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?

My words for 2017

I’m not one for resolutions, but I do appreciate the freshness of a new year. The chance to sit back and reflect on the year that was – what worked and what didn’t – and make some goals for the year to come.

We’ve worked hard over the last few years to get more balance back in our family life. And while it still remains a work in progress, it’s something that we think about, and talk about, often. Time always seems in short supply, and with two littlies in the house I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But making the most of the time we do have, filling it with fun and adventures, well that seems like a pretty good goal to me.

This year I sense that we are again going to be busy. Our calendar is already filling up – and the first half of the year is on its way to being pretty full. Miss C starts big school shortly, and Little J moves into an extra day at daycare, and I’m a bit unsure as to how we are going to fit in all the drop offs and pick ups, the other activities, fitness, family…..

And while I don’t have any resolutions for the year, per se, and I’m reluctant to commit to any firm “plan” (at least until I work out what the new normal is going to be) I do have a few words that I am going to give a little more attention to this year…

  • Create – I’ve missed writing, and creating in the kitchen, and its about time I got back into it. Starting with a more regular blogging schedule and perhaps a few other creative outlets. More recipe experiments, and expanding my knowledge of international cuisine too.
  • Capture –  I love photography, and want to make the conscious effort to grab my ‘good’ camera more. For the memories captured are always so special to me.
  • Focus – On the present, and the small. More moments spent cherishing the little things. Reading more books and writing more letters.
  • Adventure –  Continuing to embrace my love for the outdoors, and sharing this with our girls.

So, just a few words to get me started -on what I am sure is going to be a magical year!

What about you? What are your ‘words’ for 2017?

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!

Christmas 2016

I’ve always loved Christmas, but it feels even more special now that we have children in the house. For they bring a whole new level of excitement to the season – from school concerts and daycare parties, to tree redecorating and endless requests for carols when we are in the car.

While this year was to be a “Canberra” Christmas with my in-laws,  it ended up being a combined Christmas when my (Melbourne) family made the trip up the Hume to celebrate with us also.  This meant we had 5 extra people under our roof, including my gorgeous 1 year old nephew who the girls just adore, and needless to say a lot of fun was had by all!

Christmas Eve

Blessed with warm weather and sunny skies, Christmas Eve ‘day’ was all about fun. We put the finishing touches on the tree, decorated biscuits, played in the paddle pool and visited the local playground.

Our evening was spent watching the carols, feasting on homemade nibbles (think cheeses, antipasto, homemade sausage rolls, wonton cups…) and sipping on baileys eggnog made by our resident bartender for the evening – my little brother!  Oh and the kids made sure to leave out some treats for Santa and his Reindeers too – before finally falling into bed for the evening.

Christmas Day 

As is usually the case with young children, the whole house was up bright and early on Christmas morning. The girls were delighted to find their requested presents under the tree – namely a bike for C and a scooter for J. So much so that they wasted no time in racing to find their shoes and head outside for a spin.

With the kids well and truly occupied with their Santa presents, we got to work on brunch.  Croissants, french toast casserole,  eggs benedict, ham and a fruit platter – washed down with peach sangria. Perfect fuel for the upcoming adventures of the day (or perhaps it was more of a ‘head start’ as much of the day’s adventures involved more eating!!).

That’s right, after the littlest members of the family had taken their lunchtime naps, we put on our party dresses and headed over to my sister in-law’s house for part 2 of the day – namely a late lunch (or perhaps better described as an ‘early dinner’) – which included all the Christmas trimmings. Prawns, turkey, pork, ham, vegetables, salads….yes my plate (and belly) was full to the brim. Although I did find some space for dessert – particularly when not one, but four were on offer. My favourite being the locally made plum pudding!

And just like that, the sun began to set and another Christmas Day came to pass. I returned home with my belt buckle loosened, and feeling very grateful for the day’s wonderful food, great company and lots of laughs (not to mention being able to spend the day with all of my nearest and dearest!).

And I can only imagine how much mischief the little cousins are going to get up to together in the years to come….

