Kylie Purtell - A Study in Contradictions

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Tips for Outdoor Entertaining in Winter | Lifestyle

This post bought to you by Barbeques Galore

Outdoor entertaining in Winter. It's not something a lot of people often think about. You could say it's not an idea that people like to 'entertain' *insert groan here*. But as someone who has a family full of winter birthdays (and I do mean full, it's easier to ask what days in June I don't have a family member with a birthday) outdoor entertaining in Winter is kinda inevitable.

Of course we like to entertain outdoors year round, but winter carries with it some special considerations. Namely, how not to be ridiculously cold! After years of huddling around our BBQ in winter the poor thing is pretty much on it's last legs, so I've been investigating new ones for Dave's birthday/Christmas present this year.

After checking out Barbeques Galore and the range of stuff they have, it got me thinking about what really works for outdoor entertaining in winter. I came away with a wish list of stuff as long as my arm, but also a few tips that I thought I could share with you lovely people today, to make outdoor winter entertaining a little more comfortable.

Lighting

It usually gets dark earlier in winter compared to summer, so be prepared for this and make sure you have the requisite lighting in your entertaining area. Alternatively, you could think about starting your gathering earlier so you can catch the evening light before it gets too dark. Your lighting methods will depend on what kind of get together you are having. If it is a smaller gathering, invest in some candles or table illuminators for each area, but if you have invited a decent amount of people, look for larger lamps that cover more surface area.

Warm food

There is no better way to warm up your body than to have some nice hot food. Pair this with a variety of warm drinks (*cough*rum is very warming*cough*) and you will be set for a fantastic party. Plus, if you cook it on the BBQ you'll have the perfect spot for the men to stand and keep warm! For some reason all of the men I know treat the act of cooking a barbeque like a sacred right, so a good one is important.

Seriously, a barbeque is the one piece of outdoor furniture you must have if you love to entertain. You'll be able to cook up a storm, and the crackling of the barbeque will add to the atmosphere of the gathering. If you are in the market for a new barbeque, specialists such as Barbeques Galore can help you choose something perfect for you.

You can't go past a good old sausage sizzle in the backyard to warm the belly
Heaters

Heaters can come in many forms when it comes to the outdoors. A fireplace or a firepit, if allowed, make great focal points, as well as allowing you to warm up your guests in an unconventional manner. Otherwise, get your hands on some heat lamps to warm and brighten up your backyard or wherever you like to entertain. Gas heaters are also great, as they do not require power cords, and you can move them wherever you like.

Throws

A nice throw or blanket can sometimes make all the difference on a cold night. Place them over couches or chairs, so people can use them at their own discretion. Bright colours and patterns can also visually spice up a cold winter’s afternoon or evening, and will make your guests feel right at home, no matter how cold it is.

Outdoor entertaining in winter does not have to be hard (or cold!). Every space is different, so tailor your choices to what you think will work best for your backyard or entertaining area. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for suggestions as well, and make sure you research everything thoroughly before investing in any big items.


Do you entertain regularly? Do you like to entertain during winter? Why or why not? What are your tips for outdoor entertaining in winter? Alternatively, as a guest, what would make you more comfortable at an outdoor event? 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT


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Monday, 20 July 2015

One Perfect Moment {Purty Sisters} | Life

One Perfect Moment is all about those moments, big or small, that make you wish they'd last forever. Those moments you want to stop in time, when everything feels perfect, even for just a split-second. Snapshots of the mind. Moments to treasure forever.

It's seven o'clock in the evening.

Our nightly viewing of In the Night Garden is finished.

Punky and I have sung the Giggle & Hoot good night song together.

I'm sitting on the lounge with both girls, tickling and laughing. Spending some time with them before bed and quiet time.

The girls love to be tickled. Love it. When I'm tickling them they say stop. But as soon as I do, they are saying "Again! Again!". I am always happy to oblige. Call it a hangover form being the biggest sister, but I just love to tickle!

I love this time before bed. Before quiet time. When both girl's are happy and just want to play with me on the lounge. I glory in their giggles. Delight in finding the sweet spot, their most ticklish places.

When they're lying side by side on the lounge, looking up at me with their big smiles and expectant eyes, waiting for the tickle monster to emerge, I often find myself wondering how I got so lucky.

Two girls. Two beautiful, kind, caring, smart and funny girls. My daughters. The Purty Sisters.

