23 January 2015

A Family Tea Party (and a Savoury Muffin recipe)

When family arrives from the other side of the world to visit your country for the very first time (and you want them to LOVE it) you go all out to make every occasion special for them - dontcha?

Your eagerness to impress might see you investing in flash new bedlinen, DIYing your dated bathroom, and even painting your hallway the day before you go camping. Every BBQ is strung with lights, every meet-the-neighbours becomes an event to remember as you introduce them to outdoor kiwi living and the joys of toasting marshmallows. This is the very first time your husbands English rellies have ventured downunder, after all. They will go back to the motherland with glowing reports of their magical holiday, and maybe MORE of them will come visit...?
So when your own Kiwi mum and dad are scheduled to come for afternoon tea to meet Uncle and Aunty for the first time, well, it was never going to be just afternoon tea, was it?

No, of course not. It was going to be a tea party, with THE WORKS.

Bunting, Iced Tea, Daisies and Cake, all presented to the best of our ability in crates and holders with milk bottles and paper straws and the best china...

Iced tea: in a container place 4 green tea bags and add 1 litre of boiling water; add a squirt of liquid honey, the zest and juice of a lemon, half a cup of frozen berries and a couple of sprigs of mint. Chill. Once chilled, strain into a glass jug half filled with ice, add half a litre of apple juice and top with soda water. Garnish with mint. Yum yum! Enjoy!

You know we like to make the ordinary beautiful, and the everyday special, round here...

Almond Cake with Cherries & Cinnamon Streusel topping: strain a can of dark de-stoned cherries and sprinkle on top of the almond cake batter. Then mix together sliced/slivered almonds with a generous amount of brown sugar and cinnamon and a das of melted butter. Sprinkle on the cake for the crunchiest yummiest topping

I made Grandma's favourite dark cherry and almond cake with cinnamon streusel topping and the best savoury cheese muffins EVER (scroll down for the recipe).

Of course they loved it. Of course they did. How could they not?

(Of course the blokes may have needed a beer to offset all that bunting and tea)

Here they are: the long-awaited, much-feted Aunty Irene & Uncle Allan
fresh from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK...

Here's me with my Kiwi mum and dad...

And here's Aunty Irene with Grandma a.k.a. my mother-in-law Winnie who reluctantly left NZ yesterday to face the English winter after seven weeks of summer (can you tell they're sisters???)

Apparently they love New Zealand already, even though they're yet to leave Auckland. I'm preparing myself for the next wave of the British Invasion once they return home to Blighty and tell all the rest of the rellies: "Forget Benidorm - you have to get yourself to New Zealand!"

Now Aunty Irene, here's the recipe you were after for...

Simone's Savoury Cheese Muffins*

1 cup of diced shaved ham
2 Tablespoons of finely diced sundried tomato
2-3 tablespoons of Basil paste or pesto
1 cup of grated cheese (plus extra for sprinkling)

Combine these ingredients in a bowl then add...
2 cups of all purpose flour (or Gluten Free baking mix)*
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
a couple of pinches of cracked black pepper

Stir these ingredients in then quickly and lightly (without over-mixing) add:
2 eggs, beaten
100g butter, melted
1/2 cup milk

Once all ingredients are *just* combined, spoon muffin mixture into silicone baking cups (or lined muffin tins) and sprinkle the tops with extra grated cheese.

Bake at 200oC for 12-15 minutes (on fanbake) or until golden and firm.

Yum yum yum - ENJOY!

* I made these muffins Gluten Free by using all-purpose GF baking mix and gluten free "Beehive" shaved ham. (Recipe adapted from the NZ Edmonds Cookbook)

19 January 2015

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Um, hi. *tap tap*
Is this thing on?
Er, remember me? Simoney, sometime blogger. AWOL now since early December.

Well, here I am, returning to action... sort of.

We've all been busy Christmassing, seeing in the New Year, lazing in the sun (or if you're in Northern Parts, freezing your butt off?), so I doubt you've noticed my absence as you've all been busy with your own, ya know, LIVES.
Rather than regale you with blow-by-blow tales of my doings, I'll let the pictures do the talking. Meanwhile I will ramble a bit on some thoughts I've been having about this blog and moi. OK? OK.

