And just like that, our Summer of fun has come to an end. The school shirts are hanging front and centre in the cupboard, new shoes are being broken in, and the notes (oh the notes) are coming home each day.
Back to school also sees the never-ending question of what to pack for lunch. Most days the girls are happy with a sandwich or wrap, or perhaps some leftover pasta, padded out with a selection of fruit, vegetables (and J’s latest favourite – hummus). Actually not a lot has changed in terms of what I send since my last lunch box round-up when C was in kindy.
But I do like to do a little baking each week to add some variety to their afternoon tea, at least.
A favourite? These milo bliss balls – made simply with toasted coconut, brown rice puffs and sunflower seeds, blended together with dates, milo, chia seeds and a little water.
And then the fun started (well for J at least) as we rolled the mixture into balls and dipped them into a little more milo.
(I, on the other hand,*may* not have had as much fun when cleaning stray milo from various nooks and crannies for the next hour…)
But although they proved a little messy to make (when assisted by a certain 4 year old, that is) they were a huge hit in the lunchboxes last week. Not to mention being a rather tasty afternoon tea treat for the grown-ups too!
And just like that, our little Josephine is not so little. She turned 4 this week and, because I really can’t help myself when it comes to kids parties, we threw her a big birthday bash!
Her chosen theme was “Frozen” – for she is pretty much obsessed with the movie at the moment. I’m not sure whether it is the sister storyline, the silly Olaf antics or the fact that her favourite colour is blue (or perhaps that she shares Elsa’s hair colour) – but there was no doubt in her mind that Frozen would be the theme. No doubt. At all.
So her wish was my command! Blue, blue and more blue, with lots of snowflakes and sparkles – which was rather funny given that it was a hot and sunny 35C day outside.
I opted for food that I could largely make ahead. We had muffins, fruit, Sven’s snacks (hummus cups with vegetable dippers), rice bubble slice, snowflake cookies, sandwiches and floating Olaf jelly cups. Not to mention the usual array of chips and lollies, and some homemade sausage rolls.
To drink – we offered apple juice, lemonade (coloured with a little blue food colouring) and bottles of “melted snowman”. Josie was positively horrified when she saw the kids drinking the water bottles though, exclaiming on more than one occasion “noooooo! ewwwww you are drinking Olaf!!!!!”.
Another year on and J is still not a fan of eating cake – but she is certainly still a huge fan of the ritual that comes with a birthday cake. The colour, the candles, the song – she loves it!
I kept things pretty simple this year (aka I cheated) – covering some pre-made mudcakes with Nutella frosting, and using white chocolate wafers as a border. Topped with blue sprinkles and some fondant snowflakes, along with a custom topper, and you’d never know that it took no time at all to put together.
And yes, the birthday girl was suitably impressed!
As we had around 16 little ones to keep entertained, ranging in age from 7 months to 10 years, I left the entertainment to the professionals – and I am so glad that I did. Lucy Sparkles and Friends sent both Elsa AND Anna – who had the kids utterly captivated with their singing, dancing and games .
I can never resist sending our little guests home with a treat to thank them for coming. I found some great snowflake boxes online, which Charlotte and Josie had a great time helping me fill with an array of treats.
And before we knew it, it was time for our little “Elsa” to say goodbye to her friends (and start to recover from her sugar high). Safe to say she had a truly wonderful day!
And I’m left wondering – just how is it that she is FOUR already?!
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I am not all that into new year resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the freshness that a new year brings. I love having the opportunity to sit back and reflect on the moments we treasured, and also the areas of our life that we could have invested more time in. But rather than set ourselves small tangible goals, I prefer to think about some words that we can focus on during the year ahead.
And this year is no different. Three words, three focuses for our little family.
Adventure. I think this one goes without saying. For when I look back at the year that was, it is the adventures that we took that make me really smile. Holidays, beach days, bike riding, hikes, museum visits…you name it. Getting out of the house and sharing the world with the kids is something that I find so fulfilling, and I just know that they love it too! So this year, our quest for adventure continues! I’ve got a few big plans in mind, and lots of other little things too…
Knowledge. When I was younger, I had voracious appetite for books, writing and learning. I don’t know what happened, perhaps it is the inevitable fatigue that comes with having 3 young kids (?), but I could count the books that I have read in the last 6 years on one hand. It’s sad really. So this year I want to find more time to read, to watch documentaries, and to learn.
