The trolls movie is continuing to be a big hit in our household. So when I asked Josie what sort of party she would like for her 5th (!!) birthday, well I was not surprised when she immediately requested a Trolls Party. And what a fun theme it was. The smoky days in Canberra in January meant we also had a lot of time indoors to get out the glue gun and craft supplies, and create an abundance of troll-tastic decorations – including singing flowers, troll headbands and our very own Cloud guy!
With the help of Pinterest, we served lots of Troll-inspired food for the occasion. I opted to go with things I could make in advance (mainly because we were celebrating my husband’s birthday and catering for over 80 guests the day before). So there were definitely little ‘cheats’ here and there, but we were so pleased with the final spread. Rainbow jelly, lollies, fairy bread, cookies, fruit, muffins, chips and homemade sausage rolls.
With the help of some store-bought mudcakes and wafers the birthday cake also came together in no time at all. I topped the cake with some green buttercream, icing flowers and a gorgeous rainbow topper that I picked up from Etsy(?). A little Poppy toy sat atop the cake and the birthday girl was so pleased with the final result!
We had around 20 kids at the party – so I was sure to get some help when it came to the entertainment. “Poppy” from Glitterbomb Parties was an amazing host – and spent a few hours playing games and dancing – and even had time for some face painting!
You know I cam never resist putting together some party bags to thank the guests for coming and celebrating with us. The girls loved helping pack the little handbags we found – with a Trolls cup, rainbow seeds and other goodies.
Overall, the birthday girl (and her sisters for that matter!) had a blast – and was one tired little Troll by the end.
But just like in previous years, I’m at a loss to explain just where the last year went!
In some ways, Christmas feels like it was months ago – a sentiment that is likely shared by many. Not to mention that for some, Christmas was not celebrated all, as people fought for their homes amidst the bushfires raging across the country.
We were one of the lucky ones – who were fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas not once, but twice – first with my in-laws in Canberra, and then with my family in Melbourne. And as the events unfolded on New Years Eve, we were very grateful that we decided to stay in Canberra after we returned from Melbourne, and not head to the coast for our camping trip as planned. Sadly my father in-law’s farm house was lost in the fire at Mogo (he was home in Canberra at the time, thank goodness), as was our camper trailer that was set up alongside. But we are all safe, and insured, and I’m feeling so relieved that our kids didn’t witness the events first hand (as many had to). The whole situation is heartbreaking – I’ve no other words to describe it.
Whilst now somewhat of a distant memory, December was, by all accounts, rather the opposite to our January thus far. For we are currently cooped up inside to avoid, as best we can, the thick smoke that has rolled in outside. A far cry from December, when we were barely home due to a calendar laden with social events – everything from school concerts and daycare parties to work dinners and general catch ups with friends. Work was rather hectic too, so there were not too many moments of downtime. But overall, it was a fun month, and the girls were particularly taken with a surprise guest who arrived just after we put up the Christmas tree!
As I mentioned earlier, we celebrated Christmas not once, but twice. Prompted by my niece’s return from Vietnam, we hosted an early Christmas lunch with my in-laws at our house in mid December. Presents were opened, cocktails were sipped and thanks to everyone “bringing a plate”, a rather indulgent lunch was enjoyed by all – with the effort shared. There was a glazed ham, turkey with homemade stuffing and roast pork with delicious crispy crackling. We contributed duck fat roast potatoes and a few varieties of salad, along with a pavlova wreath for dessert.
On the 20th of December, we headed down the Hume to spend Christmas with my family. The cousins had an absolute blast playing together – loving the fact that they were all staying under one roof. Carols were sung, impromptu kitchen dance parties were held, Christmas cookies were made, cocktails were drunk and a great time was generally had by all. And that was all before the big day!
Waking up together on Christmas Day was extra special, and I loved seeing the kids’ little eyes light up with delight when they came across their presents (and discovered what the reindeer had done to their carrots!). Alll while rocking our matching PJs, of course.
