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!

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

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

Lemon Meringue Tartlets

I am by no means a green thumb.

Gardening does not come naturally to me, and with the frosty Canberra winters, and hot dry summers, well needless to say – we have lost our fair share of plants over the years.

However, there are two plants I seem to be able to grow in abundance – rosemary and lavender.  In fact, I don’t seem to be able to keep up with their growth – resulting in a decent day of pruning the other week.

The other plant that has survived with relatively little intervention is our lemon tree.  I suspect we just got lucky when we planted it, for despite minimal work on our part, it has given us lots of lemons. Even if it is only still a small tree.

And there is something rather wonderful about being able to collect lemons from your own tree, don’t you think? Which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago when asked to bring a “sweet” to share at a BBQ with our neighbours.

The lemons were soon turned into lemon curd, which was then used to fill homemade tartlet cases, and topped with a little meringue. It wasn’t the quickest of sweets to make, and probably not one that I would make if time was short, but over the course of the day the tartlets came together and the end result was quite pleasing.

I loved the vibrancy of the lemon curd, which on this occasion was not overly sweet and still a little tart. I decided not to go too overboard with the meringue either, stopping at just a few piped rounds – although I could have quite easily been more generous and covered the whole of the tartlet with meringue.

Here’s hoping our lemon tree continues to yield!

Print Recipe
Lemon Meringue Tartlets
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
tartlets
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
tartlets
Ingredients
Instructions
Curd
  1. Start by making the lemon curd - a day in advance, if possible. Combine the lemon juice, zest, caster sugar and eggs in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water, and heat slowly - whisking continuously. The mixture will slowly turn from a frothy consistency to a thick, velvety consistency - and you will know that it is ready when you can coat the back of a spoon and draw a clear line through it. At this stage, remove the curd from the heat, and whisk through the cold butter until the mixture is rich and glossy. Set aside until ready to use (or place in the fridge overnight).
Tartlets
  1. To make the tartlets, place the flour, icing sugar, salt and butter in a food processor, and pulse until the butter has been cut in. Add the egg, and continue to process until the dough just comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough gently. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C, and lightly grease 12 tartlet cases.
  3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is around 4mm thick. Cut out suitably-sized rounds from the dough, and press into the tartlet cases - trimming off any excess. Prick the base of each case a few times with a fork. Place the tartlet cases on a baking tray, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then remove the shells and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the meringue, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar, one spoonful at a time, continuing to whisk until you have stiff peaks.
  5. To assemble - pipe lemon curd into each of tartlet case. Top with meringue, and brown slightly using a kitchen blow torch.
Recipe Notes

If you don't have tartlet cases, you could make the tartlets using a mini muffin tray.

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An “Under the Sea” 5th Birthday Party

This year it was Miss C’s turn to have a “big” birthday party, and she’s been planning it for months. Many months.  First it was going to be a Pirate Party, then a PJ Masks Party, but a little while ago she settled on an “Under the Sea” theme – and we ran with that.

Actually, it ended up being a lot of fun to put together. But then again, kids parties normally are!

Since Christmas we’ve been collecting lots of blue and ocean-themed decorations, mainly from the cheap party shops and e-bay. And with the help of Pinterest, a sea-filled party table came together in no time at all!

The food

The table was laden will lots of sea-themed party food – which despite appearances – were quite easy to throw together.

We had starfish sandwiches (some filled with jam, some with nutella and some with sprinkles) and mermaid munch (honey joys).  There were also blue jelly cups (jazzed up with mandarin boats and umbrellas), clam cookies (chocolate chip cookies filled with buttercream) and seaweed sticks (grapes threaded onto skewers). Most of these I made on the morning of the party so that they would be nice and fresh. I also made a big batch of sausage rolls in advance, which I was able to freeze then reheat during the party.

Oh and my favourite party treat? These adorable ‘crab-wiches’ – mini croissants filled with ham and cheese – made into ‘crabs’ with the help of googly eyes glued to toothpicks.

