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.

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!

 

A Fairy Garden 3rd Birthday Party

This year it was Josie’s turn to have a ‘big’ birthday party. And, it must be something about turning 3, because just like her big sister had done when she turned 3, J requested a fairy party.

But we went a little differently with our theming. More garden-like, and perhaps a little simpler, although a lot of fun was still had by all!

We collected lots of greenery and wooden platters, and got to work creating a dessert table laden will all sort of treats. Gorgeous fresh flowers completed the garden feel, and added some beautiful pops of colour.

The food

I was struck down with some sort of flu bug the days before the party, so I’m glad that most of the preparations had been done in advance. I didn’t take a huge number of photos of the food on the day – which is proof in itself that I must have been feeling a little off.

We had chocolate mousse (with the cutest little meringue mushrooms), jelly, donuts, meringues, biscuits, fairy dust popcorn, butterfly sandwiches, lemon slice, raspberry biscuits and ‘enchanted’ beans. Along with sandwiches for the adults, and a few batches of homemade sausage rolls. And, as is generally the case, although I thought I was over-catering – we didn’t have much left at the end!

The cake

Little J is not a fan of cake, but she is a fan of the ritual that comes with a birthday cake! In fact, whenever we would mention her upcoming party she would excitedly exclaim “I get to blow out some candles!”.

The cake itself was rather simple. A chocolate cake covered in vanilla buttercream and adorned with fresh pink roses. Finished with a cake topper that I ordered from Etsy – and voila!

And yes, Little J loved having everyone sing to her and blowing out her candles!

Party favours

In keeping with the fairy garden theme, we created little fairy garden kit favours so the guests could perhaps create their own garden at home. We filled terracotta pots with flower seeds, decorative pebbles, pixie dust, bubbles and a little fairy or mushroom figurine – along with some lollies for a sugar hit.

The entertainment

We had around 20 kids at the party, ranging from 7 months to 9 years, so entertainment was always going to be a bit tricky. But I booked a fairy entertainer from here – and was blown away with just how wonderful she was! From the moment she walked in, she had all the kids captivated with songs, games and dancing. Add some face painting into the mix,  and the kids all seemed to have a ball!

The girls were a great help in setting up for the party – with Miss C, in particular, relishing in her big sister role and being my helper for the day. She set out the fairy wings and elf hats, and arranged and re-arranged the party tables until they were just how she wanted them.  Yes it seems we have another little party planner in the house!

Then before too long, it was time to say goodbye to our nearest and dearest – and settle in with our sugar highs.  The birthday girl didn’t stop all day – and loved being the centre of attention!

While I’m left wondering just how it is that she is THREE already!

A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our ever-cheeky, lovable goofball.  You never fail to make us smile – every single day x

Tim Tam Slice

I wanted to try a new slice creation when asked to ‘bring a plate’ to a friend’s BBQ the other week. Normally I take my rocky road, or lemon slice, but with a packet of Tim Tams sitting in the cupboard – well I had my inspiration to try something new.

On the subject of Tim Tams – they really are quite iconically Australian, aren’t they. So much so that when we had Japanese exchange students stay with us when I was younger, they took back packets of Tim Tams by the suitcase-load.  They weren’t all that fussed about Vegemite, but they couldn’t get enough when it came to Tim Tams!

But I digress.

This ‘no bake’ Tim Tam slice was made simply with biscuits, Tim Tams (of course), condensed milk, butter, coconut and cocoa powder.

Combined, pressed into a pan, then topped with white chocolate and more biscuit pieces. Then it was into the fridge to set – no baking required.

Then, after a few hours, the slice was ready to slice and serve.

I’m pleased to report that the slice had all the hallmarks of their biscuit inspiration. Full of chocolate and crunch.

A word of warning though….you may find it difficult to stop at just once piece…

Print Recipe
Tim Tam Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 20 minutes + cooling time
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder in a small saucepan, and heat over a low heat - stirring until the butter has melted and the mixture is combined. Remove from the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the Marie biscuits, half of the chopped Tim Tams and coconut in a large bowl. Add the butter mixture and stir until well combined. Press into the prepared slice tin.
  4. Melt the white chocolate, and pour over the slice. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped Tim Tams and place into the fridge for a few hours to set. Slice and serve.
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Cocktail Hour: Iced Tea G & T

If I was to pick a summer alcoholic drink, besides Pimms or champagne, it would almost certainly be a Gin & Tonic. For it partners beautifully with the warmer weather, offering a refreshing addition to a  summer afternoon BBQ or evening catch up with friends.