After getting everyone showered and into their finest, we headed to my sister-in-law’s parents for lunch. More presents were opened, champagne was popped, and we indulged in the most delicious Christmas lunch. Prawns, pork, ham, turkey and lots of salad – they had it all! And as an added bonus, we spent the afternoon swimming in their pool, which turns out was the perfect way to work up an appetite for pavlova and trifle for a late dessert.
We headed back to Canberra the day after boxing day, our hearts (and bellies) full and our car jam packed. The weather was hot, and the air a tad smoky, but we certainly had no idea of what was to come a few days later. But beautiful Christmas memories were made nonetheless.
I wish you all a wonderful 2020, from my little family to yours. May it bring peace, happiness and RAIN!!
If you have been following this blog for a while now, it would be quite obvious that I lean towards dishes that are easy and quick to prepare. It wasn’t always that way, however, particularly in the now quite distant “BK (Before Kids) Era” when I most certainly had more time on my hands.
Not that I realised it at the time.
But every now and then I get an itch to try something new in the kitchen. Be it a dish I haven’t made before, or to use an ingredient that I haven’t yet tried. When we decided on a German theme for our (not so) recent Fathers Day Linner, memories of walking the streets of Munich with a soft pretzel in hand came flooding back. Another BK Era experience, but one I knew I had to re-create (the pretzel part, at least ) even knowing that it would require a good amount of time.
I found this recipe – which was perfect inspiration and just what I was hoping to create. I started by making a dough, and after leaving it to prove for an hour, divided the dough into 8 portions. Each portion was then rolled into a log, and twisted into the all too familiar pretzel shape.
After resting for another 30 minutes, I simmered the pretzels in water / brown sugar / bicarb soda, until they had started to puff.
After a quick drain, it was time to bake! Before popping the pretzels into the oven, I brushed the tops with a little egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. After 12 minutes in a hot oven, they had turned a gorgeous golden brown.
As for the roasted garlic and mustard butter, well this was definitely the simplest part. I roasted the unpeeled garlic cloves (drizzled with a little oil and enclosed in foil for 20 minutes. Then, when cool enough to handle, I squeezed the garlic from the skin, and added it to softened butter with a good amount of seeded mustard.
When it was time to serve, it was just a matter of plating the pretzels with a bowl of the butter alongside for our family to help themselves. I was thrilled with the finished product – the pretzels were light and fluffy, and worked beautifully with the garlic mustard butter. They were a nice alternative to the usual bread or bread roll side (and not to mention a fantastic trip down memory lane!)
Sleep-ins, smiles, sunshine and food – yes those seem to be the recurrent themes of Father’s Day these past few years. For Canberra again gave us an almost Spring-like weather to celebrate the main Man in our lives – and the girls ensured that he was well and truly spoilt throughout the day!
There was breakfast in bed, lots of homemade cards and gifts, followed by a ‘leave pass’ to go and get a massage!
Not to mention our usual Father’s Day Linner which was, of course, given an international theme. This year – it was all things German!
Nibbles to start, served with a rather refreshing “Hugo” cocktail – made with gin, elderflower cordial and prosecco.
Followed by the main event – featuring homemade soft pretzels with garlic butter, mushroom tartlets, schnitzel and a variety of sides – potato salad, kale salad, marinated red cabbage and a cucumber / dill salad.
All together now!
And for dessert? Well why have one dessert when you can have two!
Warm apple strudel straight from the oven(not pictured), along with a chocolate fix in the form of a black forest inspired chocolate ripple cake.
And before we knew it, the afternoon had turned into evening, as we shared a wonderful day with family celebrating the fathers in our lives. Not to mention adding another food “destination” to our annual Father’s Day celebration.
And just because I can’t resist a trip down memory lane…
Working with fondant is far from my strong point when it comes to baking. But I have, over the years, being trying to improve my skills, which admittedly remain very basic.
When we settled on a Farmyard theme for Miss M’s recent birthday party, I decided to carry over the theme for a batch of cupcakes she would be taking to daycare. And while I was initially tempted to purchase the toppers (there are so many great cake decorators out there!) I figured that perhaps it was a good opportunity to work on my fondant skills.