The Cake

I found inspiration on Pinterest for this grand blue cake, and was a tad nervous about trying the ‘petal’ icing for the first time. I loved how vibrant the buttercream turned out, and though the weather was warm, I managed to pipe something akin to what I had in mind without the buttercream getting too soft.

I “cheated” and bought Dory and Nemo toys as toppers, and then finished the cake with some starfish I made using candy melts and star moulds.

A little rustic, but I think it tied in with the overall theme.

Party Favours

I found some cheap buckets on e-bay and they turned out to be the perfect party favours.

Filled with lollies and some other little treats, and I’m hoping our guests can put the buckets to good use next time they are at the beach!

Entertainment

When I realised that we would have 25+ kids attending, I knew I would need some help in keeping them all entertained. I planned a big pass-the-parcel game, but also hired a party host (a Pirate!) to help with the other entertainment. There were games, a magic show, balloon making and even some face painting – certainly much more than I would have been capable of. And all the kids seemed engaged – so I’m calling it a win!

And so another year, and another big birthday celebration,  came to pass. And, as always, along with the sugar high, I’m left wondering just where the last few years have gone???

Happy 5th Birthday to our beautiful Miss C!  Always full of imagination, a lover of adventures and quite the sensitive soul.

A Very Peppa 2nd Birthday Party

And just like that our snuggly little Jo-Jo went from this…

Then to this…

And now to this!

Yes Little J turned TWO on the weekend and we are left wondering just where the time went (a sentiment that we find ourselves repeating over and over again these days…)

While last year we had a big backyard party to celebrate J’s first birthday, this year was, intentionally, a lot more low key. We are going to alternate ‘big’ parties each year for the girls, and this year it was J’s turn to have a modest party with family only.

But that didn’t mean we couldn’t make it a special day. No sir. It was still filled with pressies, balloons, family, food and all things Peppa Pig.  Not to mention morning games, a scooter race and, of course, lots of birthday cuddles!

And come dinner time, there was no shortage of food. We laid out lots of party favourites – including homemade sausage rolls, homemade chicken nuggets and mini pizzas – plus a spinach & ricotta fritatta and grilled eggplant salad for the grown-ups.

As for the birthday cake – well that was an easy decision. For my Peppa-pig-obsessed girl would want nothing else.

(Vanilla cake, decorated with chocolate biscuits and green icing piped to look like grass. Not forgetting the chocolate ganache ‘muddy puddle’ and a few figurines and flowers to top it all off!!)

The party girl seemed to be a big fan – even if she wasn’t quite sure how to blow out her candles. She did, however, love being sung to – and has requested we sing “Happy Birthday” to her on a daily basis since!

“Two” really has proven, again, to be such a fun age.  Little J is full of personality, and more words are coming every day. She is beyond independent, which both endears me and drives me wild (usually depending on how much of a rush we are in). And even when her tantrums are loud and insistent, it is generally not too long  before she breaks out in a big dimply smile that is simply contagious.

Current loves: yoghurt, milk, her evening routine, Peppa Pig, dogs, gymnastics, bananas and her big sister (and / or anything her big sister is doing, eating, playing with…)

Current dislikes: being told no, veggies as a general rule (!!!), not being able to do things herself.

A very happy birthday to our beautiful, bright, bubbly Little J indeed.

Australia Day 2017

You might recall that last year we indulged in a full tasting menu for Australia Day. Yes, 8 courses that took us on a culinary tour around the Country – celebrating fresh, local and seasonal produce.

And while this year was much more ‘low key’, we still filled the day with family and food, and a favourite pastime – a morning hike!

Needless to say after the morning’s outdoor adventures, we were quite hungry when the afternoon rolled around. Our family joined us for an early dinner – and with the temperature exceeding 30 degrees outside, a BBQ seemed to be the most logical, if not sanest, choice.

On the menu?

Some homemade sausages by our local butcher. Served with a few “Aussie-themed” sides.

Starting with a mango macadamia salad – comprising of salad leaves, fresh mango, avocado and macadamias. Dressed simply with a mixture of lime juice, seeded mustard, oil and sliced red chilli.

