A Magical Moroccan Dinner Party


Thankyou all for your sweet comments, tweets and general warm wishes for my 30th birthday. I must say, I have had the most wonderful couple of days – and was fortunate enough to have birthday celebrations that were beyond even my wildest expectations. Friends and family – coming together for great food and lots of laughs. Could a birthday celebration be anymore perfect?! And, to say that I was spoilt, would be an understatement. I was truly blown away by the generosity of my nearest and dearest, and I really am so very blessed (but more on that to come tomorrow). Ok enough mushy sentiment, let me share with you the highlight of my weekend. My Magical Moroccan Dinner Party.


Taking advantage of the large living area in our new house, I decided to hold a dinner party for 40 people. We hired chairs, tables and cutlery, and with the help of cheap fabrics, candles and vases, we transformed our living room from this….


To this!

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I am not really sure how I came up with the Moroccan theme for the party. All I know is that I wanted something elegant, yet festive and filled with flavour.


I am pretty certain we delivered – thanks to the wonderful efforts of my family and best friend who worked with me all of Saturday morning and afternoon to decorate the house and prepare the food! I chose orange, red and purple as the main colours for the party, using orange hessian as the table cloths…


with strips of patterned material for the table runners.


In the centre of each table we placed a large vase filled with these gorgeous red flowers and some greenery.


At each place setting was a little trivia card about Morocco – which I am told were quite the conversation starters amongst our guests.

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We placed our couches outside (under a large heater that we had hired), providing a little ‘break out’ space.


And lined the entry hallway with luminaries.


But it wasn’t just about the decorations……for what dinner party is complete without food. Glorious food. Our wonderful local Turkish restaurant provided the entrees:

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A selection of dips / Turkish bread, and stuffed vine leaves (and some warm zucchini balls that went un-pictured as they were gobbled up so quickly!) Served communally on large platters.


While the main menu was made up of a variety of slow cooked Moroccan tagines and meatballs…


Some of which I have shared on the blog before (here and here) during our trial runs. There was plenty of food at the start, and not too much at the end, so they can’t have been too bad lol. We served the dishes buffet style, and our guests were able to come and help themselves.

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And the feedback was all positive, with the lamb and date tagine emerging as the clear winner! But now….onto dessert 🙂


Or a dessert buffet if you will! I used my DIY art technique to make the colourful ‘back boards’ for the buffet, and we were loaned some red lamps that gave the table a real Moroccan feel. But the star of the evening was a glorious macaron tower…


filled with a variety of macarons supplied by our local French Patisserie.

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As well as freshly made baklava from the local Turkish restaurant.


ok ok –  not so Moroccan but tasty nonetheless! It really was one of those nights that disappeared in the blink of an eye.


It felt like I had only just said ‘hello’ to my friends and family, when midnight rolled around and the crowd began to dissipate.  The night turned out even better than I had hoped, and created so many wonderful “new” memories…

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While also having the chance to reminisce about some “old” memories 🙂  A wonderful night indeed!

Party shenanigans

Today I was suffering from a good case of the "too much to do / not enough time disease". IMG_8660 Mr BBB and I took a whirlwind trip to Melbourne over the weekend, and the combination of travel, partying and limited sleep left me exhausted. So although my decision to skip my morning workout was probably a sensible one, after a weekend lacking in exercise and containing a healthy dose of ‘hangover’, I was eager to get my MOVE on. Luckily there was a lunchtime pump class that had my name on it – and with every curl, squat and lunge I could feel my body thanking me. Although I suspect my muscles will be screaming tomorrow 😉 Although working out during my lunch break was a bit of a hassle, if I didn’t do it then it probably wouldn’t have happened at all. For, with only 3 days until the first of our house guests arrive, a hectic work schedule and a bare fridge and pantry, this evening was spent slowly working through out ever growing “to do” list. Lingering tiredness aside, my weekend sure was a lot of fun! IMG_8842 We travelled down to Melbourne to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday with his nearest and dearest family and friends. IMG_8797 Although it was quite an intimate gathering, the party was definitely happening! Great music, talented musicians…. IMG_8883 And hilarity ensued 🙂 IMG_8904     IMG_8893 IMG_8807 IMG_8822  IMG_8892 And yes – my dad changed into his ‘dancin’ shirt half way through the night….. IMG_8851 As well as his dancin’ shoes lol Oh and did I mention… IMG_8817IMG_8871 Plenty of good food! And, although I was initially nervous about giving a speech…. IMG_8835 After a few glasses of champagne the nerves had disappeared and my brother and I actually ended up having a lot of fun ‘roasting’ the birthday boy!  IMG_8831   IMG_8839IMG_8837  Overall – ‘twas a wonderful night and a perfect way to celebrate Dad’s 60th birthday!! And, as we toasted on the evening, happy birthday ol’ man and here’s to another 60 years filled with adventures, laughter and good fortune 🙂 IMG_8841       _____________ Day 26 – MOVE it, TONE it, DRINK it