Kindness. Over the last year or so, we have trialled various pocket money ideas – but none have really sat right with me. For it seemed as though I was forking out money for jobs the kids should really have been doing anyway – and the cash would just be spent on some trinket that would be lost or forgotten in a manner of days. Or hours. This year we are doing things a little differently. Inspired by the Barefoot Investor, the girls have kindness jars. When we observe them engaging in an act of kindness, they will get a coin to put in one of the jars – with a choice that it can be to spend, to save or to give. I think it will nice for them to see their efforts over the year, and to decide where their collections will ultimately be put towards.
So there you have it! Our family words for 2019! What are your words for the new year?
This year, we actually were awake at midnight on New Year’s Eve. We had spent the afternoon at our friends’ place swimming in their pool and watching all the kids have a ball. Champagne was drunk, great food was eaten and many laughs were had.
But for me the evening wasn’t just about celebrating the start of a new year, but also about remembering what a wonderful year we had just had. For while many people seemed to be wishing away the year that was, on reflection, we had a pretty amazing year. Sure – there were the usual ‘stresses’ associated with a busy work and home life, a seemingly never-ending Winter and lots of other little challenges thrown in along the way, but for the most part we had a lot of fun. Good health, lots of adventures and so many wonderful memories made. Not to mention a little baby that turned into a toddler before our very eyes!
In January we had found ourselves with a little extra time before I headed back to work and the kids headed back to school. So we headed off on a “girls” road trip to Melbourne to catch up with my family and share cuddles with my newest niece.
February was all about Miss J – who turned 3! We celebrated with a Fairy themed party and a lot of fun was had by all. Then Miss C started grade 1 the following week and I returned to work part time.
March was all about Miss C who turned 6 (how did that happen?). We planned on throwing her a small afternoon tea with a couple of friends, but this somehow turned into a larger gathering with 12 energetic and spirited 6 year old girls bouncing around our house! We finished off the month with a less loud, but definitely delicious, annual Good Friday seafood feast.
April started with a “bang” as we had 4 extra adults and 2 extra kids staying with us for Easter. Yes my family arrived into town – and the cousins had an absolute ball. Easter Sunday was filled with egg hunts, a hearty roast lunch and the Inaugural Easter Olympics! We finished off the month by heading to Thredbo with friends for a late-season mountain bike weekend – where lots of biking, chairlift rides and hot chocolates ensued.
May proved to be a busy month too. I headed to Sydney for a work conference, then headed down to Narooma for a weekend at the beach with my Dad. Mother’s Day was celebrated somewhere in there too!
In June we opted to escape the Canberra cold and tagged along with the hubs to his work conference on the Gold Coast. While he did his work ‘thing’, the girls and I explored the theme parks – loving the warmer weather. We also had a lot of fun throwing a rainbow themed baby shower for my niece when we returned!
And just like that, we found ourselves in July and little Miss M turned ONE!! We celebrated with a Teddy Bear’s Picnic – and the cake smash was a hit. We again escaped the Canberra cold shortly thereafter, heading to Fiji for a family vacation.
Our August was a little more low-key, as we returned from our trip away and settled back in to the work / school routine. I did, however, sneak a few outings with my Mum (who came to live with us for 5 months) – including a wine tasting afternoon and a trip to the Theatre.
In September we celebrated our ‘main men’ for Father’s Day. The girls loved making cards and a special breakfast in bed – after which we got together with family for an Island-inspired lunch.
In October I headed down to Melbourne (sans kids) for a 20-year reunion with my friends from high school (surely I am not that old, right?!). The girls and I also had a great time at Floriade – taking a ride on the ferris wheel and running amok amongst the gorgeous blooms. We finished the month with a Halloween party with friends, and had a lot of fun picking our costumes for the occasion and making some ‘spooky’ treats.
