30 April 2013

Popcorn Cupcakes (Gluten & Dairy Free)

I made these popcornesque cupcakes for Scrag's Carnival Party, knowing that we would have a bunch of little guests with food allergies and not wanting them to feel left out of the yumminess.

These cupcakes are deceptively simple, easy and delicious - despite being both gluten AND dairy free.
They were gobbled up by kids and adults alike, who didn't even realise that they were "allergy friendly". No nasty after taste; no stodgy brick-like texture.
Just fun-looking, delicious cupcakey goodness (with no artificial colours either).

Here's my super easy recipe...

Dairy Free/Gluten Free/Colour Free Cupcakes!

125g dairy free spread (e.g. Olivani)*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup caster sugar (fine grained)
2 eggs
1 cup gluten free all-purpose baking mix (e.g. Healtheries or Bakels are best)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup of soy or rice milk

(* to make measuring easy, it's 1/4 of a 500g tub)

  1. Beat dairy-free spread, vanilla and sugar together until light and creamy
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
  3. Sift gluten free baking mix and baking powder together; fold into creamed mixture
  4. Stir in soy (or rice) milk
  5. Spoon into silicone cupcake moulds* for baking - makes approx 18
  6. Bake at 190°C (375°F) for 15 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly touched
  7. Allow to cool and then decorate (see below)
(*Silicone moulds allow for easy transfer to your fancy expensive cupcake papers; they can be found at most dollar stores for a song)

Decorating the Cupcakes

  • Red and White Striped cupcake papers
  • 2 packets of Mr Mallow Gluten and Dairy-free mini marshmallows
  • a batch of buttercream icing made with dairy free spread (100g dairy-free spread, 1 cup of icing sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla essence whipped to within an inch of its life)

  1. Transfer the cooled cupcakes from the silicon cupcake moulds into the fancy striped cupcake papers. Carefully trim off any lopsided bits
  2. Separate the pink and white mini marshmallows
  3. Pipe a swirl of the dairy-free buttercream onto each cupcake
  4. Press a handful of white mini marshmallows onto each one to resemble "popcorn" in a tub.
Voila, you are done. Enjoy!

More Carnival Party Stuff

29 April 2013

Free Movies for the School Holidays? Why NOT!

It's School Holidays... are your kids bored already? Cooped up inside on a rainy day? Complaining that your DVD collection is naff? Yeah, I've been there. That's how I ended up trying out the "One Month Free DVD's" offer from Fatso thanks to my online shopping website. (I'm such an online girl, all round).

I was hooked. It was easy. My kids were happy. (It was free).
So I got hold of Fatso and asked them to offer my readers the same deal. Which they did.
I wrote about how it works here.
And ever since then we've been sharing our movie reviews with you each weekend.
With all the craziness going on around here I have missed the last couple, so I thought I'd share with you ALL our movie reviews... and remind you that FREE Fatso DVDs are a great (FREE) remedy for holiday boredom. They are pretty quick, so if you go sign up for your month's free trial today, you will have DVD's in your mailbox by Wednesday latest. Honest.

If you're feeling extra energetic and want to give your kids not just a DVD to watch but a themed experience, well hey, I've got all kinds of ideas and even free printables to help you whip up a rainy afternoon of fun.

So since it's FREE, click on the nice banner ad I made, use the code "FAMILY45" and then check out our movie picks for some fun kid-friendly movie suggestions. (NZ Readers only, sorry)

***TIP: Use the "GN" (Get Now) option to get movies instantly, or put them in your "Queue" to get sent the next available from your list of options.***

Arthur and the Invisibles
Despicable Me vs. Megamind
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Gulliver's Travels
How to Train Your Dragon
Mirror Mirror
Movie Duds to Avoid
Movie Marathon: 80's Classics
Mr Popper's Penguins
Peter Pan
Space Jam
The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl
The Adventures of Tintin
The Amazing Spiderman
The Lorax
The Muppets
The Pacifier
The Princess Bride
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
The Zookeeper
Shrek Movie Marathon
Star Wars Movies (Episodes I-VI)
Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Narnia III)

Arthur Christmas
The Polar Express
It's a Wonderful Life
Our Top Ten Christmas List
(Here are some Theme Dinner ideas you can use in the holidays too... if you create your own ideas let me know so I can feature your theme night on our Weekend Movie Posts)

Fancy Shmancy Dinner

25 April 2013

Our ANZAC Day in Auckland

I love my city. I know there are plenty of knockers outside of Auckland who don't see my town the way I do, but until I get my cottage by the beach, there's nowhere else in the world I'd rather live.

Today on this windy-but-warm Anzac Day I got out and enjoyed some of my favourite waterfront spots.
Ice-cream at Mission Bay. The view of Rangitoto.

