team. It is a wonderful and rewarding experience to work on a program that encourages children to explore their imagination, make new discoveries and unleash their creativity. I look forward to going on many more adventures with the Play School family, whether it be building a space station with Fergus or going on a musical train ride with Little Ted, I'm sure it will continue to be a very fun and exciting journey.
As many other little Australians do, I grew up watching Play School. I remember the lovely faces of Benita, George, Noni and Trish helping me make things out of cardboard rolls and teaching me songs. It was so exciting to get the job as a presenter on the show and the excitement hasn't quite stopped!

I love working with Jemima especially (don't tell the other toys), making tricky little crafty things and of course singing is always a delight. On Play School there is always something special made out of a simple idea and it's admirable the show has kept its integrity over 45 years.

I am a NIDA trained actor and I've worked all over Australia in theatre but this is my first television job. I'm also a singer/songwriter. It's an honour being a part of this show because I know how much children enjoy it and how much they can learn from the fun we all have together.
Ok, now for the fun part of the post ...

I watched Play School back in the '70's, and still watch it today with my kids (love, love, love it!), and was just wondering what ever happened to my favourite doll, Hambel? I like/liked Jemima but there was always something special about that little Hambel!
Michelle: Well, firstly thank you so much for watching Play School! It's always wonderful to hear such positive feedback on the show and we really appreciate it. Oh my goodness, I have to be completely honest with you and admit I have not met Hambel and I'm unsure what happened to her.
How do you manage to stay in control and not drop to the floor in fits of laughter or embarrassment?  What's your technique for keeping it together?
Michelle: Oh, that's a great question.  Well we try and get all the laughs out in rehearsals.  We don't have much time to when we are recording the episodes so we try not to lose focus.  Strangely enough I've never felt embarrassed even when I was wriggling around on the ground in a sleeping bag pretending to be a worm. Hahaha! I wonder what that says about me?
Zindzi: It's actually a very technical show to shoot and we shoot pretty fast and don't do many takes so for me I just make sure I know exactly what I'm doing so I don't freak when something goes wrong. And it does happen!
Have you ever made any mistakes during filming? Forgotten a song, had your cookies fall apart, glue an ear where an eye should go? How have you covered it up?
Michelle: Oh yes, sometimes things don't go to plan.  We always try and keep going and work our way through any problems that might pop up while we are in the middle of recording a segment. Like for example, Diddle the Cat was sitting on a "space station" Alex and I had made out of cardboard boxes and all of a sudden, mid-song, Diddle fell off!  We quickly picked up Diddle and improvised a line or two to get Diddle back on the boxes but often those moments are left in the episode because when kids are playing at home things are never perfect.  Plus I think those moments add to Play School's charm.  What people often don't realise when we are doing things, such as painting a picture, is that we are doing it upside down for the camera and if you are doing something like drawing a face, we are not only doing it upside down but drawing from right to left so when you see it on your television at home you get the mirror image.  It can get very confusing while you're also trying to sing a song at the same time! (Nikki: Oh my goodness, talk about uber-talented!)
Zindzi: It's so fun and funny when that happens because the cameras don't stop rolling unless it's a huge mistake so you just have to problem-solve your way out of it.  I watched an episode the other day where I forgot a line and Teo covered for me and I could just see the two of us trying not to crack up.  It's heaps of fun.
Do the cameramen ever play pranks on you or try to make you "lose it"?
Michelle: Hahaha! The cameramen and women have never played any pranks on me yet!  Touch wood!
Zindzi: No, never, it's really professional.  We have fun in rehearsals though, when a presenter asks a question to the camera/child watching at home, sometimes the camera operator will make the camera nod or shake 'no'.
I have heard that Play School is one of the best acting gigs around.  Would you agree?
Michelle: Yes!  It's a highly sort after job in the acting world - it's so much fun!  When other actors/actresses find out I'm on Play School they are always really keen to know everything about it.  There are not many jobs around where the most important part of your day is trying to figure out how to best dress up as a horse with a mop head or how to make a sandwich look like a rocket!  It's so great and the cast and crew are some of the loveliest people you will ever meet so it's a pleasure to go to work every day.
Zindzi: It's definitely a great job and it feels a great privilege to be a part of it.
Have you sought Play School wisdom from old stalwarts like Noni Hazlehurst or more recently, Justin Clarke?
Michelle: I have met Noni but it was on a different job before I started Play School so unfortunately I didn't get to ask her any specific questions about Play School. However, the other more experienced presenters are very helpful and are more than happy to give you advice and show you the ropes.  There is a very specific way of filming each segment so once you learn the technique for each section it's much easier.
