Friday, August 1, 2014

Snippets from my Rollercoaster Week...

Life really is like a Rollercoaster - it has all the ups and downs, thrills, laughs and terror of a theme park ride. I'm not one for theme park rides, generally speaking, and I'll take peace and tranquillity over thrills, anyday.

Here are a few of the ups and downs from my week, to tickle your funny bone, make you gag and let you know you're not the only one on this crazy rollercoaster ride.

The stuff my quirky kids say and do is always good at making me smile. Just this morning we had...

  • the first day of August (eek) and a race with Dash to be the first one to blurt out "a pinch and a punch for the first of the month". As I sidle into the bathroom, he sees me coming and knows what I'm about. We both pinch and punch each other (with love and affection) and fall about laughing while retorting: "a slap and a kick for being so quick..!"  It's the little things that make your day, isn't it? The hallowed family traditions that give life meaning (ha). One of these days I'll beat him to it!
  • a developmental milestone on the road to puberty. The "Embarrassed of Your Parents" milestone. That moment when your almost-12-year-old son asks to be dropped around the corner from the bus stop  because he doesn't want to be embarrassed. "Why because I'm dropping you off in my jammies?" I ask, pretending to be wounded. "You're embarrassed to have people see me? Well you can take your embarrassment and walk it to the bus stop next time!" Ha ha. He laughs. He knows I'm not really offended. And he exits the car (around the corner as requested) calling out, "Bye mum, I love you, have a great day...!" *SIGH*
  • a too-big-jeans backhanded compliment. I'm getting dressed and Miss fab is lurking nearby. She asks, "Mum are those meant to be skinny jeans?" They are. My size 14s, the ones I had to buy when the size 16s became too big. "Well I think you need new ones cos those ones are too baggy. They look too big and they're wrinkling under your bum. You need some smaller ones..." Made me smile, really nice and big and wide. I need smaller jeans. *WOOP*

I popped two slices of bread in the toaster this morning, and within seconds my nose was wrinkling with a curious smell. A faint sizzling sound was coming from the toaster, now there's a whiff of smoke, the smell is getting worse... WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?
I look into the toaster and nearly gag. THERE IS A SLUG INSIDE MY TOASTER, sizzling against the element, stinking up my kitchen as it cooks.
A bloody SLUG.
There's no way I can get it out, no way I even want to look inside the toaster, let alone scrape slug guts from its walls... the gag reflex is strong.
I unplug the toaster - my good and faithful wedding-present toaster - and walk it sadly outside to the bin. It's long years of service are over. Rest in Peace, dear friend (not you, you creepy slug! Ugh! Gag!)

After 14 years of faithful toasting, our old Breville toaster is laid to rest and a shiny new four-slice toaster now sits in its box on my bench. Thing is, how do I prevent another bloody slug from crawling into this one?

The courier dropped off a new box of Nespresso capsules... I have coffee again!

Also on the upside I enjoyed coffee today with my dear friend Sammy after WAY TOO LONG. She's the best, and I plan to make her a fancy brunch soooooon.

Another bonus, while having coffee together we did a spot of shopping and I found another tin sign for my collection...


I have to admit to feeling a little bit invisible lately. A bit Lonely. Somewhat Forgotten. To be honest, I've been having a bit of a Pity Party and wishing with all my heart for The Village
Did you stumble across this post that was doing the rounds of Facebook? It made me get all yearny.
I shared it on my profile and had this conversation with a couple of members of the Village in my heart...

I can have a pity party and feel sorry for myself cos my phone hardly ever rings and I sometimes feel like I'm always doing the inviting... or I can put on my Big Girl Pants and realise that the Village is what you make it. (On the upside, once I'd gotten to grips with this, I've begun to find opportunities to connect with others; the Pity Party is over). 

My girlie's 10th birthday was on Monday; there was nothing exciting left in the cupboards, and since it's against The Rules to have a boring lunch on your birthday I whizzed up to the dairy after work, picked up some treats and dropped back into school to surprise her. 
What do I see? My birthday girl, sitting ALONE, head down, reading. Where are her friends? Why is she alone? (It's her birthday, being left alone is against The Rules). 
She sees me, bursts into tears and throws herself into my arms. "I'm having the worst day ever, mum. THE WORST."
Well, that is completely against The Rules! The Birthday Rules state clearly that having a bad day on your birthday is SIMPLY NOT ALLOWED. 
So I sign her out out school and we head to Little and Friday. Her birthday improves from there. MUCH.

