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.

Carnival 1st Birthday Party

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This past weekend, we celebrated all things Josephine. For Little J turned the big O-N-E (and therefore we too survived that hard & sleep-deprived first year). And, as is often the case when I start party planning, a rough ‘idea’ soon turned into quite the party DIY extravaganza.

IMG_4145We ended up with over 15 kids at the party + parents + family, so needless to say it was quite a full house! But it was chaotic in a fun way, and Josie is certainly lucky to have so many wonderful people in her life. As are we.

The theme

I can’t quite recall why we decided to have a carnival / circus theme, but it seemed fun and festive and a great way to keep the older kids entertained. For while we had plenty of 3 to 5 year olds, Josie was the second youngest at the party (not having met many new friends her age just yet). That didn’t stop her from trying to follow the other kids around though, albeit crawling, and generally enjoying all the cuddles from family and friends who had come to help us celebrate.

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The food

We set up a food table – with all things “carnival”. There was fairy floss, lolly pops, cinnamon doughnuts, popcorn, marshmallow cones, animal crackers, fruit kebabs, puff pastry pinwheels, clown noses (jaffas) and chocolate sparkles (all of which I could make ahead of time). During the party we served mini hot-dogs, party pies and sausage rolls, with dips / vegetable sticks, chips and lollies also on offer. And while I thought I may have over-catered, there was barely a cracker left by the end. And I’m pretty sure there were quite a few sugar highs being had.

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The entertainment

We couldn’t resist preparing a few carnival-inspired games for our guests to enjoy at their leisure. Ring Toss, Duck Pond fishing and Can Toss (made by covering some old cans in fabric). We also had a balloon darts game which was a lot of fun for the adults later in the day (ps. darts is NOT my specialty it would seem). The kids also had a ball getting their faces painted and having balloon animals made for them, and playing at the little photo booth with props.

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IMG_6503The cake

As for the cake, well it turned out to be quite the monster! My niece helped with the fondant (her skills certainly surpassing mine) and we ended up creating a two-tiered chocolate cake decorated with carnival shapes and colours.

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The idea was that Josie could do a cake smash with the top layer. Knowing how much of an ‘into everything’ girl she is I was positive she would embrace the opportunity to smoosh up some sticky chocolate cake. Alas, as is often the case with kids (who insist on proving you wrong) she wanted NO part in such frivolity and yelled the whole time. Although I must admit that was rather cute too.

IMG_6568 IMG_6581Overall, we had a wonderful time with our nearest and dearest – and I was so lucky to have my family up from Melbourne for the occasion too (including my 8-week old nephew).

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Happy 1st Birthday my beautiful Josie. How is it that you are ONE already??

Our Australia Day ‘Tasting’ Menu

This year we decided to celebrate Mr BBB’s birthday on Australia Day – for the whole family had the day off (and his actual birthday is only a day later in any event).

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It seemed only appropriate to go with a very Australian theme, but I struggled to settle on a menu. For every region of this beautiful Country seems to have its own unique flavours, tastes and influences – and it would be shame to overlook them.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. I would create a menu of ‘tastes’, and take our family on a culinary tour of Australia. Inspired by and hopefully highlighting local and native flavours.

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My big goal was to use only Australian produce and ingredients, and I am pleased to report that with the help of the markets, delis and local stores, that goal was met

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Tasmania

We started our tour in Tasmania – a State that I have never visited but heard so many wonderful things about.

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Our first dish was created using Tasmanian Huon smoked salmon, dill crème fraiche (Yea) and cucumber –  resulting in a lovely little canapé to start our meal.

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From there we headed across the Bass Straight to Victoria, where ricotta and Beechworth honey were the key ingredients in our second dish.

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On the menu? Ricotta crostini with ricotta, pear, walnuts and honey.

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Washed down with a Napoleone & Co apple / pear cider from the Yarra Valley.

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Australian Capital Territory

We headed to my hometown next, and I knew that smoked chicken from Poacher’s Pantry had to feature (yes, yes, I know it is technically located just over the border but we can claim it as our own surely??!).

IMG_6311 Our third dish of the day was a smoked chicken tarlet, with a homemade rocket pesto and bush tomato relish from Posh Nosh (a local creator of all things relish!).

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New South Wales

We then continued our journey north, stopping in New South Wales for a salad.

