Father’s Day 2018

I don’t know what it is about Father’s Day – but we always seem to be blessed with sunny skies and (almost) Spring-like weather. And, true to form, yesterday was filled with sunshine and a hint of warmth in the air. Which was definitely a welcomed change  from the rainy and cold days we have had of late.

Perfect for breakfast in bed, a lazy morning, and homemade gifts – as we celebrated all things “Dad”.

Followed by a themed linner with all the family – and including a very special guest – our gorgeous new grand niece!  Inspired by the placemats we picked up when we were in Fiji, we went with a “tropical Island” theme this year. The seemingly never-ending Winter may have also had something to do with the choice of theme.

We started the afternoon with cocktails and a cheese platter. Followed by spicy shredded chicken (thankyou slow cooker!), brioche buns, a pineapple salsa, rice salad and rainbow slaw.

And what celebration would be complete without dessert? On this occasion it was a mango cheesecake with ANZAC biscuit crust, topped with sliced mango and passionfruit.

Another wonderful day of the “Dads” (with the bonus of spending time with the newest addition to the extended family!).

And just because I can’t resist a trip down memory lane…

2012

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2016
2017
2018

Growing up way too fast, that’s for sure!

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.

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!

 

Poached chicken and coleslaw salad

I’ve been back at work for around 6 weeks now, working 3 days per week in the office. Slowly but surely we are working out what is to be the new ‘normal’ – with the 3 days I’m in the office being referred to by the little members in our house as the “rush days”.

For these particular days, bags are packed and clothes are set out the night before, and I spend time preparing as much as I can for lunches over the weekend. I’m generally up at 4.30am to fit in a walk before the household wakes, then it is home to shower, make breakfast, feed the baby, throw smoothies at the biggest kids,   wrangle everyone into clothes and into the car – so that we can leave the house by 7.30am to get to the various daycare / school drop offs and (finally) head into work.

Yes “rush” would be an understatement.

So I’m sure that you can understand that by the third rush day everyone’s energy levels are starting to wane and tempers are running a little high. The kids (and I!) start to get a bit more cranky, and getting out of the house takes a little more gentle persuasion than on the first rush day.

Constant throughout this new ‘normal’, however, is our preference for easy and speedy midweek meals. Actually, not just a preference – a must. Something healthy and that is full of flavour, to keep our batteries recharged.

Take this poached chicken and coleslaw salad for instance. Pulled together with relative ease in no time at all.

I poached chicken breasts in chicken stock, with some peppercorns, ginger and garlic. Shredded then added to a coleslaw salad, made with mesculin, shredded purple cabbage, carrots, spring onions and a little corn I had leftover in the fridge. Dressed simply with sesame oil, soy and lemon juice, and finished with sliced red chilli and a good amount of coriander.

Easy, fuss-free and healthy. Not to mention SPEEDY – giving us more time to prepare for the rush day ahead.

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!

Life, lately. October 2017.

Enjoying – Netflix. Yes our household has finally come of technological age and we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon. We don’t watch a lot of TV – generally an episode of something after the kids have gone to bed – so Netflix is proving perfect for this purpose. So far we’ve made our way through 3 seasons of Fargo and our ‘must watch’ list is growing by the day.

Planning – A renovation of our backyard, and an overhaul of the bathroom at our unit in Melbourne. Yes life lately has involved  meeting with lots of contractors – and I’m feeling excited (and perhaps a little nervous too) about our upcoming projects. I’m particularly excited for the work we are having done in our backyard given Summer will soon be upon us!

Deciding – On lots of things related to the renovations. Style, structures, fixtures and fittings – and if I’m honest, I’m getting a tad overwhelmed by the process.

Cooking – Lots of power bowls and salads.  Generally filled to the brim with a variety of vegetables, some sort of protein and rice or quinoa.

Drinking – Mineral Water – by the bucket load. I’m currently obsessed, provided that it is the glass bottle version. Thank goodness for Costco and their bulk buy option!