Armed with fondant of various colours, – along with edible glue, eyes and 3 little helpers who were more than eager to assist – we got to work.
First – the pigs!
I rolled out some pink fondant, then cut four large circles for the faces, four smaller circles for the nose, and four more circles that I cut in half and shaped into ears. Glued together with the edible glue, and finished with the pre-made edible eyes…
Next up – the chickens!
I rolled out yellow fondant, and cut four large circles for the bodies, and four small circles that were then cut in half to make the wings. I used red fondant cut into small triangles for the beaks, and again, edible eyes.
And finally, the cows!
These were probably the most fiddly. I used four circles of white fondant for the faces, four smaller pink circles for the noses, then shaped smaller black circles (again, cut in half) for the ears and the “spots”.
After a few hours of construction, we had ourselves some farmyard cupcake toppers! I let them sit out (uncovered) overnight, so that they could firm up a little, then attached them to cupcakes with a swirl of buttercream. And thanks to a cardboard cupcake box (purchased from Latorta), we were able to easily transfer them to daycare for the kids to enjoy!
I was so happy with how they turned out – and can’t wait to try my hand at another theme sometime soon! Using pre-coloured fondant (as opposed to colouring my own) was probably not the cheapest option, but it definitely saved me a bit of time – not to mention avoiding the inevitable staining of hands…
Long time readers of this blog will realise that this is not the first time we transformed our backyard into a farmyard, of sorts. Miss M seemingly loves animals just as much as her biggest sister did at the same age (and truthfully, still does) so an animal themed party for her recent birthday seemed like the perfect theme!
We again invited a local petting zoo to set up outside, and before long – our backyard was transformed into a mini farm – complete with chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and ducks.
I must admit I was a tad nervous about holding an outdoor party in July – knowing the Canberra Winter can be brutal. But we must have pleased the weather gods because the sun came out and the afternoon ended up being relatively mild (for Canberra, at least).
In advance of the party, Miss C declared herself no.1 party helper – so we spent the morning setting up the food table and an activity table for the kids topped with textas and bubbles. She even ran a scavenger hunt for the kiddies during the party, and helped them find plastic eggs that the “chickens” had hidden around the garden.
As for the food, well we had a lot of fun creating ‘barnyard’ themed party food – including mousse (topped with homemade fondant pigs), jelly, vegetables / hummus, savoury scrolls, wagon wheels and a bunch of other goodies.
In anticipation of a chilly afternoon, we also set up a hot chocolate bar – with hot chocolate made in the slow cooker – along with marshmallows and whipped cream.
As for the cake, I topped some store-made mud cakes with fondant – the bottom layer resembling cow print and the top being a little farmyard. Finished with some purchased cardboard barn and farm animal toppers.
Before we knew it, the sun began to set and it was time to say goodbye to our guests – both furry and human. I have no doubt that Miss Maggie loved being the centre of attention – although she was a little confused when she went outside the following day to find it devoid of animals.
This year, Miss C asked for a Harry Potter themed party to celebrate her 7th birthday. She also asked to hold the party at a local games Arcade.
The choice of venue meant that we had limited options when it came to decorating, but that didn’t stop us from embracing the theme where we could. For what a great theme it was!
We set up the tables with Harry Potter plates and cups, and filled the table with chocolate crackles, jelly, fruit, juice and other party goodies. A Ferrero rocher golden snitch adjourned each plate, as well as the all-important birthday cake.
And with the help of Pinterest, the local craft store and several fun ‘arts and crafts’ afternoons – we created party bags for the guests that were jammed packed with all things “Harry Potter”!
Let’s take a look inside, shall we?
I found some awesome Harry Potter cups on e-bay, along with heavily-discounted fidget spinners at the local cheapie-store (remember when fidget spinners were a thing?! I never understood the hype…)
We made our very own spell books using these printables, glued into little notebooks we picked up at Kmart.