I’ve noticed that gin itself seems to be making a bit of a comeback too, with lots of smaller local distilleries entering the market and offering unique blends. Take  Four Pillars, for instance, who easily tempted me to order an early Christmas present when I came across their Australian Christmas Gin. I think it was their claim that it “smells like gin, tastes like Christmas” that had me intrigued.

So with a beautiful bottle in hand, the next question was what to make? Christmas Eve seemed to be the perfect time to create a cocktail – something refreshing yet flavoursome.

And so this Iced Tea G & T came to be!

 Brewed iced tea and lime cordial were infused with the gin overnight. Then finished with ice, lime wedges and tonic water when it was time to serve.

Oh my.  I love a regular G & T but this was taken to the next level! Full of flavour – rich and spicy – and definitely a cocktail I will be adding to my regular list.

Print Recipe
Iced Tea G & T
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine the chilled iced tea, lime cordial and gin in a bottle, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Place ice in 6 tumblers. Squeeze a couple lime wedges into each.
  3. Divide the chilled tea / gin mixture among the glasses., and top with tonic water.
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Christmas 2017

And just like that, another festive season has come and gone. But what a festive season it was!

We headed to Melbourne to spend Christmas with my family this year, but our celebrations started well before then. For knowing we would be away for Christmas Day, and having my niece back from Vietnam for a short while, we held a Canberra Christmas celebration with my in-laws in early December too.

The girls loved the festivity of the day, redecorating the tree (for the hundredth time) and ripping open presents. While we sat back having cuddles with the littlest member of the family, sipping cocktails, before tucking into a simple brunch of fruit and croissants.

A few weeks later, it was time to head down the Hume. Given it was likely to be a little cramped if we all stayed at my Mum’s two-bedroom unit, we decided to rent a holiday house nearby (= best decision ever!) . We made ourselves at home in our ‘home away from home’  almost immediately – with the big backyard, in particular, being a huge hit with the kids.

We hosted Christmas Eve at the holiday house, watching three rounds of Carols by Candlelight on the TV. The cousins were super excited to be reunited,  and didn’t stop playing and singing along to the carols the whole time. Meanwhile, we sipped on (more) cocktails, caught up on ‘life’ and snacked on a mezze platter. There were, of course, goodies left out for Santa and his reindeer too.

Up next…Christmas Day, which proved to be one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time. Casual, fuss-free, and just perfect really.

Maggie and I headed out for an early walk before the household stirred, and returned home just as two excited girls emerged from their bedroom to discover the presents that Santa had left overnight – along with the mess the reindeers had made of their carrots. We then lazed around in our (matching haha) Christmas pyjamas for most of the morning while the girls tested out their new toys, before heading to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for the rest of the day.

This year we decided to do ‘Kris Kringle’ among the adults again – which took a lot of stress (and cost!) out of buying pressies. The kids, on the other hand, we well and truly spoiled by their extended family – and loved every second of it.

The afternoon was then spent feasting with the family in the sunshine. All the Christmas trimmings were had – turkey, pork, ham, roasted vegetables and salad. Followed by a tropical pavlova, and washed down with champagne. We were so pleased to see that Melbourne had put on a beautiful day – sunny but not too hot – making it perfect weather for indulging in a hot lunch outside on the deck. Post-lunch naps were had by some (both young and not so young), after which the kids splashed under the sprinkler while the adults laughed their way through a few rounds of charades.  Then, as the sun started to set, we made our way back ‘home’, crashing into (sugar-induced) comas not long after.  And thus a truly wonderful festive season was had by all. Not only because we had the chance to spend time with our extended families, but also because we had a whole week away with just the five of us! The kids LOVED every second of having their Dad off work – and barely left his side the whole time. Needless to say we returned back to Canberra with lots of happy memories (oh and a few extra kilograms too).

Bring on 2018!