Wynyard Quarter and the park by the Tank Farm.

 All the cool free activities the council puts on in the school holidays...

Sports and games and go karting...

(I was sitting next to a couple from Wellington. They were impressed.)

We just happened to be in the right place at the right time, after munching down some farewell 
fush-n-chups at the harbourside with Grandma who goes home tomorrow *sniff*

 We had a blast. For free. (Minus the fish n chips)

And I love this photo of my three, captured while lining up for some free go-karting action...

Thankyou Auckland. Thankyou ANZAC Day. 
(A lovely combination.)

23 April 2013

All Partied Out

It's been a massive three weeks.
First there was Mr G's Fortieth, with the surprise appearance from his Mam (from England) to pull off.
Then there was the Bloggers Conference in Christchurch. Taking a workshop, being on the panel. Oh and helping with the redesign/relaunch of the Kiwi Bloggers website.
Finally, the party to end all parties, that Carnival monster.

I'm flippin done in, I tell ya.
Me and my PTSD are coping (just) but the house is a tip and the cleaner quit.
The endless mess and tripping over piles of party stuff and yet-to-be-unpacked bags? Not the best look for your ma-in-law.
But bless her, she hasn't said anything. Just got in and washed my windows, did my dishes, cycled through my piles of dirty laundry. I don't think I would have got through the last couple of weeks without her.

All this build-up of bigness takes its toll on my fragile ego.
This is me being totally honest here people; I am a people pleaser from way back.
So I do this massive party and I long for feedback. Secretly CRAVE it.
Do the comments flow in? No they do not.

It's school holidays, people are busy entertaining their kids, I tell myself.
(Either that or they think your parties are over the top and way too much" a nagging Needlenose voice whispers.)

I try to ignore that little voice, that nagging insecure broken bit inside my sense of self.
I didn't go to all that work so I'd get loads of people commenting on my blog or oohing and ahhing over my photos on Facebook or repinning my pins on Pinterest. Honest.
I did it cos my youngest just turned five, the last kid off to school. End of an era and all that.
Plus he's pretty darn awesome and deserves to be celebrated, bigtime.
("Yeah but part of you still wants people to tell you you did good, that they had fun, that your party rocked," goes Needlenose.)

Sigh. Big deep heavy sigh.
Pardon me, but my insecurity is showing.
Yep, still plenty to work on in therapy!

In the meantime, I will try to keep my self-esteem anchored in something other than the words and praise of other people.
I know I did good.
The birthday boy had a blast (no complaints from him).
His pals seemed to have fun and we "sold out" of EVERYTHING.

AND I never have to do that again. Ever.
The End.
21 April 2013

The Carnival Party to End all Parties

Roll up, Roll up! Come and see the crazy lady who planned a Carnival Party on the day the Drought Broke!
Yes folks, it's the one you've all been waiting for. The Carnival Party I'd been planning since January. 
The one that nearly did me in. 
Or it would have... if I hadn't had an inspiration on Wednesday about an alternative venue, just in case the Weatherman was right about the rain for once (which he was).

This was not a party that could have taken place indoors at my house in the case of foul weather. If I hadn't been standing in the covered porch at kindy wishing we had an area like that at home; if I hadn't gotten goosebumps when I suddenly thought, KINDY! We could hire our kindy... this party would have been a washout, literally.

But thank God (literally) for those goosebumps. And the kindness of our Head Teacher. The little fund I had built up on PayPal from selling my party invitations and an all-weather bouncy castle.

In the end our Carnival Party was a huge success. In spite of the (torrential) (flood-making) rain.

 (A sudden gust of wind blows over a sign, giving our little helpers a fright)

Inside undercover it was bright and festive... and dry (Once we wound the side door down).

With a mere two hours to set up and acres of borrowed bunting, I didn't think we'd do it. Our stall helpers arrived in time to be given their instructions... and had to finish help setting up instead. Bless them, they had to be onto it. No time to run through how the games should work. Barely enough time to finish setting out the cupcakes. 

Thankfully our helpers were bright and clever. They figured it out on the hop and earned more than their fair share of candy-floss...

(My mum was on candy floss)

There were all kinds of Yummy Treats to "buy" with your tickets.

On offer was Traditional Carnival Fare - candy floss, popcorn, hot dogs, toffee apples, lemonade, as well as  lucky dip bags, sweets and toys (the ones we would have donated to the gala if this party hadn't been coming up)...

How to get tickets? Each family were given a strip of tickets when they arrived to get them started. Then the idea was to play games to win some more.... and buy treats and prizes...

Games like hook-a-duck...

Balloon Darts...

My dad was awesome on this game, dressed as some kind of "ringmaster" (he's great with kids and has just the right amount of "crazy"); Balloon darts was super-popular...