In November we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary – with a lovely degustation dinner at Aubergine. We then threw our parents a surprise gold wedding anniversary lunch – at the beautiful Piallago Estate. Miss C also had her ballet concert – and simply shone on stage!
December was, as is to be expected, all about Christmas!! There were carols, Christmas parties, tree decorating and carols of repeat. All leading up to the big day that was filled with great company and great food. It really is a magical time of year when kids are involved!
So, yes, 2018 was rather wonderful indeed! And here’s to an even bigger, brighter and better 2019!!
Each year feels just that little bit more special at Christmas time. The two bigger girls, in particular, are definitely at an age where they revel in the magic that comes with the festive season, embracing even the smallest gestures. From singing Christmas carols and decorating the tree, to writing letter after letter to Santa and his elves, the excitement builds as we progress through December.
It was a ‘Canberra’ year for Christmas this year, and we had relatively few plans in the lead up to the big day. We headed to the carols with friends the week before, and had an obligatory Santa photo. We also visited our neighbour’s front yard on multiple occasions after the girls’ evening bath – which was adorned with a multitude of lights and other decorations.
Christmas Eve was spent as a family. We played games in the backyard (loving the warmer weather!) and baked cookies – and it was barely past midday before the girls begged to get into their Christmas pyjamas. Carrots were laid out, as was a snack for Santa, and I must say I was a little surprised that the girls crawled into their beds and fell asleep with relatively minimal fuss.
The household was awake by 6am on Christmas morning – although we are generally early risers so this was not unusual. The girls were elated to see that their ‘wish lists’ had been fulfilled – with a new scooter and ukulele for C, a kids camera and baby doll for J and a balance bike for M. The room was filled with excited squeals and an abundance of discarded wrapping paper not long after.
A really lovely part of the day was that we had lots of time. We weren’t due for Christmas lunch / dinner at our Niece’s place until mid-afternoon – meaning that we could spend the morning lazing around – watching the girls playing with their new toys, sipping on cups of coffee. We even headed out for a walk around the lake, before tucking M in for her midday nap.
The afternoon was also rather wonderful. A beautiful lunch / dinner courtesy of our Niece, with all the usual trimmings. Prawns, pork, turkey, ham, roast vegetables – you name it – we had it! The weather was hot, so an afternoon water balloon fight seemed inevitable – which I think was as much fun for the adults as it was for the kids!
Overall it was a beautifully relaxing Christmas season – filled with great food and wonderful company.
If your calendar is anything like ours, we are pretty booked up between now and Christmas. Our weekdays are filled with school, ballet classes, swim lessons, and gymnastics classes – oh and work, of course. While our weekends are filled with lots of dinners, parties, festivities and fun. Yes the silly season has arrived – bringing with it lots of good times and, inevitably, an abundance of good food!
Last weekend was no different. We took a whirlwind trip to Sydney for a work dinner for the hubs. Then we headed out for a fantastic degustation dinner to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary on the Saturday, followed by an afternoon indulging in an Indian feast superbly put together by my mother-in-law. Having eaten an abundance of rich foods the days before, I decided to bring an Indian-inspired salad to the dinner, with a view to balancing out the hearty curries and chapatis with a little green.
The salad itself, was rather simple – just crunchy cos lettuce, cucumbers and sliced radishes – surrounded by some pappadums that I had cooked in the microwave. But the real star of the show was the mango chutney dressing – made with mango chutney (of course), mayonnaise, lime, olive oil and ginger. Blended to perfection – and serving as not only a salad dressing – but a tasty little dip for the pappadums too.
Indian-inspired, and rather refreshing after a weekend of great food!
Why is it always the case that during the school week I have to (sometimes literally) drag the kids out of bed, yet on Sunday – when we can all sleep in – they are up at 5.30am and ready to start the day!?
Yes, as I lay in bed this morning, enjoying what I thought was going to be a little extra snooze time, the all-to-familiar call came through the monitor. Followed by a little patter of feet down the hall. No amount of coaxing could get the girls back to bed, so that was it – our day officially started.