Zindzi: I work with a lot of the great guys on the show and they've been very supportive and generous with me as I get the hang of it all.  It's always a guy/girl scenario so unfortunately I haven't met many of the female presenters.  Justine is amazing though, my nieces and nephew love her.
How many shows do you record in a day, or a week?
Michelle: Normally we record 45 new episodes a year so the recording of the show is broken up into blocks throughout the year.  We record one series at a time; a series consists of five episodes.  We rehearse for 4 hours for each episode then we come back the week after and record the episodes, which is also in a completed 4 hour block.
Zindzi: It depends on availability but once booked in for an episode it is one four hour rehearsal per episode and then a week later a four hour shoot.  Sometimes I shoot two episodes in a day.
Are there any plans for more of the Play School characters to go on "adventures" like Little Ted and Jemima? My daughter loves these shows but I think they should be longer (it's my quiet time while she's watching it so a bit longer would be helpful to me!). :)
Michelle: To be completely honest I'm not sure what the ABC has planned for these series. They are great and very popular.  It's good to hear such a positive response from Play School fans.  Hopefully there will be more of these series to come.
Zindzi: Not sure, but they look like a lot of fun!
You need to be so alert, energized, animated and b-b-b-b-bright & b-b-b-b-bubbly at all times on Play School (like when you're stomping around the pre-historic swamp, or dancing around clanging and banging during "I like Noise") - how do you make sure you're on top of your game and what do you do to stay this way during filming?
Michelle: The early morning starts can be a bit tricky but nothing that can't be helped along with a strong cup of coffee! (Nikki: a girl after my own heart!) I know I have said it before but it is so much fun. Banging saucepan lids and dressing up as dinosaurs hardly feels like work so I don't really find I get too tired during filming.  I find during the live concerts it can be a bit harder to manage your energy levels.  On the QLD tour, I did 31 shows in 12 days - I drank a lot of coffee!  However, when you have 500 excited kids out in the audience you feed off their energy.  I also like to think it's a special outing for them, it's not something they would do every day, and so I tried to make sure every concert I did was just as energetic as the last one.  We want every kid in the audience to feel special and know that we are talking and singing to them individually whether it is a TV episode or a live concert.
Zindzi: It's really bad if you try to 'be happy' because kids know straight away when someone is being disingenuous. So the more us presenters relax and care less about if we look silly, the better.  Then it actually becomes fun to just be loose and dance around like a chicken!
Do you ever get nervous before a show?
Michelle: When I first started I was very nervous mainly because I didn't know how everything worked.  Play School has a specific formula and once you learn how everything works you don't get nervous because you know you are confident in what you're doing.  I was very nervous during the Play School audition process, I also found myself getting quite giggly and excited when I got to meet Humpty and Little Ted for the first time.  I was a big kid again!  It was a surreal experience.
Zindzi: I was in the beginning but am way more relaxed now I know what to expect.  It's a fast and fun shoot working with a lovely crew, no complaints!
Wow, drawing back to front and upside down while trying to sing a song, improvising while the world is watching, 31 live shows in 12 days ... these guys are absolutely AMAZING at their job and it is a credit to their acting ability the way they make it appear effortless, easy, colourful and hilarious.  I didn't think it was possible but I love Play School even more now. 
Michelle & Zindzi, it was so lovely to "chat" with you, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and I look forward to watching you for a few more years yet ... slip-ups and all (not that we would ever notice!).  Best of everything for your Play School adventure and hugs and kisses to Little Ted, Diddle and the team! xxx 
And thank you so much, Roadshow Entertainment, for this wonderful, surprising opportunity.  It has been a lot of fun gaining an insight into the magical world of Play School and has been a really nice "story to tell".  Thank you.

Giveaway - just in time for Xmas : DVD's for the Kids!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Are your kids (and you) ready for the Christmas break? Are you ready for your days to slow down and for the schedule to take a temporary walk? Are you ready to stay in your PJ's til 10 just because you can? You may also be ready for some new entertainment - perhaps a few new DVD's for the kids?  How about some brand new release ones?  Can't get much better than that.
Thankfully, the very, very lovely people at Roadshow Entertainment must have a little inkling that us Mumma's may just need some fresh distraction these holidays so have very, very kindly offered up 4 packs (yes, 4!) of 3 brand new release DVD's.  Up for grabs is:
CHUGGINGTON : in the new release title READY TO RESCUE – CHUG PATROL.
Where the three trainees move up to advanced training!
KIOKA : everyone’s favourite imaginative girl returns with her trusty friends in HERE COMES THE CIRCUS.