[This is actually Bluebells Cakery, from a different day, but you get the idea]

That's been a few ups and downs from my week. So much more I could say, more ups, more downs, but this post is long enough. And the main thing as I've taken the time to write it all down here, I've realised that the ups outweigh the downs. And where there were downs, we turned them into ups. Or at least bought a new toaster.

Have a great weekend!

(What have your ups and downs been this week?)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Fabulous Girly Sleepover Party

I now have a ten year old daughter, and this is how we celebrated - with a Fabulous Girly Sleepover.
All my girl wanted was "a sleepover with my friends from school and a chocolate fountain..." so I did my best to make it special. Ten is, after all, a pretty big milestone. Double digits and all that.

With daddy and big brother out of town for the weekend, we arranged a sleepover for little brother too, so it could be "just the girls". I also arranged for my brave friend Linda to join me/help me, which she was more than willing to do (once I bribed her with the promise of a chocolate fountain).

The birthday girl wanted the decor simple "just bunting, mum", so I ditched the elaborate schemes for chalkboard murals and  silver star strands that I had tortured myself with.

I made everything pretty, soft and on-theme with bedding. Flannelette sheets, vintage pillowcases, woollen blankets and lots of pillows. Everything was pastel and pretty and made you think of SLEEP (girly sleepovers should really be called wakeovers, but one can always hope??!)

After I made a giant cosy bed on the floor with dragged-in mattresses, the couches were swathed in sheets, the vintage-sheet bunting (made by the lovely Deb) was strung and every pillow in the house was called into service, along with my Typo lanterns, old teddies and a brand new photo board...

It's a sleepover party. It could be as plain or as pretty as you want (I choose pretty;  no surprises there).

Our guests started arriving at 3pm and that's when the squealing started. Horrors - I could see my friend Linda looking at me thinking, "What have I got myself in for?" and I must admit, I was wondering the same. (A bunch of excited tween girls can be ear-shatteringly loud and I was just grateful we'd trimmed the guest list from ten down to six). I made coffee and hung out with my mummy friends while the birthday girl squealed and bounced around with hers...

We had afternoon tea, to kick things off properly.
My take on Red Velvet Cupcakes (Miss Fab's fave) and strawberry milk. The icing roses are made by me, oh yes they are. Aren't they pretty? Deceptively easy too.

Miss Fab, her friend Yaz and I made the roses after school one day, just for fun.

One of the best things about sleepover parties is the chance to simply hang out with your friends for a nice satisfying chunk of time. 
Really, all girls of this age want to do is hang out - bash each other with pillows from time to time, sure - but mostly just hang out.

I had a bunch of games up my sleeve, games we play around the fire like "truth or dare" "circles and triangles" plus "indoor spotlight", just in case the girls got bored. They didn't. We didn't play one single game.

But there was A LOT of Looming... (thank heavens for looms, I say. Once the looms came out the noise level went from fever-pitch to blissful, which reassured poor Linda that she wasn't completely mad for agreeing to help me).

I provided a gazillion loom bands and had asked the girls to come with their looms. I had a few cheap $2 looms lurking too just in case someone forgot theirs (which some did). The room was a hive of industry. 

I'd labelled paper bags with each girl's name for them to collect their creations in. Inside was also a "friendship" loom band made by Miss fab for each of her friends, along with a little handwritten note...

While the girls "loomed" me and Linda drank endless cups of tea and hung out; I made the pizza dough in a very relaxed fashion. It was all so positively civilised that it gave me hope that maybe - just maybe - I might actually get some sleep tonight.

Dinner was homemade individual pizzas, with my favourite pizza dough recipe as the base. After the dough had risen, I cut it into eight lumps for each of the girls (plus me and Linda) to shape into our own pizza base.
The mini-pizzas were laid out four-to-a-tray lined with baking paper, with each person's name written beside it, so there'd be minimal mix-ups.

The girls came into the kitchen two-at-a-time and created their personal pizza with their choice of toppings. (We had shaved ham, pineapple, salami, chorizo, olives, anchovies, spinach and basil with tomato puree spread on the base and grated mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top.)