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Created with spinach, apples, feta and wild cherries, dressed with a tasty black genoa fig vinegar from the Hunter Valley.

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Queensland

Next stop – the Sunshine state. With gorgeous Tiger prawns and an abundance of tropical fruit as our focus.

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I marinated the prawns in a little oil and lemon zest, then they were cooked on the BBQ. Accompanied by a fruit salsa – comprising pineapple, mango, nectarine and mint.

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Served with a Pepper Tree Pinot Gris.

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Northern Territory

Then it was onto the Northern Territory – with barramundi as our key ingredient.

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Seasoned with native lemon pepper from Herbies, and cooked on the BBQ. Finished with a little Murrumbooee mango and tamarind chutney on the side.

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On the side? Some freshly baked wattleseed damper rolls.

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Western Australia

We then headed west for our last savoury dish of the day (letting out our belt-buckles as we went). I couldn’t resist including kangaroo on the menu (and it turns out that Little J is a big fan!).

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Marinated in white wine and ground pepperberry, and cooked on the BBQ. Served on a carrot puree with a red wine and pepperberry jus.

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Enjoyed with a glass of Marmaduke Shiraz.

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South Australia

Our last stop for the day was South Australia. With inspiration taken from its gorgeous wine regions.

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To conclude our meal? Sparkling Shiraz jellies – with raspberries and blueberries. A sweet ending.

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And just like that our culinary trip around Australia was complete. Although not before squeezing in a few games of Australia Day bingo (or should that be Australia Day ‘cooee’).

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It was definitely a fun afternoon, sampling so many unique flavours. Not to mention rekindling a love for local ingredients and suppliers, discovering some new favourite products along the way.

What about you? How did you spend your Australia Day?

Christmas 2015

The title of this post should actually be Christmases 2015, as we were lucky enough to celebrate Christmas not once, not twice, but on three occasions.  And although it is probably a tad late to post about Christmas when we are over half way through January, I figured “why not”?

One

The first of our celebrations took place during the week before Christmas at Gumbuya Park. We met up with my Dad and spent the day wandering the animal enclosures, patting kangaroos and squeezing into the various rides. It turned out to be the perfect venue for a casual Christmas catch up, and visiting on a Monday meant that we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Not even the unexpectedly cool temperature could dampen our spirits!

IMG_5610 IMG_5622 IMG_5639 IMG_5679 IMG_5691 (I love this pic – for it shows J’s current obsession with things she finds on the ground. Although I suspect that 2 seconds after taking this photo she would have put the leaf in her mouth….)

Two

Our second Christmas, well that was on the day itself.  Little J’s remarkably reliable body clock saw us up and out for a walk at 5.30am, and a little while after returning home Miss C woke and excitedly discovered her gifts (she had requested a cash register from Santa!)

Later that morning, we headed to lunch with my sister-in-law’s family, where we feasted on all the delicious Christmas trimmings – meat, salads, prawns, champagne… finished with a layered eggnog + ginger cake that I contributed to the meal.  The day was a hot one, so we even squeezed in a walk to the beach – where Miss C, in particular, had a fantastic time splashing around! A highlight of the day,  was definitely taking all the newborn cuddles I could get – with my gorgeous 13 day
old nephew.

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Returning home from Melbourne, we held a late Christmas “linner” with Mr BBB’s family in Canberra. A casual afternoon, filled with family and food (always a winning combination). We hosted the linner at our place, keeping the menu simple. Mr BBB cooked a turkey roll and some pork  in the BBQ, and his family supplied some delicious salads – meaning there was no need for me to turn on the oven at all! Dessert was a tropical pavlova – topped with lemon curd cream, mango, lychees, passionfruit and coconut.  All washed down with peach bellinis.

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And so we came out the ‘other side’ of our extended Christmas celebrations feeling rather relaxed and perhaps a little more rotund.  The girls had an absolute blast along the way, and were thoroughly spoilt.

A delightful end to 2015 indeed!

A high tea baby shower

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I think it was only a matter of minutes after my brother and his fiancé shared their wonderful news that they were having a baby – before I asked whether I could throw them a baby shower. For welcoming my own two girls into the world has shown me just how magical babies are, and how much joy and happiness this newest addition will inevitably bring to the whole family.

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After finding out they are having a little boy, and that K will soon be inundated with all things trucks, trains and football, I couldn’t resist making the baby shower as girly as possible. An afternoon tea with lots of dainty nibbles, lace and roses. Yes that was the theme of the day.