  • MOVE it – Body Pump 1hr / Elliptical 30 minutes
  • TONE it – Sit ups 150
  • DRINK it – 1.5L

____________ I want to finish by giving a big ‘shout out’ to Aly at Bridgework Designs for her wonderful assistance in designing and installing (and then re-installing) my new blog design! If you are looking for a new design – you should head over to her site for more information. I am so pleased with the results and she was a delight to work with 🙂 _____________

Party Planning 101

As I have mentioned before, we are soon hosting a dinner party for 36+ people to celebrate my leap into the "30s" (or perhaps more so to commiserate the end of my 20s?? lol) . pic8 While I am someone who loves to organise parties, be them big or small, in order to keep my stress level down and I am a huge planner. Did you miss my other planning tips?

I have learned over time that catering for other people (be it 5 or 50) is never an easy thing to do. And, even if I have lot of friends and family willing to help, sometimes this comes with its own downfalls too. Perhaps it relates to the ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ phenomenon?! A few months ago, my sister in law and I managed to stay relatively stress-free when planning the "Day at the Races" party for my parents-in-laws’ joint 70th birthday party. We had to cater for over 110 people, which was also no easy feat. pic1 And so today, with another upcoming party to plan and prepare for, it got me thinking about what worked during the planning process for that, much bigger, party…. 1. Meetings My sister in law and I had quite a few face to face "meetings" when planning the party for her parents. Not only were they an opportunity to catch up for dinner (and a couple glasses of wine…), we were able to jointly finalise numbers, invitations and the food menu. These meetings, in conjunction with email, helped us stay on track and not double up or miss anything. 2. Utilise the skills of others We found out that a guest at the party was a keen BBQ-er, and he offered to not only man the BBQ for us,  but also to select and buy the meat. All we had to do was tell him how many people were coming (oh and pay for the meat of course!). 3. Learn to love online resources Given that my sister in law and I both work full time, it was not always possible to get away from work to hit the shops during business hours. We did, however, embrace the magic of the internet and purchased the invitations, the edible photo topper and various other balloons / decorations from online sources. pic6 Not only did it make the ordering process simple, and often saved us money, all the items were delivered directly to our door! 4. Know your numbers About a week before the party, we sat down to plan the final menu. Given it was a lunchtime party, we decided on a BBQ / salad combination. And, once the guest numbers had been finalised, we were able to decide just how many dishes to offer. While not having enough food is bad, I think having too much food and it going to waste is worse!! 5. Know your crowd We discovered that we had no vegetarians coming to the party, although we did have guests with both wheat and dairy allergies. pic3 Knowing this information upfront made it all the more easier to ensure that everyone’s dietary needs would be catered for. 5. Divide and conquer With our menu plan in mind, we then divided up the salads and appetisers – with each taking 4 specific salads and 2 dips. pic2 This meant that we were both able to contribute, without being overwhelmed. Also, by sitting down and allocating specific dishes, were made sure there would be no double ups. 6. Get together to create together Although we had allocated dishes between us, we wanted to work on the star of the show, aka the birthday cakes, together. So, the night before the party, we rallied at the BBB household and baked, tempered and shaped chocolate to our heart’s delight. pic4  Not only did it lighten the load in the kitchen, it was definitely a fun gals night in! 7. Create a timeline and stick to it Being a lunchtime party, we did not have the benefit of a full day in which to prepare food. This was complicated by the fact we could not get into the venue to set up until 1 hour before the party started. So, working backwards, we arranged an early morning get together to finalise the food preparation, then made our way to the venue together. Having completed all the food preparation before we arrived, all we had to do was decorate and we were set to party! pic7 I think it was a combination of the above that made the whole process run smoothly, without creating too much work / stress for either of us. While my 30th party is quite different in style (dinner party v casual lunch), I know that I will be implementing many of the above strategies to keep my sanity! _______________ Day 16 – MOVE it, TONE it, DRINK it

  • MOVE it – Cardio 1hr (Run 5km, Elliptical 20 mins, Bike 10 mins)
  • TONE it – Sit-ups 130 (mixed types)
  • DRINK it – 2L