After dinner, while the girls prepared a "show" to dazzle us with, Linda and I prepared Miss fab's Dessert Bar - complete with chocolate fountain...!

After researching the cost to hire one of these gadgets (horrific), I spotted one on super-special in Stevens (for $30), and figured it would get plenty of use. The question was, would it work?
Linda and I melted the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of boiling water (750g - 3 blocks - of Whittakers milk chocolate plus 3/4 cup of canola oil). Nervously we turned on the chocolate fountain and poured in the melted chocolate... would it work? IT DID!!!! Eek. (Now it was my turn to shriek just a little bit).

There was more shrieking when the girls saw the chocolate fountain. The birthday girl, hugged me and declared that this was THE BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER.

Then we sent ourselves into a sugar coma.
Two kinds of icecream, homemade berry coulis, squirty cream, lollies, oreos, grapes, berries and cherries... topped off with that decadent flowing chocolate. It was dessert heaven.

I cut them off when their eyes started to glaze over and declared the dessert bar "CLOSED".
Off they staggered to get into their PJ's.
(At some point they did put on their show for us - a dance starring my birthday girl and her cheerleading pal, Yaz, with the other girls all filling roles as DJ's, MC's, lighting and security. Miss fab was in her element).

Time to snuggle down into sleeping bags and watch the movie ("Johnny English" as requested by Miss fab, a suitably silly film) and Linda headed home. She's not silly. Six giggly girls and chocolate fountain does not bode well for shut-eye.

I cleared up the kitchen while the girls watched the movie; it took awhile. I've never disassembled a chocolate fountain before (it was easier than I thought).

After the movie the girls were still wide awake... surprise surprise. I figured they wouldn't be sleeping anytime soon and our best bet for calm and peace was another movie...
This time an inspirational true story, "Soul Surfer" about Bethany Hamilton whose arm was bitten off by a shark while surfing; she made a comeback and ended up becoming a professional surfer. It's a wonderful inspiring  movie, and it put the still-not-sleepy girls into a reflective mood so after the credits rolled I turned off the lanterns and made the girls promise to "only whisper" and if I had to knock on the wall too many times (my bed being right through the wall) I'd hate to have to separate them...

Would you believe it if I told you that by 11.15pm there was not a peep? Everyone was sound asleep, despite the sugar rush. Horror stories about girls having pillow fights all night and girls up talking til 3am and parents getting NO SLEEP... did not happen here. Woop!

They woke up gosh-darned early though. 6.15am (I checked my alarm clock). It was still dark outside.
I tried to ignore the noise and stay asleep-ish, but in the end, gave up and went to make breakfast...

Waffles (the toaster kind), juice, hot chocolate in a jug. Maple syrup, berry coulis, squirty cream. Marshmallows. What can I say, they loved it.

I'd asked the parents to pick their girls up by 9am, because I had to pick up Mr G and Dash from the airport at 10am so we had to get moving after breakfast, quick smart, don't dally. Then I got a call from hubby saying he'd messed up the times and it was 10PM not A.M.
Panic over. Relax. Txt the parents and say, "No need to rush and pick up your daughter because we are all having such a wonderful time". Truly.
Who'd have thought?

Finally I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time for the birthday cake. (I really didn't want to destroy my work of art but it had to be done).

[Note the addition of a "throw rug" on the end of the bed disguising a hole.
Scrag got curious and poked his finger in. Grrrr]

We lit the candles and I snapped a pic of the girls, in the order they appear on the cake...

We enthusiastically sang the song. Happy birthday, Miss Fab, Happy birthday to you! and after the wish was made and the candles blown out, we began to destroy enjoy the birthday cake bed. Using a long spatula I was able to slide the whole brownie "bed" off the top of the cake, remove it to a platter and give each girl "themselves" - which tickled them immensely.

We hung out, looming and looking at old photos, until the mums arrived one by one. 
Miss fab pronounced it her best party ever, and I have to say - I rather enjoyed it myself!

Happy Birthday Fabulous Miss Fab. I had such fun making this party to celebrate your ten fabulous years on the planet.