Random Ramblings

I had all good intentions of posting a ‘5 things Friday’ – but here we are on Saturday and no such post was written. But there have been a lot of little happenings of late, and I just returned from a lovely facial + massage combination (cashing in a Christmas gift certificate, thanks Amanda!), and am feeling particularly relaxed. So a sneaky little blog post it is…

Adventuring? We had a great time at the Circus last weekend. Little J was enamoured with the lights, sound and action from the very first minute (and we discovered that she is a huge fan of popcorn too!)

img_1076Oh and the clowns were a big hit also – so much so that we are now the proud owners of a slinky and a cheap necklace…

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Creating? We finally finished our family photo wall! It has been on the to-do list for years now, and I am so chuffed to see it come to life. The idea being that we add a new family portrait to the line up each year.
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Feeling? Very much like this year is slipping by all too fast. We had an activity evening at C’s pre-school last night, and little J wasted no time in joining in the fun. It seems like only yesterday that I was wheeling her to the preschool in the pram, and now she is out running around with all the big kids.

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Smiling? At Miss C’s ever-developing art and writing skills. Not a day goes by where she doesn’t pull out the textas and create us a masterpiece. On this occasion it was a ‘get well soon’ drawing for her Nanna, complete with self-portrait, her grandparents, two horses, a pig, a bull and a lion!
img_1128 Baking? Two big batches of rocky road with my little ‘helpers’. Although I think they did more bowl licking than anything else….
img_1064Missing? My sunglasses. If you know me, you know that I am never without them.  I remember taking them off as I walked into work on Friday, and putting them in my bag, but they are now nowhere to be found. And I’m well and truly feeling as though I am going (sun-squinty) crazy!

Indulging? In addition to the facial + massage I got this morning, I also got my nails painted. I saved the beautician from the horror that is my runner / walker’s feet – and opted to have my fingernails painted instead. Something I almost never do – but I must say I’m quite loving the look.

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Although I suspect kids + chores = they will be chipped in 6 hours!

But now, time to enjoy the rest of the weekend (and keep looking for my sunnies….)

5 things Friday

Oh Friday, how happy I am to see you! Time for a ‘5 things Friday’ I think!

  1. This weekend we have a lot of fun things planned. A trip to the Circus and the school Fete being two. Although I suspect the weekend will involve a lot less walking than last weekend, when Mr BBB and I tackled the “Bloody Long Walk”. A 35km charity walk that took us just over 6 hours to complete (and I think my legs are still feeling it…)

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2. Another reason I am feeling tired at the moment? One word….

Josie.

Yes we have well and truly hit the tantrum phase, coupled with the independent phase. Getting dressed, meals and generally trying to get out of the house has been routinely frustrated by our spirited 21-month old.

This photo is a good example. For not even two minutes after it was taken, she was horrified, HORRIFIED, when I stopped her from throwing paint on the ground and deteriorated into an all-consuming tantrum that lasted a good 25 minutes!

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3. Her big sister, on the other hand, is in a wonderful stage. Filled with lots of role-play and arts. We bought this costume for her daycare Halloween party, and she’s pretty much been living in it ever since.

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4. Tantrums aside, there is another thing I know for sure about J and that is her absolute adoration for her big sister. Wherever C is, J won’t be too far behind. And whatever C is doing, well J will give it a go too. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part they are great buddies.

img_0596 5. Another recent favourite moment? Having “Jonpa” in town on a particular splendid Canberra weekend – which turned out to be perfect kite flying weather too. Needless to say a lot of fun was had at the Arboretum!
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What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Reminiscing…

School holidays have arrived, as have a couple long weekends, so a trip to see my family in Melbourne was a must! The girls and I headed down the Hume, and I’m pleased to report that both have been amazing despite living out of a suitcase and bed-hopping between motels, and various family members’ houses.

It’s always fantastic to head to the town I grew up in, and show the girls my old  “haunts”. But a recent find while clearing out our garage – brought back lots of memories for me too. A box filled to the brim with old photographs and holiday memorabilia, that I had no idea I’d kept.

What a find indeed!

Cue: Hours of reminiscing as I scanned the best photos into my computer (while thinking that I will have to put together a photo album sometime soon).