I also turned on the oven for 20 minutes or so, in order to make another iconic Australian side…damper! Flavoured with camembert and cracked pepper (and these turned out very moreish indeed).

For dessert we kept things pretty simple. Instead of a large pavlova, I went with mini versions instead. Topped with cream, lemon curd and a fresh raspberry.


And to keep us hydrated, we served a fresh fruit cocktail.

Akin to a punch – I guess you’d say – made with vodka, coconut rum, cooled tea, pineapple juice and ginger ale – finished with some frozen honeydew balls, mint and raspberry.

And so another Australia Day came to pass  – and we retired to bed with full bellies and fond memories of the day.

What about you? What did you get up to this Australia Day?

2016 – A Year in Review

I’ve heard a lot of people lamenting 2016 – and bidding it a quick and eager farewell. For us, though, 2016 was a good year. Sure, there were some less than stellar moments dotted throughout (but that’s generally the case isn’t it?) but for the most part, we finally managed to strike an ok work / life balance. We also made it through the year with good health and in good spirits, such that we enter 2017 with a sense of anticipation for what the new year might bring.

But before I turn to our hopes and aims for the year to come, it seems only fair to recap the year that was. 

January 

Summer holidays continued in full swing. We celebrated a late Christmas linner, devoured a 8-course Australia Day ‘tasting menu‘, and spent time playing tourist in our home town.

February

Josie turned ONE(!), Charlotte started Pre-School(!) and we took a week-long cruise around New Caledonia (see here, here, here and here).

March

Charlotte turned FOUR, we celebrated Easter and took lots of family hikes.

April

We took more family hikes, cheered on the Brumbies, went camping and got all dressed up for a costume party!

May

We celebrated Mother’s Day, took more hikes,  and had lots of little adventures – both indoors and out.

June

With the Canberra Winter having arrived, we had lots of fun indoors. We also took a girl’s road trip down to Melbourne to catch up with family and visit the zoo!

July

We had dance classes, visitors in town and lots of good food.

August

We celebrated Book Week, took a quick trip to Melbourne and then a family holiday to Fiji!

September

We celebrated Father’s Day – Italian Style, painted, created a fairy garden and flew a kite.

October

We took another trip to Melbourne, the girls dressed up for Halloween and the husband and I went on a “Bloody Long Walk” for charity.

November

We baked, we went to the Circus, we visited the Show and we celebrated our dear friends’ wedding in Thredbo (where we played in snow!).  

December

We ate, we drank, we partied.  We took a quick trip to Melbourne to celebrate my nephew’s 1st birthday. Then we had lots of family arrive into town, and celebrated Christmas accordingly.

And so our 2016 came to a close. Filled to the brim with new memories, time spent with family and a seemingly better balance between work and play (well better than in previous years, that’s for sure!!).

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2017!

Caramel chocolate celebration cake

img_1354It’s been a while since I put my ‘cake creation cap’ on. But when I was tasked with supplying dessert at a recent family dinner, well I figured it was well and truly time to dust off the ol’ cap and get to work.  Particularly when it was to be a birthday and “bon voyage” cake all in one.

img_1351I’ve seen lots of layer “drip” cakes doing the rounds, and decided to give one a try. I think my ganache was a little runny (resulting in rather drippy drips that were far from their picturesque pinterest cousins), but the flavour was still there. And I even went so far as to try my hand at Italian meringue buttercream in place of the usually sickly sweet American buttercream – and boy I’m glad that I did. For it worked just beautifully at mellowing out the otherwise rich caramel mudcake hidden inside – and meant that we reserved our sugar overload for the other goodies piled high on the cake – twix bars, jersey caramels, chocolate stars, malteasers and butterscotch popcorn.