(P.S. We had a family dinner with our "boys" and Nan and Grandad last night on her actual birthday; a repeat of homemade pizzas and a dessert bar with all the party leftovers. Special.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Make a Sleepover Birthday Cake (step-by-step)

Right now I'm feeling so proud of myself that I just couldn't wait to share this creation with you all. I've wanted to have a go at making one of those "heads in the bed" cakes for a sleepover party like, forever. This morning I began with a plain, round, white layer cake. Within a couple of hours it had been turned into the cutest sleepover cake ever, complete with bed, quilt and six little sleeping beauties.

Here's my Sleepover Birthday Cake, with step-by step instructions.

First, start with your favourite cake recipe as a base. The birthday girl requested "a vanilla cake with white icing, please", so I used Meredy's easy vanilla cake recipe, and made a double mixture, baked in two layers in a greased springform cake tin.

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Throw all ingredients in a bowl and beat on medium for five minutes. bake at 180oC for approx 30 minutes (or until cake springs back when lightly touched)

Once the cake has cooled spread with white buttercream between the layers and all over the cake.

I made my life super easy by asking in the bakery department of my local supermarket if they would sell me half a kilo of "mock cream" (a.k.a. buttercream). They were more than happy to oblige and even put it into a piping bag, charging me just $1.50 for the lot! It saved me time and money, and helped me avoid my least favourite task - beating butter to within an inch of its life.

For the "bed" base I baked my favourite easy peasy brownie, and split it in half once it cooled.
Smother the bed base with a bit more of that white buttercream.

(The extra half of the brownie has been cut up into chunks for our sleepover dessert bar).

Next we begin on the bed details. To create the "bodies in the bed" I used chocolate finger biscuits. there will be six girls at the sleepover, so we lay out six biscuits "bodies".

To make the "pillows" I slice white Mr Mallow marshmallows in half, lengthwise. These are the perfect shape for pillows, once we cut them down a bit.

Now we make the heads...

Use white fondant (available from any supermarket in a packet), and add colour by working it in with our fingers. It's just like playing with playdough, truly.

Once you've mixed your colours (see the graphic for details) pinch a bit of fondant and roll it between your palms until you have a nice round ball. Do this for each of the "heads".

For the hair, break off a bit of the hair colour and pinch it between your fingers into a round-ish shape (you don't want it took perfect looking). Wrap each piece of hair around the "head" ball as shown in the picture. It's actually really easy to do! (I figured it out while giving it a go today; much easier than I thought it would be).

Now we lay out our heads on the bed...

Next, we make the blankets.

First, The Quilt.
Break off a largish piece of white fondant and rub it between your palms to make a sausage shape. Now roll it out using a rolling pin. To avoid the fondant sticking to your surface or your rolling pin, sprinkle some icing sugar on both surfaces..

Once your fondant is rolled out nicely, trim one edge off nice and square with a sharp knife (this is the top of your quilt) but you can leave the other edges wavy (they look nice once draped on your "bed").

Mark the quilt squares by laying down a metal skewer and pressing lightly to form a grid pattern.
Carefully move your fondant quilt to a flat plate or board "floured" with icing sugar (so the fondant doesn't stick). You can now start colouring in the quilt.

I used my edible metallic liquid paint pens from KiwiCakes to colour in the squares in a random pattern, sticking to soft colours (pastel lilac, pink, baby blue, light gold and pearlescant white), but alternatively you could paint food colouring on with a brush.

So pretty. See how that grid pattern gives it a slight 3-D quilted effect?
Before placing your quilt on the bed, first make a "top sheet" by rolling out another piece of white fondant. It needs one nice sharp edge, but doesn't need to cover the whole bed as only the folded top will be seen.

Place your "sheet" on the bed, half covering the heads. It will be folded back in just a moment...

Now carefully drape your "quilt" over the bed and fold back the top sheet. Isn't that grand?

Time to make the headboard.
This was ridiculously easy. I used chocolate covered wafers (Pams brand) and some more of those chocolate fingers for the posts...

Simply cut the wafers to size and then poke them into the cake. Easy peasy.

Around the sides of the cake I scattered fondant stars, coloured with the same edible liquid pens as the quilt...

Now all that remains is to add faces onto the heads...

To do this, simply dip a non-toxic pencil into black food colouring and draw eyes and mouth - much better control than with a brush.

You should have seen Miss Fab's face when she came home to find this birthday cake waiting for her. There was squealing (and fake fainting).

I think this is quite possibly my BEST BIRTHDAY CAKE EVER.