Sunday, 29 September 2013

Make Your Own Memory Cookbook

Over the years I have amassed a large collection of recipes I have sourced from various places. Everything from the labels on cans and food packages to internet downloadables and even recipes from friends. If there's a fantastic recipe to try, I will keep it. Many of my favourite recipes are not even from books. Most of them are pasted into scrapbooks (love my Buffy scrapbook) and plastic folders.
I am a sentimental person when it comes to my kidlets. Most Mommies are. If my child produces a gorgeous drawing, I feel a need to keep it. Long after they have grown and left home, these precious artworks will be the only manifest reminder I will have of their childhood besides photographs.
With six kids in the house however, the pile of drawings we just can't bear to part with has become huge! Many get admired and tossed later mind you. Occasionally though, one of the kids will produce a drawing so beautiful that it needs to be preserved. Sometimes too, a drawing will be treasured if it represents a particular love or current obsession a child has. When one of them presents me with a super drawing that fits into these categories, it makes the cut for the Memory Cookbook.

Halo and Rocky Road? - I think so!
It's really easy to make - seriously. I purchased a plastic covered display book from the newsagents several years back for around $5. Choose one with as many pages as you can find. Alternatively, you can purchase a ring binder and separate plastic sleeves to insert yourself.
All you need do is put your loose recipes in the sleeves and alternate with your child / children's drawings. If you're really crafty you can go a whole lot further with this idea. Spotlight has many items in stock for scrapbookers like stickers, craft scissors and special card stock.
Make sure you write each artist's name and age and date on every picture.
It's nice when I pull out my favourite cookbook, to relive those little memories. My kids always flock to this cookbook, curious as to what pictures they might discover and memories they too might recall.
My favourite recipes are adorned with Geishas and Doctor Who images.
A little more incentive to cook when I am not feeling in the mood. My children's drawings are always uplifting.
Or, as seen below, just plain hilarious!

Even sweeter, is when they draw a picture which they deem themselves to be so good that they actually ask me to file it in the cookbook for preservation. Even the older two will still do this which I secretly think is adorable! (Sometimes even cool kids can be kids again)!
This book is my work in progress. I am sure there will be many more of them produced over time. Ultimately what I wish to do with these books, is to publish my own family cookbook when the kids are all grown up. I would like to take the best of the pictures and choose the recipes which have become signature dishes, then make copies which each of the kids can take with them when they leave home.
The next generation can admire the work of their 'parents' and hopefully my kids will continue the tradition with their own offspring.

Why not start yours today?
What traditions have you started which you would like to see passed on in your family?
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High Tea At Cristina Re

It is with absolute pleasure that I write this latest post. 
I was recently treated to an afternoon at the gorgeous Cristina Re store and tea rooms. Located in Melbourne's trendy suburb of Collingwood and nestled between residences, upmarket cafes and warehouses, was this stunning storefront:
 Cristina Re. Where A Girl Goes.
I had never experienced a high tea before. The tradition of high teas, (the roots of which date back to 17th century England and its leisure classes), have always fascinated me and many times over, I had planned to treat myself to one. I am an experience girl. I do love to try new things! Especially lovely things! Like many of the joys in life, some of the best just get pushed aside in the day to day rush of living. There's always something pressing and less spectacular to fill our time but occasionally, just occasionally we get to them. And when we do...WOW!
The Cristina Re experience was for myself and my guest, Helen, one of those moments to cherish well into the future.
We arrived for our experience on a sunny Saturday afternoon after a week of persistent rain. The soothing atmosphere was tranquil and floaty and relaxed us the moment we entered. This store is so exuberantly feminine: butterflies, chiffon gowns, delicate teacups in a myriad of bright and pastel colours, scents of cake, tea and perfumed goods hung in the air with a beautifully blended aroma. Crossing the threshold here was to leave the outside world behind and step into a womanly universe. I can only think of the words perfection and elation to describe it. 
Did I mention elegant too?
There was so much to take in. Cristina Re is both a store of paper craft supplies and provider of craft classes, high tea room and small group function centre which combines the experience of both.
You can take a craft class and high tea at the same time. Shoppers can stroll in and buy pretty stationery: card stock, pens, journals, giftware, crockery and cutlery. All of the stock, from the stunning store displays to the quality items available for purchase, are exquisitely detailed and beautifully feminine featuring Cristina Re's own designs. You can read more about Cristina's background here.
The Cristina Re store shines at special occasions. Typically they host everything from bridal showers to baby showers, birthdays and any special moment which might warrant an experience in beautiful surrounds.
But who needs an excuse?
Anyone is entitled to a special moment in splendour such as this. Everyone should allow themselves a special reward from time to time. If you reside in Melbourne or are planning a visit, make sure you head in store to treat yourself.