And of course we couldn’t resist including a selection of Harry Potter sweet treats. A chocolate frog, a dementor-attack chocolate bar, jelly slugs, fizzing whizbees, dragon hearts and Bertie-Bott’s every flavour beans.
All together now!
And after we sent each little wizard home with their own Harry Potter party bag – I was told that many of them were casting spells late into the night.
This year, we actually were awake at midnight on New Year’s Eve. We had spent the afternoon at our friends’ place swimming in their pool and watching all the kids have a ball. Champagne was drunk, great food was eaten and many laughs were had.
But for me the evening wasn’t just about celebrating the start of a new year, but also about remembering what a wonderful year we had just had. For while many people seemed to be wishing away the year that was, on reflection, we had a pretty amazing year. Sure – there were the usual ‘stresses’ associated with a busy work and home life, a seemingly never-ending Winter and lots of other little challenges thrown in along the way, but for the most part we had a lot of fun. Good health, lots of adventures and so many wonderful memories made. Not to mention a little baby that turned into a toddler before our very eyes!
In January we had found ourselves with a little extra time before I headed back to work and the kids headed back to school. So we headed off on a “girls” road trip to Melbourne to catch up with my family and share cuddles with my newest niece.
February was all about Miss J – who turned 3! We celebrated with a Fairy themed party and a lot of fun was had by all. Then Miss C started grade 1 the following week and I returned to work part time.
March was all about Miss C who turned 6 (how did that happen?). We planned on throwing her a small afternoon tea with a couple of friends, but this somehow turned into a larger gathering with 12 energetic and spirited 6 year old girls bouncing around our house! We finished off the month with a less loud, but definitely delicious, annual Good Friday seafood feast.
April started with a “bang” as we had 4 extra adults and 2 extra kids staying with us for Easter. Yes my family arrived into town – and the cousins had an absolute ball. Easter Sunday was filled with egg hunts, a hearty roast lunch and the Inaugural Easter Olympics! We finished off the month by heading to Thredbo with friends for a late-season mountain bike weekend – where lots of biking, chairlift rides and hot chocolates ensued.
May proved to be a busy month too. I headed to Sydney for a work conference, then headed down to Narooma for a weekend at the beach with my Dad. Mother’s Day was celebrated somewhere in there too!
In June we opted to escape the Canberra cold and tagged along with the hubs to his work conference on the Gold Coast. While he did his work ‘thing’, the girls and I explored the theme parks – loving the warmer weather. We also had a lot of fun throwing a rainbow themed baby shower for my niece when we returned!
And just like that, we found ourselves in July and little Miss M turned ONE!! We celebrated with a Teddy Bear’s Picnic – and the cake smash was a hit. We again escaped the Canberra cold shortly thereafter, heading to Fiji for a family vacation.
Our August was a little more low-key, as we returned from our trip away and settled back in to the work / school routine. I did, however, sneak a few outings with my Mum (who came to live with us for 5 months) – including a wine tasting afternoon and a trip to the Theatre.
In September we celebrated our ‘main men’ for Father’s Day. The girls loved making cards and a special breakfast in bed – after which we got together with family for an Island-inspired lunch.
In October I headed down to Melbourne (sans kids) for a 20-year reunion with my friends from high school (surely I am not that old, right?!). The girls and I also had a great time at Floriade – taking a ride on the ferris wheel and running amok amongst the gorgeous blooms. We finished the month with a Halloween party with friends, and had a lot of fun picking our costumes for the occasion and making some ‘spooky’ treats.
In November we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary – with a lovely degustation dinner at Aubergine. We then threw our parents a surprise gold wedding anniversary lunch – at the beautiful Piallago Estate. Miss C also had her ballet concert – and simply shone on stage!
December was, as is to be expected, all about Christmas!! There were carols, Christmas parties, tree decorating and carols of repeat. All leading up to the big day that was filled with great company and great food. It really is a magical time of year when kids are involved!
So, yes, 2018 was rather wonderful indeed! And here’s to an even bigger, brighter and better 2019!!
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…
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!