So alike, yet so different. Chalk and cheese. Some days they look so alike, their expressions mirroring the other. Some days they couldn't look more different, smiles and frowns, one girl as cheeky as the day is long, the other serious, bossy, telling her little sister how things should be done.

The daycare teacher tells me often how she just can't believe the difference between the two girls. She had Punky when she first started there, before Zee was even born, and now she teaches Zee. She remarks on how serious and shy Punky was, how cheerful and cheeky Zee is. And she's not wrong.

In their own way they've taken the best and the worst of Dave and I. In looks, we each have our own mini-me. In temperament it's pretty much the same way. But in both girls there lives a beautiful soul, an individual soul. Uniquely theirs. We see the things we love about ourselves, but also the things we don't. And it's not a bad thing. As we teach them how to deal with those aspects, we also learn how to deal with them ourselves.

As we sit and laugh together on the lounge each night I'm reminded of how precious life is, how lucky I am to have two beautiful children. And despite the hard aspects of raising small people, I wouldn't have it any other way.

What are you grateful for this week?

Linking up with One Mother Hen & The Multitasking Mummy




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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Capture {One Word - 6 months on} | Life | Photography

At the beginning of the year, like many other bloggers and people around the world, I chose a word. A word that would hopefully lead me, give me inspiration and guide me through the year. The word I chose was Capture. Six months on I think I've managed to capture all of the things I wanted to and more.

My reason for choosing the word capture was two-fold. The first thing I wanted capture to represent for me was...
"to gain control of or exert influence over my mindset in regards to organisation and exercise/weight-loss."
If I'm perfectly honest, I haven't been going great with the first part. I am a lot more organised thanks to Tafe, but the weight loss? Haven't even been thinking about it, my mind has been consumed with Tafe and everything that needs to be done to keep on top of things.

The second reason I chose capture though? I've been nailing that.

"In 2015 I want to capture as many moments and emotions through the lens of my camera as I can. I want to create images that are thought-provoking, that manipulate the viewer's emotions, that make them feel something, even if it's just a fleeting scent of happiness.
I want to capture my photographic ability in a measurable way so that I can see how much I really know and how much more there is to learn. Not that there is ever going to be a time when there isn't something I want/need to learn about photography!"

A few weeks after I wrote my One Word post I started my weekly One Perfect Moment series. A post I write every Monday remembering something that has happened through the week that I'm thankful for. Big or small, perfect or imperfect, it's been a really good way to stop and think about the week just gone and appreciate what has been going on in my life. It's just about my favourite post to write now, and considering I even managed to find a One Perfect Moment post out of a full-family bout of gastro, you know the attitude of gratitude has firmly set in my life now!

This is one of the photos we did in our first term, learning about high-key (white on white) still life photography
I've also been taking a portrait a week, every week, of the girls so far this year, as part of the 52 week project. It's been really fun taking these photos each week, and trying to come up with new ways of photographing the girls, especially when we've been doing the same old thing and I haven't had anywhere new or interesting to take photographs of them.

The other thing I decided to do was to continue on from my preliminary Tafe course and go straight in to the Diploma of Photography. The original plan had been to wait until 2016 before undertaking the Diploma, but after enjoying Skill Set so much Dave and I decided it was best to just go for it, jump straight in to Diploma and get all of my study finished this year.

Best. Decision. Yet!

Practicing food photography
Doing my Tafe course has really shown me what I do and don't know, how much there still is to learn, and has really confirmed for me that photography is want I desperately, passionately want to pursue. I've been loving it and I've learned so much in just a short amount of time.

So all in all, I'm pretty happy with how things have been going with relation to my one word for 2015, Capture. I'll leave this post here with some examples of the work we've been doing at Tafe this year and the things I've been learning.

Practicing glass photography. This type, with the white background is called Brightfield. The trick is to use black card held out of frame to give the glass definition

Another example of brightfield glassware photography

Some more practice of glass photography I did on my own. I had to use pieces of white foam to get rid of large reflections and dark areas on the glass, due to the facets of the glass. This was not easy to do by myself with only two hands, having to hold the foam in just the right spots and press the capture button at the same time

One of our classes is called Concept Development and is all about taking a simple idea and expanind on it to come up with a concept for a photo. The starting point was the number seven, and from this my classmates and I brainstormed a series of images that represented 'seven'. We went with the age of seven being used in a self-portrait, a kind of then and now photo. I used a projector to project the image of my school photo from when I was seven years old on to the side of my face.

