Fiji Holiday 2018

When we travelled to Fiji two years ago, I knew in my heart that we would be back.  The climate, the people – it really did feel like a home away from home.  And we’ve returned from our latest trip to Fiji feeling exactly the same. We again fled the Canberra chill and headed to the warmth for a family holiday and are still on a post-holiday high.

We did things a little differently this time – having learned a few lessons from our last trip. And if I’m honest, we will probably do a few things differently next time too. Yes – I am 100% sure that we will return to Fiji again maybe the year after next.

This time we stayed at the Hilton Beach Resort – chosen because (1) it was closer to Nadi than the Coral Coast and (2) because we could book a 2-bedroom villa to fit our (now) larger family. Located on Denarau  – a man-made island filled with resorts and fancy houses – it had everything we needed close by (although it did lack a little of the authenticity and charm of the Coral Coast).

Highlights

Our week was filled with fun and adventure, but also a lot of downtime too. I’d generally take an early walk along the beach and down the tree-lined streets. We’d then enjoy a buffet breakfast, before heading to the pools where the girls had a great time splashing around. Soon it would be lunch time (and nap time for some), then the older girls wold inevitably ask to spend some time at Kids Club – which had a variety of activities on offer each day.


We also booked a Nanny for Maggie for a couple hours each day, and we’d have some time to go for a walk, grab a cocktail, head to the driving range or a combination of all three. Oh and the beachside massage was rather delightful!

I catered most dinners, having found a supermarket nearby. This worked wonderfully for the kids, and saved us a fair bit of money given the restaurant was quite pricey. We did, however, head to a Fijian themed dinner set up on the beach one night that was really special, and we also went out to dinner at Port Denarau (sans kids!) for a seafood feast another night.

A big highlight for us all was a village tour we booked. We travelled down to the Coral Coast, then took a jet boat (!) to a local village for the morning. We were welcomed warmly by the villagers, and after participating in a kava ceremony, were entertained with music and dancing. A scrumptious lunch was provided, and we felt so very lucky to share such a special day while learning about the history of the area and various local traditions. The ladies of the village loved having lots of Maggie cuddles (and she loved the attention!). I had to laugh though, as I had thought I’d booked a river cruise – not a jet boat adventure. The girls took it all in their stride – and Maggie even slept the entire speedy ride home – 360 degree turns and all!

Accommodation

The Hilton was a lovely resort – with a great kids program. As I mentioned, we booked a 2 bedroom villa which had plenty of room. The kids all bunked in together, and slept wonderfully. Our room was spacious, as was the bathroom, and the villa had a deck overlooking the beach.

Although it was described as having a full kitchen, our villa only really had a kitchenette. There was one saucepan, one hot plate, no frypan, a microwave and a fridge. This meant that my plans to self cater were somewhat limited – but with a little creativity we managed to keep everyone’s tummies full. We picked up groceries from a local supermarket and freshly baked bread from a nearby bakery, which meant that lunches and snacks, in particular, were easily catered for. It also meant we saved a lot of money (a litre of milk was FJ$9 at the resort – or FJ$2 at the supermarket!!). The market in Nadi was also great for picking up seasonal produce.

The Resort itself was quite different to the Warrick – where we  stayed previously. It had great pools – of varying depths which was perfect for the kids. It didn’t offer the nightly entertainment that the Warrick did though (unless you booked into the theme dinner) so the girls definitely missed the evening ritual of lighting the torches and watching the dancing.




But, at the end of the day, it was a gorgeous resort – that was nice and accessible to the airport and a range of other amenities. Location wise – it was fantastic.

Before we knew it, it was time to repack our bags and make our way back to Australia. Feeling more relaxed, a little sun-kissed, and with a lot of new memories and friends having been made along the way.

Yes, Fiji, we will definitely be back.

Things we picked up along the way…

  • We bought gifts to take for the kids at the village (pencils, paper etc) when we went into Nadi one morning. Next time I will definitely bring these over from Australia along with some kids clothes. I think it would have also been nice to give something to the ladies of the village.
  • There is not a lot of baby food available – so if travelling with little ones still eating purees, I’d suggest bringing packets from home.
  • Our villa was on the second floor. Next time I’d ask for a ground floor villa as the girls loved playing on the grass outside and this would have made for easier access.
  • Definitely think about self-catering if you can (but check  what amenities are actually offered so you can plan accordingly!) It was great to have lots of snacks, fruit, yoghurt etc on hand – for a fraction of the cost in the resort.
  • We took a travel pram for Maggie, along with the Ergo, both of which came in really handy.