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So a few weekends ago, it was go-time. We cleared out the lounge-room and created an impromptu cafe. Tables were set, food was prepared and the camera was at the ready.

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The food

Being an afternoon tea, we didn’t go too overboard with food. We filled tiered stands with chocolates, macarons, lemon tarts, scones, sandwiches and quiches (not pictured).

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We made the scones and the tarts, but ‘cheated’ and purchased the other items.  To drink there was a selection of tea, mineral water and champagne.

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The games

I wanted to steer clear of some of the regular baby shower games, so went with a few new ones instead. The first being a ‘pass the parcel’ game, which was a great ice-breaker.

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We also ran a ‘what’s in your purse’ tally along with and old favourite – ‘guess the lollies in the jar’.

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My favourite game of the day was ‘play-doh’ babies – when each guest was asked to model a baby out of play-doh and the mum-to-be chose a winner.

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There were so many creative entries – although a certain 3.5 year old was less than impressed when she did not win….

The favours

My mum had the great idea to order cupcakes instead of a large cake, so that each guest could take one home. The wonderful Sarah at My Little Cake Dream created these beautiful white chocolate cupcakes, that we displayed with pride on the present table.

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I also separately ordered white boxes, which proved to be the perfect carrier for guests to take a cupcake (or two) home when they left.

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And as for the bub, well we had one final gift. Each guest completed a ‘wishes for baby card’ which will hopefully be something nice for him to look back on over the years.

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Overall, the mum-to-be was absolutely radiant, and it was a delight to share the occasion with her and her  family and friends.

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The details…

Father’s Day 2015

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This year, like most years, we celebrated Father’s Day with a little international flair. We’ve previously had Chinese, and Turkish, but this year it was all things Mexico!

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We actually had a ‘linner’ in place of brunch, so that everyone could attend.  And we ate, drank and chatted into the early evening.

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We served a variety of dishes – including slow-cooked pulled pork tacos, coleslaw, salsas and enchiladas.

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While to drink, there were a few options on offer. From Mexican beers, to mango margaritas and Mexican softdrinks.

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I had a lot of fun with the vibrant Mexican colours – with this pretty table runner and some potted cacti setting the scene.

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Dessert was a little fun too – with our piñata cake revealing a secret sweet surprise inside.

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And so our Father’s Day celebrations came to a close for another year. Deliciously filled with family and food (not to mention the extra addition to our family too!)

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What about you? How did you celebrate Father’s Day this year?

Our 4th of July Party

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It’s no secret that I love cooking. And parties. So when a craving for all-American food struck, and we realised that the 4th of July fell on a Saturday, well the stars (and stripes!) had aligned for our very own ‘4th of July’ party. We invited a few of our close friends to join the festivities, where the American theme was strong – and food was in abundance.

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On the menu? A selection of mains and sides (or ‘entrees’ and sides, if I was in the USA) – many of which I pleased to be able to adapt to be gluten free for one of the guests.

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* BBQ beef brisket (that was slow-cooked for most of the day), Southern fried chicken (which was actually oven baked) and ribs. Served with macaroni cheese, blue cheese dip, cornbread muffins (my favourite!), coleslaw, greens and sweet potato casserole.  Served communally – with the invitation to ‘help yourselves’.

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For dessert, it was all about pie. A key lime pie (GF) and a rather rustic pecan pie (not GF – just loaded with sugar!) – to be precise.

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To drink we served a selection of American beer, wine and soft drink (found at a new USA confectionary store that has opened).

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And, well I couldn’t resist adding some blue, red and white to our house itself – for that extra party feel.

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(blue food dye = blue water!) Kid’s table included!

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Overall – we had a grand time – feasting our way through the evening – and catching up with friends over a beer or two. I think everyone went home with full bellies, and I know Miss C was well and truly in a sugar-coma by the end.

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A fun evening all round! What about you? What is your favourite American dish?

An ‘enchanted forest’ 3rd Birthday Party

Somehow, just somehow, our little girl turns 3 today.

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Clichéd as it may sound, it seems like it was only yesterday that we welcomed her into the world. Yet here we now are – 3 years later – with a spirited and adventurous daughter who make us laugh every single day.