For this exercise we were exploring still life and the use of bokeh

This was another image we had to create for our Concept Development class. This one was a self-portrait entitled You + Hue that had to depict us and a dominant hue. I used a high resolution scanner to capture myself holding my glasses and then photoshopped in the hue and image of my in the glasses.

This photograph was taken to try and replicate a low-key (dark or black on black) portrait

This image was created in-camera (no photoshopping) for one of my assessments, the brief of which is to research a style of 20th or 21st century portrait photography and then produce our own version of it

This is probably one of my most favourite images and combines a couple of techniques, painting with light and HDR (merging photos with different exposures or dynamic ranges). This photo was created by merging 5 separate images, each one having a different part of the subject lit with nothing but a handheld torch. By using the torch and concentrating on different parts of the subject we're able to more closely control the areas of light and shade and create interesting lighting and texture.

How are you going with your One Word for 2015? Did you choose one? Or did you have another goal or something that you've been keeping in mind?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT







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Monday, 13 July 2015

One Perfect Moment {In sickness & health} | Life

One Perfect Moment is all about those moments, big or small, that make you wish they'd last forever. Those moments you want to stop in time, when everything feels perfect, even for just a split-second. Snapshots of the mind. Moments to treasure forever.

This weekend just gone was epic. And I don't mean epic the way I used to, when I was young and child-free and would be out all weekend, barely sleeping, having adventures.

It was epic in a way that only those who have endured a full-family gastro bout can appreciate.

The warning signs were there on Thursday. Zee woke up from her nap, crying and covered in vomit. It was everywhere. The kind of episode that only a shower and a good wash can make right. I stripped off the poor girl and jumped in the shower with her while Dave set about cleaning up her bed.

We hoped that it was a one-off. I'd caught Zee drinking the last of the milk from her sippy cup that she had had that morning. How she manages to hide those bottles and then find them hours later when even I can't is beyond me. I was confident that this sour milk must have been the culprit.

By Friday night I knew it was not.

I was sitting at my desk, working on some Tafe stuff when Punky walked over. She put her head on my arm and told me she didn't feel very well. Two seconds later I barely managed to avoid her vomit hitting the computer. I sacrificed myself instead.

Poor Punky then spent the next 6 hours vomiting. It was horrible. The poor thing. She lay on the lounge with us, staring glassy-eyed at the TV. Only moving to reposition herself or reach for the v-bowl.

After a little bit of bed shuffling we got Zee in to our bed and made Punky up a bed on the spare mattress in her room, so that Dave could sleep in Zee's bed beside her, to help her if she needed to be sick again.

By 3am Dave was up and making very frequent trips to the bathroom. At 7am I was feeling those first tell-tale stomach cramps. By 10am it was confirmed. Gastro. And none of us were spared. I went back to bed for an hour while Dave lay on the lounge with the girls. At 11am we switched places.

For the next couple of hours the girls and I lay in the lounge room napping and watching back to back episodes of Doc McStuffins. What I wouldn't have done for a real-life Doc right then.

At 2pm Dave got up and we switched places again. He told me he was going to have a quick shower and could I keep an ear out for the girls if they got up. In my haze of sweating and stomach cramps I heard Zee start to cry, but then I heard Dave's voice talking to her so I knew he had the situation in hand. When I got up myself a couple of hours later it was to discover that poor Zee had succumbed yet again and been vomiting herself.

By 6pm both girls were on the mend, but still not back to their usual, loud, energetic selves. Dave and I were decidedly under the weather. At 7pm we were all on the lounge together, Punky laying between Dave and I, Zee curled up on my lap. We were a family of sickness.

At least in our sickness we were together. It was hard. Trying to look after the girls and make sure they were ok, in between trying to get to the bathroom quick enough ourselves. Making sure we were all hydrated and managing to eat a few mouthfuls of Vegemite on toast.

But as we sat on the lounge together watching the Night Garden, the girls between us, I knew that even in sickness I wouldn't trade what we have together for anything.

I saw how kind Punky was to us all, when she could see that we weren't well. She knew how we were feeling, and was liberal with her hugs and kisses, stroking Zee's head, giving me 'little tickles' on my hand, passing Daddy his glass of water when he needed it.