A teddy bear picnic 1st birthday party

And just like that, our littlest one is not so little. For a few weeks ago she turned ONE!

I am seriously shocked at just how quickly the first year went. It feels like only yesterday we were on our way to the hospital to meet Miss Maggie, and introduce her to her sisters. Yet here we are, one year later, and Maggie is simply thriving.

To celebrate, we decided on a Teddy Bear picnic themed party. Something that could be hosted indoors if need be (thanks to the ever-reliable Canberra winter weather), although we were pretty lucky that the sun was shining all day and it ended up being not too bad outside at all.

Family came from near and far to join in the celebrations, as did some of our friends. And the birthday girl loved the attention (and the cake!).

The theme

We brought the outdoors ‘indoors’ with the help of an awesome printed backdrop and some fake grass. Red gingham featured heavily, as did an abundance of teddy bears of course!

The food

I always worry that I am planning too much food – but there is rarely much leftover! On this occasion we served afternoon tea – homemade sausage rolls, teddy bear paw cookies, chocolate mousse, fruit cups, honey joys, gummi bears, `teddy bear trail mix` and teddy bear biscuits – of course.

The entertainment

Well no party would be complete without a little entertainment, and Maggie is fortunate enough to have an Uncle that is more than happy to help out! Yes our little picnic had its very own special guest – in the form of a big cuddly teddy bear! Followed by dancing and story-time with Dad (“We’re going on a Bear Hunt…” of course).

The cake

I ended up making two cakes for the occasion. The birthday cake was chocolate mud, covered with peanut butter icing. Topped with the most gorgeous topper created by the very talented Janelle!

And well being a first birthday, I couldn’t resist having a cake smash session too! Maggie wasted no time in demolishing (and eating) this little teddy bear cake.

And so another first birthday came to a close, and I am filled with nostalgia thinking on just how quickly time passes us all by.

Happy first birthday – beautiful Margaret.  The joy you bring our family is truly endless. Here’s hoping your second year is filled with lots of love, laughter and adventures!

xx

Lemon Meringue Pavlova Celebration Cake

I was walking through the shops with the family the other day, pacing ahead as I normally do. The kids were dawdling behind, as was my husband, all of whom are quite happy just meandering along.

But this is not all that unusual, for I do tend to operate at ‘hyper’ speed these days. My morning is spent running from one end of the house to the other, picking up clothes and toys, moving washing into the drier (then inevitably putting another load into the washer). Dishes are put away, lunch boxes are packed and school bags (often literally) thrown into the boot of the car. And that’s all before we leave at 7.30am.

And while this approach is mostly productive, it is tiring. It also means that I often start one task only to be distracted by another, as the seemingly never-ending ‘to do’ list swirls around my head.

So I am trying to find time to slow things down, when I can. My morning walk helps, even if it means rugging up and bracing the frigid temperatures outside in the dark.

Baking also helps. For it is pretty impossible to speed up – unless you want to end up with a bit of a kitchen disaster on your hands!

And this pretty little cake that I made a while ago certainly could not be rushed. It was my husband’s birthday – and knowing he loves both lemon cheesecake and pavlova – it felt like the perfect opportunity to create something new to mark the occasion.

I started by making a pavlova base – baked in a round cake tin until firm (but still a little marshmalloey) on the inside. Once cooled, this was topped with a layer of lemon cheesecake, through which I swirled lemon curd. Baked again – until set – then allowed to cool.

Then it was time to decorate. Fresh raspberries, blueberries and cream, finished with a white chocolate decoration and a couple macarons I came across at the local bakery.

Yes, this was certainly not a cake that could be rushed – and the various elements meant that it took the better part of an entire afternoon to create. But it was fun to design, and to create, and I must say slowing down for a few hours was rather lovely too.

Quinoa and Vegetable Soup

  Ok, Ok. I know this is my second soup post in a row.

But as Winter has well and truly arrived, we are all craving meals that will warm us from the inside out. So much so, that I find myself making a batch of homemade soup most weeks.  Perfect for lunch, and dinner – and generally with enough yield for us to tuck some away in the freezer for an easy meal at a later date too.

This particular soup turned out to be rather lovely indeed. Packed with vegetables, beans and quinoa, and flavoured with tomatoes and lots of fresh parsley – well it was full of nutrition and, most importantly, flavour!

Actually, I think I might make another batch today!