Eating – Not cheese. Little Maggie appears to have developed eczema, so I’ve been told to stay away from dairy for the moment. Sounds easy right? However, given that I used to have a cheese  sandwich for lunch every other day – this has pretty much been torture. Sidenote: I tried dairy free cheese, but won’t be doing that again in a hurry…

Thinking – About where we might like to travel as a family next year. The whole family loved our trip to Fiji last year, so I’m thinking of heading to that region again when Maggie turns 1 (which conveniently is when Canberra is in the midst of Winter).  Samoa perhaps?

Loving – Watching the friendship between my two oldest girls grow and grow. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part they seem to be great mates and will happily play for hours together. We evened moved them into a shared room last week, and so far its working quite well.

Feeling – Grateful that Maggie is a good sleeper. Neither of her sisters were all that great at sleeping in the first year, but so far Maggie is proving to be quite the superstar (hopefully I haven’t just jinxed myself though…) She generally wakes once or twice a night to feed but will resettle well, meaning that I am not feeling too sleep-deprived when the morning rolls around.

Making – our annual family photo journal and, for once, I am actually up to date. I love the whole process of reminiscing over our family adventures, and getting incredibly nostalgic while doing so.

Wishing – I could find the time to run. I’m sure the ‘time’ is there, somewhere, I just need to fit running time more firmly in my schedule. My daily walks are great, don’t get me wrong, I just really miss running too. Time to get my running mojo back!

 

Father’s Day 2017

Father’s Day is becoming quite the event as our girls grow. Homemade presents are in abundance (thanks to School and Daycare), and the girls seem to be at that perfect age and have a wonderful time spoiling their Dad on his special day.

After a relaxing morning filled with presents and cuddles, our annual Father’s Day tradition continued with a family lunch. And, as is the case each year, we selected an international theme for the meal.

This year – it was all things Greek! Starring freshly picked lemons and rosemary from our garden to give the table a Mediterranean feel.

We actually opted for a late lunch (linner), as it works well with the girls’ nap times and means that they can join us for the meal. Although as is the case each year, linner soon turns into dinner, as we chat and eat our way through the afternoon and into the evening.

On the menu this year?

Spinach and feta pinwheels to start – that I made the day before and reheated just before serving. Washed down with a pre-lunch cocktail – of course – a Santorini Sunrise.

Made with vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

For the main course – we served chicken souvlaki skewers, keftedes, roasted lemon potatoes, a burghul salad and a green salad. With homemade tzatziki and a fig and olive relish on the side, along with some flatbread.

And for dessert? This rather impressive-looking baklava cheesecake (recipe here).

A lovely baked vanilla cheesecake, with a honey / nut crumble and enclosed in filo pastry. Served with a honey cinnamon syrup. YUM!

And so another Father’s Day celebration came to an end, with full bellies and lots of laughs.

Adding another country to our list of Father’s Day lunch destinations too!

2013 – China

2014 – Turkey

2015 – Mexico

2016 – Italy

 

Indian Style Salad

My parents-in-law are now home from their grand overseas adventure – so we wasted no time in scheduling a family dinner over the weekend. For there were lots of baby cuddles to catch up on (and two bigger sisters who had missed their grandparents dearly!)

And, as is proving to be the norm for our family dinners, there was no shortage of food.  We decided to pull together an Indian-style dinner – with spicy lamb shoulder (slow coked for 6 hours) and a tomato / potato curry being the stars. The usual sides – raita, kachumber, rice, naan and pappadums also made an appearance – but I couldn’t resist trying a new dish to throw some green into the mix.

Enter: an Indian-style salad. Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe.

Crunchy lettuce, radishes, carrots, spring onions and tomatoes, mixed with a good amount of fresh herbs (coriander and mint). Dressed with toasted spices (fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and mustard seeds), mango chutney and lemon juice.

The salad was finished with crumbled pappadums – adding some extra crunch and a little saltiness.

A lovely little addition to our Indian dinner indeed.  Oh and it made for a pretty good lunch the next day too!