A full-family bout of gastro is not something I want to experience again, but I'm pretty sure this won't be our last time. At least I know now that we can handle it. And that even in sickness or health, there are still perfect little moments of time to be found. Even if they do include having a head over a bucket!

Have you experienced the full-family gastro bout? How did you get through it?

Linking up with The Multitasking Mummy & One Mother Hen


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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

25 New Books to Add to Your Reading List {Reading Writes Chapter Seven} | Reading





Please Note: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com

Finding new books to read can sometimes be a pain. You can spend hours browsing online and in book stores and still come away empty handed. It's even harder to find something new to read when you are coming off the back of an exceptionally good book or series.

This is my dilemma at the moment. I'm just about to finish the last book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and I am already thinking about what I'm going to read next. It's not like my To Be Read list needs any help, there are so many on there that you'd think I would have plenty to choose from. But that doesn't stop me from seeking and adding those that I find.

I've been subscribed to the USA Today book newsletter for years now. Ever since I got back from attending Book Expo America in New York 5 years ago. Not only is it a great way to find new titles to add to my reading list, but they have lots of literary news and articles to put a smile on my reading dial!

Last week as I was scrolling through the latest newsletters an article listing 25 of the hottest new books for summer (the northern hemisphere summer, of course!) jumped out at me. I clicked that link quicker than you can say "New books for me!" and was rewarded with a host of new titles to add to my To Be Read list.

The thing I like about the USA Today book newsletter is they cover the gamut of reading genres and styles, with everything from fiction to non-fiction and the rest in between.

Some of the titles that really jumped out at me, and that have been added to my list are -

In the Unlikely Event

by Judy Blume


What USA Today says...
"A multi-generational family novel whose characters are affected by a series of plane crashes in the 1950s in New Jersey."
Why I want to read it:
Judy Blume was one of my favourite authors when I was growing up (Are you there God? It's me, Margaret, the Super Fudge books) and I'm interested to see what Judy Blume writing for adults reads like.

Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy 

by Judd Apatow


What USA Today says...
"The film director interviews comedy stars including Mel Brooks, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham."
Why I want to read it:
I like to read non-fiction books from time to time, especially if they are funny. And a book of interview with comedians, being interviewed by a comedian is probably guaranteed to give a few laughs.

Killing Monica 

by Candace Bushnell


What USA Today says...
"A writer feels trapped by the famous character she's created when her "Monica" books become blockbuster films."
Why I want to read it:
I'll admit I've not read Bushnell's Sex in the City books, and I wasn't an uber fan of the TV show (or movies), but ti would be interesting to read this story, as it's something I never thought about in relation to an author. I've thought about it in relation to TV actors trying to shake off a beloved character, but not an author.

What Pet Should I Get? (Classic Seuss) 

by Dr. Seuss

New Dr Seuss book, New book releases

What USA Today says...
"The brother and sister from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish visit a pet store."
Why I want to read it:
Admittedly I want to read this book for myself as much as I want to read it to the girls. We are big fans of Dr. Seuss in this house and One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish has had many a reading before bedtime. This would make a great addition to our library.

X (Kinsey Millhone Mystery) 

by Sue Grafton


What USA Today says...
"The 24th novel in Grafton's Alphabet mystery series features P.I. Kinsey Millhone on the case of a serial killer."
Why I want to read it:
I first discovered the Alphabet mystery series through my mother-in-law's extensive book collection. Kinsey Millhone is a private investigator and the series is set in the 1980s. All of the books in the series are well-written and lots of fun. It's interesting to read about how Kinsey investigates people and crimes with no access to the modern technology that we enjoy today.

So that's the latest additions to my To Be Read list. Make sure you check out the USA Today article, because I'm sure even the most casual of readers could find something interesting to pick up. I don't know when I'll ever get through all of the books on my list, and to be honest, I hope I never do, because the day I run out of books I want to read is the day I die!

What's currently on your To Be Read list? Got any other suggestions for my list? Is there anything on the USA Today list that you're keen to check out?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

Bloggers, link up your reading and/or book-related posts from the months of May & June below...

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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Twenty-Six & Twenty-Seven {52 week project} | Photography

A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015.
{Punky} She's such a noisy parker. Whenever she hears a noise out the front (which is frequently given that we live on a busy main road) she jumps up on the lounge to have a sticky-beak out the window. I think she's actually hoping that it's Daddy home from work most of the time. This one is a Daddy's Girl through and through!