NICKY DEUCE (this one's a PG, for the slightly older kids) : the story of an over-protected suburban teen who has the adventure of a lifetime when his plans to attend math camp go awry and he is forced to spend time with his extended family. After mistakenly earning a reputation as a tough guy and transforming into his new persona, Nicky Deuce, Nick soon uncovers family secrets and learns that the mean streets of Brooklyn aren’t always what they seem.

The DVD's retail for around $15 - $20 each so winning 3 would be quite a nice little Xmas present/stocking stuffer, don't you think?
All you have to do is enter via Rafflecopter below and leave a comment on this blog post letting me know you've entered, or just to say hello!  It's always nice to hear from you!  I'll notify the winner here on the blog and on my FB page so good luck, and stay tuned - there'll be a new release Xmas Movie giveaway coming real soon ...

25 of My Favourite Things, Oprah-Style (sort of, not really)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

** Warning ** This is a marathon post. You will die of thirst if you attempt reading this without some form of hydration.  Drink and Enjoy.

Today, in the lead up to Christmas and the crazy present-buying madness, I am sharing with you 25 OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS, Oprah-style.  You know the episode, the one where she shares her favourite things from the year and then gives everyone in the audience the gifts? That's what I'm doing here - sort of.  There's just one itty-bitty, teensy-tiny difference - you'll probably barely even notice.  I am not actually able to give you anything at all.  Nothing. Nada. Zip.  Like I said, it's "sort of, not really" like Oprah's version.  I do wish it could be though.  How much fun would that be?  So much.

So, without further waffle, here are my 25 favourite things from the past year or so, in no particular order.  I hope there are some that are your faves too or will perhaps become new faves.