Cristina's high tea crockery and cutlery is available to purchase in store and online. It is well priced and extremely elegant.
It is also available in many major department stores.
Paper Couture. Stunning creations such as these are to be featured on Australia's Next Top Model
and will be seen during Melbourne's Spring Fashion Week.

A paper crafter's paradise

We were to sample the Sparkling High Tea on our visit. We were served an array of stunning foods along with sparkling wine and a selection of Cristina Re's own tea blends.

Warm, fresh quiche was served as our introduction to the delicacies that followed.
High tea, served on a three-tiered stand, begins at the bottom and finishes at the top.
Delicious sandwiches with fillings of cucumber, chicken and egg, giant, soft scones with jam and cream,
cupcakes, macarons and hand-crafted chocolates of every colour adorned our plates.
Such a beautiful spread!
Allow me to introduce my favourite moment of the entire experience...this little pink cupcake.
She was stunning! All the cakes and food we were served were handmade to perfection and so exquisite in flavour. None were as perfect as my favourite and most unexpected moment however - tasting this little delicacy!
Rose flavoured icing decorated the fluffiest of miniature cakes. The icing just melted in my mouth and then the aromatic rose scent hit in a waft of warmth... simply put: perfect! Decorating her exterior were the tiniest flakes of crushed pistachio. They gave the 'crunch' and embellished the after-taste of this magnificent little cake.
Conversation stopped...I was momentarily speechless and away...
I have never tasted a cupcake of such finery.
I have been thinking a lot about her since and when we might be able to meet again...


Have you ever experienced a High Tea? 

For my visit, I was treated to a complimentary Sparkling High Tea and gifted an assortment of Cristina Re stationery items and teas in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
To find out more, make online purchases or bookings, please visit the Cristina Re website here or Facebook page here.
Cristina Re. Where A Girl Goes.
Corner Langridge & Oxford Streets
Collingwood, Victoria
Australia 3066
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All you need to do is follow the prompts below to enter.
Competition is open to Australian residents only.
Winner will be contacted via email and given 48 hours to respond. If no contact is made, a new winner will be drawn.
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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Top Holiday Ideas To Entertain Children

The school holidays are upon us and once more I find myself at home surrounded by children asking to be entertained. The holidays for me are a time to relax and unwind from the regular routine that exhausts every parent. I am so glad to be free of driving the endless school run, washing lunchboxes and preparing lunches, filing paperwork and sorting uniforms, packing bags and so on.

It's now time to chill, catch up with friends and do lots of sitting if I can manage it.

With such a variety of ages in my family, there are different needs to take into consideration. The older kids usually sort themselves out by organising sleep-overs at the homes of friends and get-togethers.
The younger 3 (excluding baby), are more of a handful. They need constant pulling in line, entertaining and discipline to get the most out of their free time. (And mine)!

For these younger kids in particular, I have some trusty ideas I fall back on to fill the longer days of the Spring holidays. Here's my little list which may help other parents or carers to keep their little darlings in check.

One thing I try to do the week before the holidays begin is to visit the local newsagents for colouring books and art supplies. Many newsagents have tables of children's items that are heavily discounted. I love to hunt through these items to find bargains to keep the littles happy. Sticker books, small nicknacks and activity books are brilliant items to pull out when the weather takes a bad turn or the boredom sets in.

In addition to shopping for these items, I also do internet searches for colouring pages to download and craft ideas. There are plenty of sites devoted to free downloads to keep kids entertained. Pinterest is a good source of inspiration for craft ideas. Why not start Halloween preparations now? Or Christmas decoration making? Kids love these events and I know mine are talking about them in the months before they arrive. (Often all year)! Might as well use the free time to enjoy crafting instead of leaving it until the silly season leaves you stressed, time-poor and cash-strapped.

Lego. Never underestimate the power of Lego! Lego is my go-to toy. Kids who've lost the plot generally fall back into line when this tub is placed on the table. Lego takes care of everyone and is a great all-ages toy. Spice up the play: suggest a challenge to make something and get all involved.

Pull out a box of toys the kids haven't seen for a while. Plastic animals, wooden bricks, toy cars and Barbies. I like to pair a toy with a DVD for inspiration. A dinosaur DVD works well with the tub of dinosaurs for example. The boys can get lost in this guided play for hours.

Tidying bedrooms for rewards. My personal favourite. Kids have energy to burn when not exhausted from school so make it work for you! Got some chips in the cupboard and the kids are hounding you for them? Make those chips currency! Don't dish out the treats just because the kids have finished lunch - make them pack the dishwasher before they get the snack.