Hoopla was also popular. Throw the rings to hook a drink. This gorgeous clown was the faithful stall operator who stayed on until every last drink was won.

Coconut Shy and Mini golf...


(our amateur face painters were awesome; this clever young makeup artist aged just eight....)

And of course a Photo Booth, complete with silly dress-up props...

(photos from the photo booth are yet to be uploaded, but our young photographer - aged 11 - did a fantastic job)

We all had fun at the carnival, even me. It was awesome to see all those months of planning come together. (And such a relief to be out of the rain!)

For once, I had neither camera nor handy-cam in my hand.
My lovely friend Meg took these stunning photos for me. What a gem. What a gift.
And Gail's kind hubby took video footage, even taping Happy Birthday messages to Scrag from his little pals.

I did a whole bunch of prep-work spanning months, but this fabulous afternoon could not have worked if we didn't have an amazing bunch of helpers, both big and little.

 (Me and my brother John, who travelled all the way from Wellington with his family to be at our party)

Here's my precious three. The soccer goal guy (who ran his game between rainstorms); the effervescent carnival fairy (who rocked that blue wig) and the birthday boy... before he got his face painted like a robot and then smeared it off so that he ended up resembling a zombie... (It actually looked pretty cool before he smudged it, honest)

After an hour and a bit the stalls were starting to run out of stuff.
The Balloon Darts ran out of balloons... (never mind, my dad just pinned up some targets and kept those darts a-comin)

The candyfloss maker ran out of sticks...

 The kids were soaked through from playing "Titanic" on the bouncy castle...

It was time for our special international juggling act...

My brother John's Irish friend had just flown into the country. John (who had been driving since 3am from Wellington) picked him up from the airport and introduced him to New Zealand with a mad carnival party and a command juggling performance. Years ago my brother actually used to travel through Sardinia (Italy) with a circus every summer. Pretty awesome huh? A real circus-guy for an uncle. My kids are so blessed.

Time for cake

Yes I attempted a rainbow. Pretty pleased with myself, I must say
(except that last layer which should have been violet and turned out khaki. Blegh).

The Carnival is over. Scrag's 5th birthday has been celebrated in style x1000.
An amazing afternoon - exhausting, but rewarding.
Rewarding to hear the laughter, see the fun and smiles, watch everyone enjoying themselves as if they were really at a real live carnival.

Phew I did it. WE did it. I couldn't have pulled it off without the help of some amazing friends and their kids.
Hugest party EVER.

So now my last baby is five I can go back to small parties with a just a few guests and a token bit of theming...??? (Are you thinking, Yeah right?! Whaddya reckon? Can I really stick to it?)
We shall see, aye? We shall see.

HUGE thanks to the following:

THE BIG PEOPLE: Mum and dad (intrepid stall holders and those amazing toffee apples), John & Judith (for coming all that way), Meg (the photos - amazing - and for having the two cutest clowns ever) & Brenton (for being the hook-a-duck guy); Gail & Mark (popcorn and video), Linda & Misty, Nic, Carla and Bonar (Stall holders extraordinaire), Justine (the acres of that festive bunting which set the scene so well and made a dull day bright), Virginia (a gazillion rainbow cupcakes), Ella P. (for jumping in and helping out on the face painting - so lovely to have you as a surprise guest!), John the Irish Juggler (for getting off a plane after a killer flight and just joining right in), Lupe and Sam (for doing whatever needed doing), Granny Winnie (for helping wherever she was needed, all day) and Mr G for being the guy who loaded everything up and dragged it to our venue, then packed it all back down in the rain and who still walked around smiling in a pink afro handing out tickets). YOU GUYS ROCK.

THE LITTLE PEOPLE: Abby/Miss Fab (for always being willing to help, and for rocking that blue wig and that prize stall); Olivia, Asha, Reuben, Aysha, Sienna and Max C., for being amazing stall holders, for sticking to your posts right to the end); Yaz (for her amazing face painting), Osc (for his fabulous photos and sticking at the photo booth and drumming up business when things were quiet), Dash/Josh for doing the soccer game even in the mud and wet... YOU ARE AMAZING.

AND everybody else who volunteered but got to the party and found that things had changed because of the weather and they didn't have a job anymore. I think you guys enjoyed yourselves anyway tho, aye? If I've forgotten thanking anyone by name or missed seeing you helping... THANKYOU!)

SPECIAL THANKS to Mt Albert Kindergarten for being so accommodating, saving my nerves, saving our party and letting us farewell our wonderful kindy in style. We have loved being part of this wonderful place for the past seven-and-a-half years and will always be thankful for the memories, but mostly for the wonderful community we have found here in Mt Albert. Mt Albert rocks.

More Carnival Party Stuff