1. Ink & Spindle - hand-printed textiles, ethically sourced.  Three words - Yum, Yum, Yum.  Their screen and hand-printed fabrics are beautiful and environmentally friendly.  I particularly love this "Cushion Kit" which comes with almost everything to make a 45cm x 45cm cushion.  You simply choose one of their fabrics for the front and the rest is included in the pack, including super-easy instructions.  You not only make your own cushion, it's completely individual!  Love them.
2. Bindle - easily the best, most unique "hamper-style" product I have come across.  Their "bindles" (a bindle is a bundle of possessions carried by a hobo) are so beautifully thought out and put together.  The gifts are Australian, hand-made, and tailored to a particular theme. I particularly love the above "Get Well Soon" bindle which would be PERFECT to send to a friend or family member if they were feeling under the weather.  I recently bought the "Kitchen Sink" bindle, which adds a nice touch to my otherwise boring sink area. I get excited whenever a new Bindle is released!
3. Marley & Lockyer - Ness, the sole person behind Marley & Lockyer - is so uber-talented it's ridiculous.  Her ceramic work is gorgeousness personified.  From tags, to plates, to platters (the one in the top left, the "Divine Wing Platter", has 80 individually-made feathers impressed into it), to colanders, to earrings, to brooches to drawings on linen.  Yes, she draws too.  Her work is stunning, perfect and original.  I have a very big craft crush, huge.
4. Rebecca Grace Natural Art Flowers - if you live in the Perth area I doubt you will find a more beautiful florist.  Rebecca's style is unique and stunning.  You can order direct from her website and choose from Stylish, Soft & Pretty, Sculptural, Vibrant or a Mass of One Flower.  I have received her flowers and have ordered them for others.  They are ALWAYS the standout arrangement - always, every time.  Next time you want to send someone flowers, you must stop by her shop or site first.  I promise you, you will, like me, fall in love.
Photo credit: Natasja Kremers
5. Country Road - The two words, "Country" and "Road" are not particularly thrilling but throw them together and, oh my goodness, it's my kind of homeware heaven.  The sort that gives me goose-bumps every time I walk in ... it also gives me anxiety at the thought of what I might spend.  I adore their cushions and their colours, don't you?
6. Coconut Butter - I know you're probably thinking this a strange thing to have on a favourites list and how could it possibly compare to the likes of Country Road and Marley & Lockyer, but seriously it has become one of my favourite things.  I love it.  I have it in my hot drinks (with lemon & honey if I have a cold, or in my Golden Milk drink), I have it with porridge, I pop it in muffins.  I even eat it straight from the jar.  But apart from it tasting great, it's actually good for me too.  Its health benefits include boosting the immune system fighting off minor infections.  It also has natural anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and Scientists are increasingly finding that coconut butter is the best fat in the world. Can't argue with that.  Try some - it's good.
7.  T2 - how adorable are the T2 tea cups?  I love them, love the store and feel oh-so mature and ladylike when drinking my tea from them.  My Mum bought me my first one a few years ago and, bless her, she has been adding slowly to my collection ever since.  Aren't Mums (and T2) great?!
8.  Letter-writing Sets - Writing; who does it anymore?  In this rampant social media age barely anyone sends a handwritten letter or note anymore, preferring to email, text, FB or Twitter.  Lately I have been feeling a strong sense that I should begin to introduce letter writing to my son so that he understands the value and charm of giving and receiving a letter in the post.  This letterpress set from Pulp Addiction has been hand-printed on an antique printing press and includes string & tie envelopes - beautifully old-fashioned.
9. Portmans and their Bright Shift Dresses - One thing I think Portmans has excelled at this year is the "Shift Dress". They are cute, they are bright, they are super-comfy and they are inexpensive.  And, best of all, the ones I have don't even need ironing!  That's a win right there.  Well done, Portmans, have loved your work this year.
10. Shannon Hamilton - Shannon is a Perth-based semi-abstract Artist whose paintings I have admired for years.  Her style of broad brush-strokes and boldness create the most beautiful, vibrant, captivating pieces of work and I feel so privileged to own an original of hers.  Most of Shannon's work centres around the beach, often depicting a Mother and Child.  She also does commissions and will paint from a photo.  I have the perfect pic of my daughter & I down the beach just waiting to be painted by her.  One day.  One. Day ...
11. Plan Toys - I came across Plan Toys when searching for environmentally-friendly timber doll-house furniture for my daughter.  I steer clear of any timber out of Indonesia because of illegal logging and the ongoing deforestation of wildlife habitat. This is what Wikipedia has to say about them:
"Plan Toys is a toy manufacturer located in Trang in the south of Thailand. It was founded in 1981 and makes its toys out of rubberwood, a sustainable by-product of the latex industry's harvesting of trees used for natural rubber production once their productivity declines. Using the trees as a resource in this way for wooden toys made by Plan Toys is considered environmentally responsible. Plan Toys also uses preservative-free rubberwood and non-formaldehyde glues, as well as recyclable packaging and water-based ink. Their products are marketed as "green," and are recognized as such by various buying guides endorsing green products for children."
My daughter will definitely be adding to her collection this Christmas!
12. Kikki-K Sticker Books - Every year I buy one or two of these sticker books and they come in so, so handy throughout the year.  I use them on just about all kids' birthday presents, in cards, on gift tags or for general craft use.  They are bright, cute and quirky and always add a special little touch wherever they end up.
13. Elk - Oh, Elk, do you know I love thee?  I have this bag, and love it, and I even have those boots - because when a very lovely friend notifies you that they're 70% off you really do not have a choice but to race online and purchase those soft, leathery babies.  Am I right, or am I right?  Did you know they do jewellery too?  Yes they do.  And did you know it is equally as divine as their bags and boots?  Yes it is. Do you know I heart you, Elk? Probably not.
14. MAP Coffee Machine - this little gem, this little saviour, this little piece of caffeine greatness has been the biggest surprise to me ever.  I never wanted a coffee machine because I love the whole take-away coffee "event".  I love the takeaway cup, I love the taste, I love that I get to leave the house to buy myself a coffee and I love that I can sip on it for as long as I want and still drink it long after it goes cold.  BUT, my husband bought me this little ray of sunshine for Mother's Day a couple of years ago and it has fast become my bestest friend in the whole house - seriously.  As soon as the kids go for their afternoon sleep I hit my friend up for a really good, decent coffee.  It's my Knight in Shining Armour, it really is. And in case you need any more convincing, since having this machine my husband, who hadn't touched coffee in about 37 years, has started drinking it and now uses the machine more than me. He calls it his "cup of personality"!
15. Old Suitcases - I love old suitcases and have two under the hall table in my entry.  I'm not exactly sure why I have a thing for them but it probably has something to do with the fact that they are well travelled, could tell a story or two, are full of character and charm and are, like me ... old and leathery!!
16. Cloth Kits - If you have always wanted to sew but haven't got a clue where to start, a kit from Cloth Kits is the perfect answer.  The sewing pattern is actually printed directly on the fabric - no fussy paper patterns required, no guesswork and no tracing.  It's all ready to cut out and sew.  The kit contains everything you need - printed dress fabric, lining fabric, beautiful shell buttons, quality sewing thread, and easy to follow instructions. This particular dress pattern is hand screen-printed too.  Totally dig, diggity-dig this concept!
17. Peonies - need I say more?