(Just so ya know, it's a blazing hot summer here in NZ, which arrived in full force six weeks late; we've just come back from a week's camping; the rest of the time has been spent at home hosting, hosting, hosting...)

[Dream come true having dinner in December with "Love & Light Cat" (from Canada) and other blog-met besties]
I've been blogging now for what seems like forever. In reality it's only six years (the lifespan of my youngest child) and during those years lots has changed. I've changed, my kids have changed and blogging itself has changed.
As blogging around the world has metamorphosed, it is unrecognisable as the close-knit community of supportive mums I found when I started. It's become slick, professional, monetised and huge. (Though here in New Zealand the biggest thing that's changed is that loads of my blogging besties have quit or barely blog anymore).

While the face of blogging has been changing I've been doing my thing here. Sure I've dabbled my toes in a bit of blog-post partnering where it seemed to fit; I've done the odd review for relevant useful products from time to time, but in the last year I've done very little (despite the ongoing requests from random PRs and wannabe guest posters which arrive in my inbox daily).

As my real life has become more busy and complicated, my blogging rate has dropped. As my kids have become less camera-happy and story-willing, I've found myself holding back, blogging less.

[Christmas Eve - my babies aren't so little any more]
And then the killer blow - what felt like the nail in the coffin - my eldest outgrows theme parties. But parties are my thing, I protested. It's what I do!
However November & December left me completely partied-out from all the endless hosting (something to host every week), and I have had to ask myself, Are parties still my thing?
And if they're not, then what?
What do I blog about? And is Greatfun4kids even remotely a relevant blog title anymore?
I'm not just not sure.

See, here's the thing: Time is flying by at such a fast rate of knots.
I can clearly remember saying to people, "I'm just not ready for a new year to start," LAST YEAR.
I was never ready for it, but it came and went anyway, and now here we are again.
My kids are approaching a whole new season of life, I've got a whole new level of parenting staring down the barrel at me and I don't know if I'm ready for that either.

I'm still riding this rollercoaster called parenting, hanging on for dear life, making it all up as we go along, flying by the seat of my pants.

I know I still have plenty of stories in me. I know I don't want to do anything as drastic as shut down this blog which is my window on the world, my own private soapbox... but I'm really thinking it might need a new name. A new identity for a new season.
I don't want to leave behind six years worth of stories, I don't want to start a new blog, begin from scratch - nothing as drastic as that!
I'm just thinking a new title. Something that fits me going forward.
A title which nods to the fact that I am flying by the seat of my pants.
Something quirky. Something "me".

[Best thing about summer: the new pool in our backyard! A humble Warehouse special, but worth its weight in gold]

What am I about, going forward?
I'm a parent who learns mostly by messing up - I like to be honest about that.
Two of my three kids are on the edge of adolescence. There are spectrum issues in the mix which complicate family life (but which my kids don't want me to write about).
We are a bit crazy, very noisy but I crave PEACE most of all.
I've battled depression and anxiety, which are under control right now. I'm also dyslexic - but "gifted".
I love to tell stories and share my struggles honestly but with hope, so others know they're not alone.
I love to make things beautiful and memorable. I love all kinds of celebrations and making the everyday special.
I'm an avid reader (with a failed bookclub who hasn't written a book review in nearly a year).
I'm still a lazy mother who hates being in the kitchen - but I like to share easy delicious recipes when I find them.
We love to travel and we do a fair bit of it.
We live in one of the loveliest places on earth, New Zealand. Our antipodean viewpoint colours who we are and how we live (relaxed, laid back, take us as you find us).
Oh and there's my faith, which underpins it all. And gratitude for the many blessings.

Anything I've missed?

I've already asked my Facebook friends/readers for suggestions and have had a load of ideas but nothing yet that sings to me. I'd love to hear any and all suggestions from you, my faithful readers. Can you help me create a new name for this place that will connect us to the past but take us forward into the future, whatever that looks like?

I do think though, that I've found a new by-line: "Time Flies When You're Having Fun".
Don't you think?


Do you agree that Greatfun4kids needs a new name? Suggestions? Thoughts? Do tell!