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!
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!
Yes not the normal sort of phase you might find yourself going through, but its a recent craving that I’ve been more than happy to satisfy.
I suspect it has something do with eggplant’s heartiness. It feels like it adds a bit of bulk to dishes – particularly when you are using it in place of meat, for example.
Take this salad, for instance. So simple to prepare, but quite easily a stand-alone meal (although it would almost certainly work as a tasty side dish too).
I thinly sliced the eggplant, and grilled the slices for 5 minutes or so until soft and golden. Then it was simply a matter of combining the eggplant slices with baby spinach, lentils, capsicum, cucumber and feta – and finishing the dish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
I’d give you a recipe – but there really is no more to it. Just lots of simple, fresh flavours – that come together to make a tasty meal. Not to mention colourful!
I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I tell you that our evening routine is a little “unpredictable” at the moment. Nothing too dramatic, just a bit more on the relaxed side as we settle into life as a family of 5. Miss Maggie tends to want to nurse, pretty much non-stop, from around 5pm – which coincides with the other girls’ dinner and bath time, and the time I’d usually be spending working on dinner for the ‘grownups’ too.
But we all need to eat, and I am trying to avoid takeout where I can, so I’m pleased to report meal planning is still in full force. Actually, if anything, meal planning is probably a tad stricter than ever at the moment as ducking to the supermarket with three kids in tow is not all that appealing. I’m doing the bulk of our grocery shopping online, and loving being able to sit down and order groceries from the comfort of the couch after the bigger kids have gone to bed. Not to mention having a weeks worth of fresh ingredients literally delivered to my kitchen at a time that suits us!
The meals themselves, however, have generally been quick and easy to prepare. Leftovers are then tucked away for a quick lunch the following day, or frozen for future dinners when cooking one-handed is inevitable.
One of our favourite meals, lately, has been tacos. The kids prefer the crunchy shelled tacos, generally filled with some sort of savoury mince and vegetables. While I tend to go with soft tortillas, filled with whatever we have on hand.
On this occasion, I found inspiration in a Healthy Food Guide magazine – in the form of spicy chicken tacos. The added bonus being that they came together in no time at all.
Chicken – spiced and grilled in the sandwich press – piled high onto wholemeal tortillas and topped with pre-cut coleslaw. Actually the only real effort, if you could even call it ‘effort’, was blending up the avocado/ yoghurt dressing to serve alongside.
Definitely a winner all round!
Spicy chicken tacos with avocado dressing (serves 4)
500g chicken tenderloins
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
3 tbs lime juice
Bag of pre-cut coleslaw
1 avocado, mashed
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
Warmed wholemeal tortillas, to serve
Combine the spices, oil and 2 tbs of the lime juice. Add the chicken and toss to coat well.
Pre-heat chargrill pan or frypan over a medium heat. Grill chicken until cooked through. Place on a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, combine the avocado, yoghurt and remaining lime juice in a small bowl, and stir until smooth. Season.
Fill the warmed tortillas with the chicken, coleslaw and avocado dressing.