{Zee} This is Zee's 'butter wouldn't melt' face. It's the face she gives me when I say her name to discourage her from getting up to mischief. I truly though Punky was going to be my chief mischief maker, but after almost two years with this girl in the house I am rapidly revising that opinion!

{Punky} On this day we took the girls to Taronga Zoo for the first time. They were surprisingly good all day, and despite being more impressed with the most mundane of things (fake animal statues anyone?) they had a great time. We all did. Punky was particularly fascinated with the seeing the turtles swimming. On the way to the Zoo in the morning, we asked her what animal she was most looking forward to seeing. Her response? "The teeny, tiny baby chickens!". Should have just taken her to the pet store!

{Zee} We decided against taking the pram with us to the Zoo. Which was a great decision until the last hour or so we were there, when her poor little legs just couldn't take anymore walking. She did an amazing job for a not-quite-2-year-old though. She's really not a baby anymore, sob!




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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Yarramundi Reserve {Hawkesbury NSW} | Kid-Friendly Sydney

Without a doubt, one of my favourite places to spend time in our local area is at the Yarramundi Reserve, in the Hawkesbury region, north-west of Sydney. Dave and I have been visiting Yarramundi since well before we had the girls. It's one of those places that has a little something for everyone. It is a truly beautiful part of the world, and if you ever get the chance you should definitely stop in for a visit.

Yarramundi Reserve really is an explorer's paradise. Hidden away on the banks of the river, this is where the Hawkesbury becomes the Nepean, and meets the Grose River, resulting in one of the best places for small nature lovers to explore.

Yarramundi has a little something for everyone. In the summer, it's the place to go for a cooling swim in the shallow, gently flowing parts of the river. In winter, it's the place to find the smoothest of river-smoothed stones, perfect for skipping on the surface of the water.

There's an abundance of wildlife to see, from water fowl to bugs of every size and shape. It's dog-friendly too, which means you can take your canine friends for a run along the shore or a forage in the forest.



One of the best things about Yarramundi is it's versatility. You can swim, fish, walk, climb, kayak and canoe, build sand castles, kick a ball around or play some cricket, bird watch, have a picnic or even, in the cooler months, build a small fire and cook your own damper.

The girls love to have a paddle in the water when the weather is warm. They sit and build sand castles, splash and run about, while I annoy them with my camera and Dave casts a line out. When the weather is cooler we love to wander along the river and the exposed river bed, skip stones, feed the ducks on the northern side, look for bugs in the bush, and run in the open green spaces.

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Yarramundi Reserve has plenty of parking, as well as some picnic benches and public toilets for convenience. Mind you put down the lid though!


Because of it's location, and low-lying nature, this section of the river is prone to flooding, so it's probably not a good idea to plan a visit if it's been raining for a few days. There's usually fair warning when the river starts to rise, and you can easily find out the current situation by following any of the Hawkesbury area pages (such as the Hawkesbury Gazette) on Facebook.

I've been visiting Yarramundi Reserve for close to 10 years, with and without kids, and the way it has changed in that time due to floods and other changes in the river flow is truly incredible to see. Even from month to month when it's dry, the water shapes the landscape, uncovering new things to see, exposing beds of river-smoothed stones, reclaiming sandy shores and prickly brush.

Visiting after a month or so after a flood is a must if you're children are skeptical about the incredible power that water has to shape our land. Seeing weeds dangling from the branches ten feet in the air, or sttanding in a spot that was once covered in water and is now dry, or knowing that the place you sat and built sand castles three months earlier is now unreachable and covered in water is truly mind-boggling. To know that you're standing in a place that was once covered in deep, rushing water; it's awe-inspiring.

It's the perfect place to collect stones for painting or small rock gardens. The variety of trees means there are plenty of different types of leaves to collect, to take home and use in any number of cool craft projects.


But most of all, we love it because it's a place to wander, run and relax. There is no play equipment, so no fighting over swings or asking to be pushed. We get to spend time together as a family, and appreciate the amazing nature of the beautiful world around us.

Getting there: Yarramundi Reserve is off Springwood Road, Yarramundi, in the Hawkesbury region, north-west of Sydney.


Note: This post was originally published on the lovely Maxabella Loves blog as a guest post for her awesome series Hidden Places for Kids.

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