______________ What about you? What is your number 1 tip when it comes to party planning? Happy Baking 🙂

Party Food: Pesto Pasta Salad

IMG_7207 Thankyou all for your kind words about the ‘day at the races’ party we threw for my parents in law last weekend. As may of you guessed, it was a combined party for my mother and father in law as they both turn 70 within a few months of each other. One of the salads that disappeared quickly was the pesto pasta salad. Made, of course, with fresh basil pesto. IMG_7161 Which is a convenient addition to any party given that it can be made in advance. IMG_7162 IMG_7164 IMG_7167 Stored away until needed…. IMG_7168 Then stirred through a bowlful of pasta resulting in a super easy, super tasty, party salad! IMG_7207 A vibrant accompaniment to any BBQ lunch… IMG_7208 With the wonderful abundance of fresh basil. Pesto pasta salad

  • 1 pkt penne (GF or regular) , cooked to al dente then drained and rinsed under cold water
  • 1 cup well packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbs pinenuts
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
  • frozen peas, refreshed under running water
  • extra pine nuts to garnish
  1. To make the pesto, process the basil, olive oil, garlic, pinenuts until almost smooth. Stir through the parmesan.
  2. Place the pasta, zucchini and peas into a bowl. Pour over the pesto, and stir well to combine.
  3. Garnish with extra pinenuts before serving.

____ And in other news, a couple of you have asked about my upcoming race schedule. While the season has largely finished in Canberra – I did come across the Batemans Bay Triathlon Festival scheduled to take place this weekend. And, seeing as I was going to be ‘down the Bay’ at the weekend for a wedding anyway, it seemed to good to be true. A little Enticer race to start my Sunday morning?? Sounds like fun to me! Happy Baking 🙂

An afternoon at the “Races”

Training: Mountain Biking 17km Hi there! Yup I am still here…just recovering from a busy weekend. The star of which was, of course, the big birthday party to celebrate my parents (in-law) turning 70! misc2 Fact: My father-in-law loves horse racing and even has quite a few race-day hopefuls down at his farm. misc77 So, when looking for a theme for his 70th birthday party, ‘a day at the races’ theme immediately sprung to mind! IMG_7197 Which meant…most importantly……race fashions! Frilly dress and fascinator?? misc4 Don’t mind if I do 😉 There was a great turnout at the local Bowls Club (that we had hired for the afternoon) as over 100 people arrived to join in the celebrations. IMG_7241 IMG_7243 And, in the spirit of the day, there were so many wonderful hats / dresses and fascinators. misc7misc6   misc3misc9 Adorable! misc10misc8 But sunshine, fun and fashion aside, we had over 110 mouths to feed! And while the guests had the beany beetroot dipIMG_7108 And roasted capsicum hummus to nibble on at the start…. IMG_7155 It wasn’t long before we had to set the salad table , the idea being that the the guests could load up their plates before heading out to collect some meat being cooked on the outdoor BBQ. IMG_7218 And what a spread it ended up being. IMG_7219 Tamari rice salad… IMG_7204 Pesto pasta salad (recipe to follow)… IMG_7208 Dijon Coleslaw (recipe to follow)… IMG_7206 Roasted pumpkin and beetroot salad…. IMG_7203 Also added to the table was a greek salad, and a cranberry and apple green salad… IMG_7201 Finished with a potato salad (unfortunately un-pictured) The salads disappeared quickly and surprisingly we had very little left. And, not long after clearing up the salad bar, it was time to re-stock it with the sweet stars of the show. We actually made 3 birthday cakes – all of which just barely survived the warm car trip to the venue (eeeeeeek!). The main cake was a layered black forest cake, with cherry brandy cream and maraschino cherries…. IMG_7210 (Sadly ending up with a car-travel –induced crack…..!) IMG_7225 And chocolate shards to decorate the outside…. IMG_7213 (which  sadly also struggled to survive the warm car ride to the venue) IMG_7214 And topped with an edible icing image of Mr BBB’s parents’ first winning horse! IMG_7190 (An “in progress” picture to show it without the car-induced crack!) On the side, we also had his and hers "70" cakes. Both were vanilla, topped with lemon buttercream. One decorated with smarties…. IMG_7226 While the other was decorated with mini marshmallows. IMG_7224 While I was unable to partake in the cake eating (only cake making) as they were not wheat free, there was barely a slice leftover so they cant have been too bad! Overall, it was a fun afternoon spent ‘at the races’, and a testament that prior preparation and planning can make catering for over 100+ people not too stressful. misc99 Car rides with melting cakes on the other hand….. I will be posting my thoughts on the planning process very soon, but right now this filly is having an early night 🙂 What about you? Have you ever been to a theme party? Happy Baking 🙂