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For months now, Charlotte has been telling me that she wants a ‘Ben and Holly’ party. So I ran with the fairy and elf theme, and before long we had ourselves quite the ‘enchanted forest’ soiree.

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Despite all appearances, we kept the food relatively simple (and appropriately sugar-laden!).

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The gorgeous toadstool cupcakes were courtesy of Little Miss Cupcake (my fondant skills still being in their ‘developmental phase’) while most of the other goodies (jelly, fairy bread etc) could be made in advance…

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As for the cake – well I must admit that I cheated a little. While I made the green ‘grassy’ base using chocolate cake and fondant – the castle itself was actually a cardboard cutout!

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The little Miss was still super excited when she saw the finished product – so I’m calling it a mama win – cheats and all!

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Fortunately we were also blessed with a beautiful sunny day – meaning we could set up the backyard for the kids to run amok.

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The little toadstool set was hired from a local party company – while Mr BBB got creative and adapted a regular trestle table into “kids” size (we figured we’ve got plenty more kids parties ahead of us!!). As for entertainment, we had a lovely fairy entertainer drop by and read stories,  play games and ‘glitter-fy’ the kids.  The trampoline was also a hit, as always, and there was no shortage of snacks and dressups.

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Overall – it was so very wonderful to celebrate this milestone with our nearest and dearest. For decorations and cakes aside, it was having all her family together that really brought a smile to the birthday girl’s face!

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Wishing you a very happy 3rd Birthday my beautiful girl. May the year ahead be filled with wonder and adventure! — Oh – and just because I can’t help but take a trip down memory lane…

party Where did our baby girl go???

A farmyard 2nd birthday party

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Well what a wonderful weekend that just was. One that was filled to the brim with family, friends and a llama….

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Say what?! For when Miss C’s love of animals became apparent a little while ago – so did the theme for her 2nd birthday party.

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A farmyard frolic!

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As always, I had so much fun planning and preparing for this special occasion. Some things I purchased, some were handmade, and some were a combination of both. Pinterest became my best friend, and it wasn’t too long before the theme really began to take shape.

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(Idea taken from here).

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With pink gingham as my colour inspiration, I couldn’t resist creating a dessert table with farmyard inspired treats…

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Including fruit and jelly cups, chocolate mousse ‘muddy puddles’, trail mix ‘chicken feed’, pretzel ‘ropes’ and a beetroot dip and‘veggie patch’. And as for the all important cake – well this was a prime example of how homemade + store-bought can often work well together.

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For while I made the actual mud cake, and (with the assistance of my niece) managed to apply the green fondant and fence posts – the adorable animal toppers and plaque were purchased from here.

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As were the cute cupcake toppers that I placed onto mini muffins.

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And while the cake was certainly a little rustic in parts – at least the bits that we made – Miss C seemed thrilled and even managed to blow out her own candles!

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For beverages we served a fruit punch, made simply with tropical juice, ginger-ale, fruit and lemonade.

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Along with the other usual suspects….champagne, beer, soft drinks and “moo juice” for the kiddies. And as for the goodie bags, well these were simply brown paper bags, finished with some gingham ribbon and a handmade thankyou note card. Filled with lollies and toys – and an advance apology to the parents for any lolly-bag induced sugar highs.

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And not even a last minute sign painting fail could dampen our spirits, particularly when the stars of the party arrived shortly thereafter. For what farmyard party would be complete without the animals?  Lambs, chickens, baby goats and even …

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Hamish the llama!! Not to mention Mamma rabbit and her two week old babies!

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Needless to say – the kids (and adults, for that matter) had a lot of fun patting and playing with these beautiful and gentle creatures throughout the afternoon – when our normally boring backyard was transferred into a farm for the day!

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It was so very wonderful to have our house filled with the laughter and squeals of 11 little kiddies – as they frolicked with the animals, painted and jumped to their hearts content on the trampoline.

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And as for the birthday girl, well she didn’t rest for a moment. Between stealing chippies, blowing bubbles and ripping open presents…. well I think she was in her element the whole time.

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(Her gorgeous skirt + hair bows came courtesy of an ever-talented friend….) Needless to say, the birthday girl didn’t need much encouragement to go to sleep when it came to bed time that evening (nor did I)!

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Overall – it was a fun day – and one that I hope C and her little guests enjoyed. I still can’t quite believe she is two. For it feels like only yesterday that we had her Cheeky Monkey 1st Birthday Party!