We played games, we ate breakfast (and second breakfast), we read stories, we more than likely annoyed the neighbours when we took the fun outside (sorry), and we even did a little baking. And all before 9.00am.
On the menu? Savoury muffins – made with only 6 ingredients.
Flour, grated cheese, ham, milk, egg and olive oil. Kept very simple on this occasion as I plan to use them in the kids’ lunch boxes this week (and anything ‘green’ or ‘unusual’ is likely to be met with disdain at the moment).
While I measured the ingredients, the girls had fun stirring them and dividing them amongst the cases. Into the oven for 20 minutes, and we soon had ourselves a tasty morning tea.
I love the simplicity of this recipe – but it could easily be jazzed up for more adventurous palates. Some fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes or zucchini would be lovely, or even some olives if you had some on hand.
Oh and the littlest one, in particular, wasted no time in sampling our efforts!
In what can only be described as a momentary lapse in judgment, I decided to do our weekly grocery shop with three kids in tow today. You see, I normally do my weekly shop online. Items are ordered from the comfort of home, they arrive the following day and are delivered literally to my kitchen bench. How easy it that!?
I’m not really sure why I decided to ignore my weekly ritual today. I did tell myself that it might be nice to do a little aisle wander, see what was on special and what new items had arrived on the shelves. How naïve was I!
For what actually ensued was 3 bored kids who argued and moaned the moment we selected a trolley, and were well and truly over the whole experience before we even got through aisle 1. It also meant that way too many treats snuck their way into the trolley – and the bill at the end was much more than I would ordinarily spend.
One saving grace was the lovely mangoes we picked up – at a price indicative that the warmer months are coming. And they quickly reminded me of this lovely little cheesecake we made a while back for our Father’s Day linner.
With ANZAC biscuits as the base, this no-bake cheesecake was jazzed up with a jelly layer and topped with fresh mango and passionfruit. I followed this recipe , substituting the lime jelly for mango jelly, and foregoing the mint leaves (only because I didn’t have any on hand).
The result was a beautifully tropical dessert that was pretty easy to pull together – and that could be made a day in advance.
But yes, in case there is any doubt, I will be going back to my regular online grocery order from next week…
So now that Spring has, at least officially, “sprung” – I am already dreaming of all the gatherings that will soon appear on our calendar. Morning lake walks and bike rides, followed by milkshakes and ice-cream treats. Lunches with friends, while the kids play on the trampoline and splash around the wading pool. Afternoon teas, that more often than not turn into impromptu dinners, as we chat and laugh our way into the evening.
Our BBQ is inevitably a star of the warmer months – allowing for dinners to be thrown together easily and with minimal fuss (not to mention avoiding a hot kitchen with the oven turned on). But what BBQ dinner would be complete without a few tasty side dishes to serve alongside. These too ought to be fuss-free and quick to prepare – for who wants to be trapped in the kitchen when all the fun is happening outside.
One of my favourite side dishes would have to be this easy pineapple and ginger salsa. I often serve it alongside grilled pork, but it would easily work with chicken or fish too.
Packed with fresh pineapple and herbs, balanced with lime juice and given a hit of heat with some red chilli – it really is a versatile addition to the dinner table. The added bonus being that you can make it in advance before guests arrive – leaving more time for fun!
As luck would have it, we have been blessed with some gorgeous Spring weather this week. I’m ignoring the fact that the forecast suggests the temperature is set to dip again this weekend though, instead focusing on the hope that the warmer weather will arrive for good soon.
And in celebration of Spring, let me share with you a tasty salad that featured at our recent Father’s Day linner. On that occasion we served the salad as a side dish, but I think it would easily make for a yummy lunch on its own too.
Packed with wombok, brown rice, tomatoes, pineapple and fresh herbs, and jazzed up with toasted coconut and sweet chilli cashews, this salad sure packed a punch.
I used this recipe as a base – swapping in brown rice instead of basmati – and it was super easy to throw together. I loved the crunch of the wombok and cashews, and the sweetness of the pineapple definitely gave the salad a tropical feel. Definitely a salad that will be making further appearances as we head into the warmer months!