But in the meantime? Here are some pictures that brought back particularly fond memories…

img_0010-4Dad and I, circa 1983 (?) at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. This photo makes me laugh as it was obviously taken before my irrational fear of birds kicked in. I can almost 100% guarantee that you would never see me standing this close to a bunch of birds these days.

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Yarrawonga circa 1982. I’ve always been a horse lover – and it seems our girls are too!

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I can’t remember where this was taken, but I loved all the little adventures our family used to take.

img_0021Twinning at Kindergarten. I definitely remember this jumper – and am left wondering why legwarmers are no longer in fashion.

img_0023-3I see so much of Charlotte in this picture, that I think was taken at my 6th birthday party(?). I’m also loving the fancy wine glasses (that were probably filled with Sunkist), and the awesome 70s curtains in the background.

img_0003-2I have no idea who my bike buddy is, but we are definitely looking like kids of the 80s! Girly-mullet for me and all…img_0004Our Bear. The stinkiest Rottweiler x Alsatian rescue dog that you ever did meet. But with a heart of pure gold.

img_0048-2This would have to be one of my all-time favourite photos of my little brother. Though I suspect it was taken not too long before he attempted a BMX jump and knocked out his two front teeth !?

img_0126Mixed doubles tennis champions! Tennis was my sport of choice throughout high school and taking home the “flag” one year was definitely a highlight. As were the colourful parachute tracksuits that my Mum used to buy me…

img_0005And finally, Miss Tess. Proving that she is, and has always been, one weird cat!

5 things Friday

1. Spring is here! And I could not be happier to see the trees blossoming (and the daylight hours growing) . I’m not so happy that I’ve managed to pick up what seems to be a head cold / virus though – particularly as 5 days later the symptoms remain and I’ve now completely lost my voice?! img_96212. And although I do love Spring, for it means we’ve survived another Canberra winter, it does herald the arrival of a neighbourhood foe…..aka the swooping magpie. I’ve been religiously checking the Magpie Alert website and so far no swoopers have been spotted on my walking routes, but that doesn’t stop me flinching / cowering / shaking everytime I see a magpie nearby.

The fear is real, people!

3. Note to self: Do NOT fill up the lolly jar when you know you are sick. I tend to crave sweet foods when I am under the weather – which means this (once full) jar has been taking quite a hit these last few days.

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4. A favourite moment of the week? Watching these two crazy kids race laundry baskets around the kitchen bench again, and again, and again.

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Who needs toys right?

5. Another ‘proud mama’ moment? Seeing how far Miss C has come in her writing. Every evening as I cook dinner, she sits at the bench and practices her letters and numbers, and is loving being able to write us little letters.

img_9922 The cuteness!

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!

Family time in Fiji

IMG_9117If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that recently my feed was filled with all things sunshine, palm trees and beaches. For our family fled the cold Canberra winter, and took a holiday to Fiji. Our first time to this amazing country, and one that we will no doubt return to again.IMG_9088 I managed to fill a whole memory card with photos, but here’s my best attempt at keeping our story ‘condensed’.
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The girls travelled really well – even when we discovered that the Virgin flight over offered no in-flight entertainment (?!) and the hostess would not even give me a pillow when Little J fell asleep on my lap (and therefore and so did my arm!). Thankfully the flight back with Fiji Airways was far more pleasant – with lots of entertainment to keep us occupied during the 4 hours flight.

After arriving in Fiji, we took a private transfer to what would become our home away from home – The Warwick Resort. Located on the Coral Coast, and a 2 hour drive from the Nadi airport.

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We were given a warm welcome, and the generous and kind hospitality only grew from there. I’d heard that the Fijians love kids, and this proved so true. Every staff member we passed greeted us with an energetic ‘Bula’, but the real warmth came when they interacted with the kids. For most often they scooped Charlotte and Josie up for cuddles or gave them a high five as we passed. Needless to say, the girls loved the attention!

IMG_9375 IMG_9156 IMG_8962It didn’t take us long to settle into a holiday routine. Generally I would get up before the kids, and take a walk along the beach. Most mornings I had company in the form of a dog (or dogs) from a nearby village, who were quite happy to trot along beside me as I explored the area.