Print Recipe
Quinoa and Vegetable Soup
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large pot, and sautee the onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 5 minutes - or until starting to soften.
  2. Add the vegetable stock and tomatoes, and stir to combine.
  3. Add the quinoa, and simmer gently for 15 minutes - stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the beans, and more water (if the soup is too thick). Season to taste.
  5. Divide among serving bowls and top with fresh parsley.
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Thai style pumpkin and cauliflower soup

Yes, friends, Summer is feeling like a long time ago (and a long time to come around again).

Our hats have been replaced with beanies, shorts with warm pants and I am well and truly wearing layers and gloves on my morning walk. My car’s windscreen is already icy in the morning (having given up my spot in the garage to a cubby house that has been under construction for far too long), and the kids have been asking for hot chocolates instead of their usual smoothies.

So I guess it is no surprise that hearty, comfort food has returned to our weekly meal plans. The slow cooker is generally on my kitchen bench, or a stew slowly bubbling away in the oven.  And, when I am feeling particularly needy of a cosy meal, a soup will almost certainly be on the stove top.

This Thai-style pumpkin and cauliflower soup made a welcomed appearance a little while ago. The vegetables were roasted, then combined with red curry paste, onion, chicken stock and a little coconut milk. Cooked and blended to perfection, then topped with fresh coriander, a drizzle of coconut milk and some fried wonton wrappers.

Hearty and delicious! With a great yield too so we had lots leftover for lunch and dinner the following days.

Print Recipe
Thai style pumpkin and cauliflower soup
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1.5 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Soup
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1.5 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Place the pumpkin and cauliflower on the trays and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 40 minutes or until soft and golden. Remove from oven and set-aside.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan, and sauté the onion until starting to soften. Add the curry paste, and cook - stirring - for one minute.
  4. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the pumpkin and cauliflower and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Use a stick blender to blend the soup until smooth. Stir in half of the coconut milk and season as necessary.
  6. Divide the soup amongst serving bowls. Tope with an extra drizzle of coconut milk, the wonton strips and fresh coriander.
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Cooking with Kids: Healthier Fried Rice

Today’s post comes courtesy of Miss C – who started Grade 1 this year, and has been delivering her first ever school projects.  The focus last term was on healthy eating and lifestyles (something we are only too happy to embrace!) and saw the students do 3 presentations on various topics.

The first project required the students to cook a healthy meal and present it to the class. When tasked with the project, Miss C had no hesitation in suggesting that she make her healthier fried rice – aka something that my kids request quite often for lunch or dinner. Sure it has a little bacon, but the remaining ingredients are healthy, and the method is simple, making it a rather perfect meal for kids to help create and share!

Miss C had so much fun measuring out the ingredients, and setting up her cooking equipment. She then created a poster, outlining the various steps – as follows…

  1. Get your ingredients. On this occasion it was brown rice, peas, corn, bacon and a little soy sauce. We’ve also used carrots, zucchini and eggs on previous occasions. 2. Grab a pan and heat a little oil over a medium heat (with the help of a grown up of course!).3. Add your ingredients, heat and stir.

4. Serve and Enjoy!My little budding chef and her grand creation. And I’m told she did beautifully in presenting her project to the class also (proud parent moment right there!!)

Spinach and ricotta ‘sausage’ rolls

After realising that I can be a bit of a frozen puff-pastry hoarder, I’ve been looking for ways to make sure we use up the packets before they are lost in the depths of our chest freezer. Sausage rolls, in the traditional sense, have been baked in abundance for this reason, and are definitely a ‘go to’ for parties and entertaining. As are my favourite savoury scrolls – which are always a great lunchbox addition.

So when I was looking for a vegetarian dish to contribute to our recent Good Friday lunch, and also a way to finish off the half pack of puff pastry I had in the freezer, these lovely little spinach and ricotta rolls came to be.

Filled with the goodness of spinach, and jazzed up with both ricotta and feta – this vegetarian take on the ol’ sausage roll proved rather delicious. And they will now feature on my ‘bring a plate’ favourites list for sure!

Print Recipe
Spinach and ricotta 'sausage' rolls
Course Baking
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
rolls
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
rolls
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200C and line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as you can, then place in a large bowl with the ricotta, feta, egg and lemon zest. Stir to combine, and season.
  3. Cut each pastry sheet in half. Place 1/4 of the spinach mixture down the long side of each sheet. Brush the opposite side with egg, and roll to enclose.
  4. Cut each roll into 6 pieces, and place onto the lined baking trays. Brush the tops with a little more egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
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Cocktail Hour: Easter Bunny Shake

I mentioned earlier in the week that we served a couple cocktails at our recent Easter lunch. My favourite was definitely the Espresso Martini – although that’s not all that unusual as I am not a big milk drinker.