 18. Sunrice's Steamed Rice & Quinoa - This innocent little packet of wholesome goodness has been my find of the year!  You won't know this (unless you're a member of my family) but I am terrible at making lunch for myself.  I always make sure the kids eat a healthy, balanced lunch but when it comes to my lunch, I just find it to be a distraction and an interruption to my day. Lunch-time is the only time I get to myself during the day, my son is at school and my daughter sleeps, and while I know I should eat lunch there are always so many other (more interesting) things that I prefer doing - so often I forget, on purpose, to have lunch.  It's bad, it's dumb and it totally goes against my healthy eating ways but it's me and it's what I do ... that is, until I met my new love.  Rice & Quinoa in a packet!  Yes, a packet, says she who has a phobia about packaged foods.  This is an exception.  It is preservative and pretty much additive-free (there are two additives, 307b & 471 but they're not your typical baddies), it is healthy and wholesome and it only takes 90 seconds in the microwave.  90 seconds for perfectly cooked rice & quinoa! I then add in whatever I have on hand but it normally goes something like this - red caps, red onion, spinach, celery, parsley, basil, coriander and then either squeeze over some lemon or make up a simple balsamic dressing.  It is so very good and is exactly what my body needs each day so, thank you Sunrice, you are my find of the year!
19. Rubber Stamps - I find having rubber stamps in the tool box so useful and you just don't know when they might come in handy.  I am using them this year for my new Advent Calendar, which I am hoping to have finished by December 1st although I'm only half way done so let's not hold our breath.  I also use stamps on cards, gift tags, in clay, maths practice ... they're just so darn versatile.  Mwah, love me a rubber stamp.
 20. Oxfam - Well, who doesn't love and respect Oxfam?  Take this very Aussie little station wagon made out of recycled tin cans on the island of Madagascar. When you buy from Oxfam you know you are buying fairly traded goods and are helping communities all over the world.  This is a feel-good, community-spirited, environmentally friendly gift that any boy would love to have in his collection. It is absolutely a fave.
21. Cailyn Eyebrow "Pencil" - if you are a regular eyebrow tinter, then listen up.  This pretty little thang will save you money and time.  It will save you money because your eyebrow tints can be stretched a little further and it will save you time because you will make less trips to see your Beauty Therapist.  I don't know about you but I've never been very good, useless in fact, at using an eyebrow pencil - my brows always ended up looking very "Morticia-like" - but this is different. It's not a pencil, it's actually a brush and is applied using short, light strokes.  It's called Gelux, which has a similar feel to a creamy blush, it has 24-hour lasting protection and is waterproof AND it comes in a very classy looking gold container.  It really does make for very happy eyebrows! 
22. Paperboat Press Quote Pencils - these make me smile whenever I see them and they just look so lovely sitting in a bunch together.  One of my favourites is "The years teach us much, which the days never knew." Sure do.
23.  Bloesem Kids Jewellery - I bought this necklace for my daughter about two years ago and it remains my firm favourite.  It's colourful, it's bright, it's cute and it's so not run-of-the-mill.  I love it, my daughter loves it and compliments abound when she wears it.  Bloesem has the prettiest, most unique, range of jewellery for girls and is handmade by founder and designer, Irene Hoofs.  Some of her range features real pearls, amazonite, jasper, citrine and other gem stones mixed with silver, silk and gold.  They are not your everyday pieces, more for a special occasion or an heirloom piece.  I think her site may be down for maintenance at the moment but check back again soon if you're in the market for hand-made, unusually stunning necklaces for you or your little lady.
24. Sewing Books - I didn't realise it but I have become a bit of a collector of sewing books.  I love seeing them on my bookshelf, I love flicking through them at any opportunity and I get all tingley at the content and photos.  Now I just need to get time to sew something from them!
25. String & Scissors Set - Apart from my MAP coffee machine, I would say this is the most used thing in my house.  I use string mostly for wrapping gifts, and finish all of them off with string, but it's also very versatile for crafts, to attach gift tags or for hanging things.  Having the scissors on hand at all times, and what cute scissors they are, is a bonus.  Such a good looking little piece.  Brown paper packages wrapped up in string, THIS is one of my favourite things!  Did you see what I did there?!
So, there you have it.  25 of my very FAVOURITE THINGS.  Are any of them your faves too? Or will any of them make it onto your gift or wish list this year? What are your all-time favourite things?
Oh, and if you look under your seat now you might just find a Portmans Shift Dress or a Recycled Tin Car there ... then again, you may not.  Actually you won't.  So sorry. ;)