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Yes, I think this was very appropriately dubbed a celebration cake – for it had a little of everything!        img_1358Caramel chocolate celebration cake

For the caramel mud cakes:

  • 400g butter, cubed
  • 400g white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 2 tbs golden syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 2 cups self raising flour, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line 2 x 22cm cake tins.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, water, golden syrup and vanilla in a saucepan. Stir over low heat, stirring, until the butter and chocolate melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Place the cooled chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the sifted flours and stir until combined.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the caramel Italian meringue buttercream:

  • 1 sugar + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 500g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce (or more to taste)
  1. Place the water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan, and stir to combine. Heat over a low to medium heat. Clip on a candy thermometer.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add a pinch of cream of tartar if you like. Start the mixer on medium-low to begin frothing the whites
  3. When the sugar begins to boil, increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high. When the whites are at soft peaks, gradually add the 1/4 cup of reserved sugar. Continue beating until they become stiff peaks, then change to the beater attachment.
  4. When the sugar reaches 120C, turn off the heat. With the mixer running on a low speed, slowly pour the hot sugar in a fine stream down the side of the bowl with the egg whites
  5. When all the sugar is added, increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has almost cooled (this takes a good 5–10 mins).
  6. When the meringue has cooled, start adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, while the mixer is running on medium.
  7. When all the butter has been added, increase the mixer to high to beat until the buttercream forms and is smooth. Change to the whisk attachment, add the caramel sauce, and whisk for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
  1. Heat the double cream in a saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate. Continue to stir until the mixture is thick and smooth, without any remaining lumps of chocolate. Place in the fridge until the desired “drip” consistency is reached.

To decorate

  • Prepared buttercream icing and ganache
  • Leftover caramel sauce
  • malteasers
  • butterscotch or caramel popcorn
  • chocolate stars
  • jersey caramels, halved
  • twix bars, halved

To assemble:

  1. Trim the tops off the cakes, so that they are even.
  2. Put a small dot of the buttercream on your serving plate, then place one of the cakes on top. Spread with a good amount of the buttercream, a little caramel sauce, then place the other cake on top.
  3. Using a palette knife, cover the cakes completely in the buttercream, starting with a crumb layer then a smooth outer layer. Place in the fridge for one hour to chill.
  4. Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the ganache over. You can do this using a disposable piping bag , or by gently spooning the ganache onto the centre of the cake and encouraging drips to fall down the sides.
  5. Top the cake with the various edible decorations, and place back in the fridge.
  6. Remove the cake from the fridge about half an hour before serving.

Father’s Day 2016

As has become tradition, we celebrated Father’s Day this year with an internationally themed lunch with Mr BBB’s family. You might recall that we’ve previously done Turkish, Mexican and Chinese themes, but this year it was all about…

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Italy!

A great excuse to fill the table with copious amounts of food. Not that I generally need an excuse though….

Again, like other years, it was more of a late lunch (or linner?), which soon turned into dinner as we ate, drank and chatted our way into the evening.

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The Food
IMG_9625 We started with a big antipasto platter, with lots of favourite items picked up from the markets. Truffle salami, goats cheese, prosciutto, artichokes and chilli olives, just to name a few.

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For main – we also had quite a few dishes on offer.  Veal involtini and baked gnocchi with pancetta and sage were the main stars, with a leafy salad, eggplant caponata, caprese salad and a garlic sourdough served alongside.

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All together now!

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And for dessert – well I couldn’t pick just one. So a selection of Italian desserts it was!

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Cranberry and pistachio nougat, almond biscotti, cannoli (I bought the shells but made two fillings – a vanilla ricotta and a lemon ricotta).

IMG_9661And finally – mini tiramisu cups – for what Italian-themed meal would  be complete without the iconic tiramisu!

To drink

We started with an Italian-inspired cocktail, made with Campari, Cointreau, orange juice and lemonade. Slightly bitter, but very refreshing. IMG_9695

While during the meal, we had Italian beer and this lovely Chianti on offer.
IMG_9637 Before too long, the sun started to set, and it was time to bid farewell to the family.  I don’t know about them, but I’m pretty sure I had to let out my belt buckle a notch or two, which is always a sign of a good family gathering right? Not to mention the smiles all round from these two cheeky monkeys (or is that four!?)
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A very Happy Father’s Day indeed!