There were, however, a few guests that I knew would not like a coffee-laden martini. They were fans of both milk and baileys though – and so our other cocktail – an Easter Bunny Shake – came to be.

Rather akin to an alcoholic milkshake, it was laced with Baileys, butterscotch schnapps and chocolate – a perfect combination for Easter, really.

And given there were multiple requests for extra glasses throughout the day – I think we hit a winner with this cocktail too!


Print Recipe
Easter Bunny Shake
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pour the Baileys, Schnapps and milk into a blender with a few ice cubes and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Blend to combine.
  2. Drizzle some extra sauce down the side of the cocktail glass, pour in the cocktail and enjoy!
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Cocktail Hour: Espresso Martini

I couldn’t resist adding a few cocktails to our recent Easter menu. For what better way to kick of a day of Easter frivolity than with some fun drinks. My little brother was more than happy to play bartender on the day – and wasted no time in shaking up cocktails to hand around.  

And after being up since the crack of dawn (or before the crack of dawn) the addition of an Espresso Martini to the menu was a welcome one.

Simply – 30ml kahlua, 40ml vodka and 40ml freshly brewed espresso. Shaken over lots of ice, and poured into a martini glass.

And after my first sip – well I was hooked! This is now one of my favourite cocktails – and one that I will be sure to make again.

Delish! And I’ll be back to share our other Easter cocktail later in the week.

Print Recipe
Cocktail Hour: Espresso Martini
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
drink
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place Kahlua, Vodka and Espresso into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill with ice and shake. Pour into a martini glass to serve.
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Easter Weekend 2018

Our Easter, this year, was filled with family, food and fun. A perfect combination of time spent with our nearest and dearest, long lazy food-filled days and games for young and old. Yes it ended up being quite celebratory weekend indeed.

 My family arrived from Melbourne the day before good Friday, and our house was immediately transformed into the wonderful chaos that having 6 adults, 3 kids and 2 babies under one roof would inevitably bring. The kids, in particular, wasted no time in re-acquainting themselves, spending hours on end jumping on the trampoline and playing ‘cooks’ with our toy kitchen. Our real kitchen, too, got a decent workout – catering for no less than 11 people over the weekend.

Celebrations ‘officially’ began on Good Friday, with our annual seafood lunch at my in-laws. All the usual suspects were on offer – prawns, oysters, calamari and the like. Served alongside a roasted sweet potato salad, and finished with a platter of sweet treats. Canberra turned on beautiful weather for the day (actually for the whole weekend), so we lazed outside in between courses, watching the kids make Easter bonnets and play on the tennis court.

Easter Saturday was spent at Questacon with most of the Canberra population who had not fled to the coast for the weekend, it seems. Then it was back home for the afternoon to enjoy the sunshine outside.  More trampolining, water-play, a picnic dinner for the kids, with a little quiet time thrown in too (to recharge the batteries).

Easter Sunday turned out to be quite a day! The kids were up early (like “it’s still well and truly dark outside early”) and patiently waited for the sun to rise before heading outside and exploring the garden to discover what the Easter Bunny had (generously) left.  A breakfast comprising  mainly chocolate for the kids ensued, along with hot cross buns and several coffees for the adults.

Then it was on to the main celebration of the day. We held an inaugural “Easter Olympics” at our place – consisting of two teams (the chicks and the rabbits – lead  by the team captains – C & J ) and 6 games. Everyone got into the spirit of the games, and a lot of laughs were had. The rabbits came out victorious in the end – and enjoyed receiving their medals and the hamper prize.

After the games, we sat down to a late lunch (linner) – feasting on slow-cooked balsamic beef, roasted carrots, maple sweet potato, roasted potatoes and a broccoli and chickpea salad. Served with cocktails and a local Pankhurst Pinot Noir.  Dessert was a selection of chocolate mousse, lemon meringue tarts and, of course, Easter chocolates!

As the day turned into evening, we made our way to bed with full bellies and fond memories of the day. By Tuesday all our house guests had made their way home, and I must say the house felt eerily quiet (or as quiet as it can feel with 3 kids at home).

And so another wonderful Easter weekend came to pass. Just like in previous years, a lot of fun and frivolity was had!