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From there – we headed off to breakfast at the Buffet. A decent selection of all the usual breakfast items – with hot and cold selections on offer. Perfect energy for the morning ahead, which usually consisted of swimming and exploring.

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The Resort also offered a Kids program (for ages 2 and up) – which Charlotte LOVED. Filled with lots of activities – including fish feeding, arts and crafts, cooking classes, games, face painting and the like.

IMG_9085 IMG_9090 We usually ate lunch by the pool, where a Bar and Grill offered a variety of meal options. From burgers, to salads, or heartier meals for bigger appetites – there seemed to be something for everyone.  Washed down with a cocktail, or two.

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The Grill also had ‘kids meals’ – a lunch box including a hot treat (toasted sandwich, fish, chicken etc), plus fruit, vegetables, crackers and cheese.

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IMG_8992As Josie still has a lunch nap, we used the middle part of the day to rest and relax. Most days Charlotte fell asleep too, and we savoured the quiet time.

After lunch, however, the adventures continued.  We spent time at the beach, paddling in the water and building sand castles.

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Although Josie was too young to go to the Kids Club, the Resort has a Nanny service (for a modest fee) which we took advantage of most afternoons for a few hours. During this time Mr BBB and I headed off for a game of tennis or squash,  or out kayaking, and indulged in another cocktail in the lounges overlooking the beach.
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And while we certainly loved the resort-life, I couldn’t help but book a few extra things for us to do during our stay. The first was a horseride with Charlotte – something I had been promising her since her last birthday. A hut next to the resort had beach rides on offer, so one morning we did just that. An hour spent riding along the beach together, chatting with our local guide about all things Fiji. (ps. he was horrified to learn that we live 2 hours from the beach!)

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Another nearby business also offered a ‘Waterfall tour’ and a visit to the nearby Biausevu village. We booked this for our final day – and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We were collected from the Resort in the morning, and driven to the village, where we were met with big smiles, participated in a kava ceremony and language lesson.

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From there, we hiked up to the Waterfall (about a 30-40 minute walk), making 9 shallow river crossings along the way. Realising that the walk was probably a little far for Charlotte, we accepted the offer of a horse ride, and she rode the entire way up and back with a young villager – smiling the whole time!

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The waterfall was gorgeous, as promised, and we wasted no time in cooling off with a swim. We also feasted on freshly picked wild grapefruit and coconut.

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After our afternoon adventures, we usually freshened up and headed to the pool-side for a pre-dinner drink and to watch the beating of the ‘Lali’ as well as the torch lighting. This was definitely a highlight for the girls, who got to have a go at beating the drum.

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Then it was off to dinner. Some evenings we dined at the Buffet – which usually had a theme (Fijian, Tex Mex, Indian etc). One night we went to the on-site pizza restaurant, which was rather delicious, while another night we indulged in an enormous seafood platter at another restaurant on site – the Wicked Walu.

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Most evenings had some sort of entertainment on offer too. Be it dance and song demonstrations, or games on the beach, lots to fill in our time before we fell into bed to get some rest before doing it all again the next day.

Some other highlights from our trip?

* Watching the Fiji Sevens take Gold at the Olympics – particularly as many of the players were from a nearby village.

* Being disconnected from the pressures of work and home life, and spending some great quality time together as a family…
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* Managing to somehow miss the heavy rain from the week before, and be blessed with gorgeous sunsets over the water every evening.

IMG_9261 IMG_9217 IMG_9089 But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And it was definitely with a touch of sadness that we said goodbye to this beautiful country and made our way back home. Bringing with us, though, so many memories and a yearning for more overseas travel.

I’d certainly say that Fiji is a “family friendly” holiday destination, with lots on offer for all ages.

But a few tips we picked up along the way:

* Fiji time is definitely a thing. There is no sense of urgency, so be prepared to wait a while for meals and drinks etc.

* Reef shoes were really handy – as the beach was quite studded with rocks and dried coral.

* Snacks and drinks are available were available for purchase at the Resort – however they were quite expensive. Next time we would probably stock up with water, snacks, beer etc from a supermarket on the way.