Kids just love vacuuming!
Visit zoos. Across Victoria, it's free for children to attend a zoo on school holidays and weekends. Make the most of it. Zoos are always entertaining.

Visit local parks. Do a park hop. Take some sports equipment and enjoy the space.

Visit National parks and beaches. Hunt for shells, pinecones and gumnuts for craft or making Christmas decorations. Don't forget to take old buckets or containers for the kids' treasures.

Bake! Kids love baking. Make some cookies, chocolate pudding, cake. There's lots of recipes here on my blog to be tried. The promise of something yummy to enjoy at the end of their efforts is a great motivator and entertainer.

Prepare for the term ahead. Organise haircuts, new shoes, clothing or swimwear while you have the time. Make a day of it with some other fun thrown in - a movie or ice creams are perfect choices.

Visit your local library for DVDs, books and story time or craft activities. Libraries are a place to congregate. You might run into friends. There will be plenty of free entertainment to find on the shelves.

Spring is here which means fair time! Check the local paper for fetes near you. I just love a fair! Especially the cake stalls and craft stalls.

Got a garden job, garage cleaning task or household task to do? Pay the kids to sort it out for you. Reward them later with a trip to a lolly shop or toy store to spend their earnings.

Finally, there's the local pool. A great opportunity for fun and the kids get valuable swimming skills out of the water play.

What holiday ideas would you add to the list?
Do you have a favourite activity you do when the school breaks are on? Please share it by leaving a comment below.

Happy holidays!
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Friday, 20 September 2013

Top Baby Buys Every Mom Should Own...

Having had six babies to date, I think myself somewhat an expert by now on the baby equipment needs of new Moms.
When I started out with my first child, I had zero idea what I actually needed and read books and magazines by the dozen to hone in on the essentials. I even went to our nearest baby store at the time, pregnant with literally a blank brain and cheque and only the expertise of the store staff to guide me.

It's been a good 4.5 years between number 5 and number 6 babies. Equipment has come and gone.
Items I decided not to buy the first 5 times have been embraced with a new sense of necessity this time around.
The more children there are, the less time and patience I have for doing things the hard way.

I decided to come up with a list of a few of my all time favourite items that I have realised I couldn't possibly live without now that I am again a Mom. It is not intended to be a list of obvious things like a cot or a pram, but rather a mix of specific items in particular that caught my eye. These are things (or particular brands) that I have discovered and loved. They are my essentials and I would recommend these items to Moms, particularly those with young babies, to make life a little smoother.

In no particular order:

Celeste is well into the feeding stage. Previously I bought cheap plastic containers from the local supermarket to house my baby food creations. (Messy, leaks, plastic nasties and odour problems before warping and dying quick deaths). Not this time!

I bought a box set of 9 Glasslock Baby Food Containers. These little nifty essentials are glass so no nasty BPA chemicals. The lids are liquid proof too so zero chance of a spill inside your nappy bag or fridge. They are perfect portion-sized containers which are dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe. Perfect for popping into your day bag for outings. They made the cut and I can't get enough of them - as good as buying supermarket-sealed baby food jars except way cheaper in the long run and more nutritious when filled by yourself.
Beaba spoons have been another discovery. These are a French brand I was previously unaware of until I scored a freebie spoon somewhere and fell in love. The spoons are silicone coated and long-handled for an adult to spoon-feed baby with ease and comfort. Nice big surfaces for the perfect sized portion of food and baby can handle them with ease too. They are by far, the best baby feeding spoon I have come across in 13 years and believe me, I have tried them all of them.

For making baby food, I just can't go past my Morphy Richards Soup and Baby Food Maker. I have blogged about my love affair with this appliance in a past post which you can read here. Throw in your vegies, pasta, some stock and water and press a button. I put mine on before school pick up and when I return 15 minutes later, Celeste's meals are ready for several days and a lunch or snack for myself too if I am wanting! Forget saucepans and the old method - so thankful for this creation and I wish I had one years ago.

A bassinet. I have had several but none as good as this one which rocks! This is perfect for nights when you are just so tired you can't get up. Next to the bed a lazy arm or foot does all the work settling baby in those difficult early months. The natural fibre of this one made it lovely for air circulation too. A winner with this Mom.

An Ubbi nappy pail has been a sensational purchase and comes with a massive recommendation from me!
Previously I have used everything: cloth, nappy bags, bread bags, supermarket bags... I recently took a final look at the dozen or so nappy bags waiting for the bin at the back doorstep and hit the wall - it was time to invest in a nappy pail!
The brilliant thing about the NY designed Ubbi is that it takes a regular garbage bag and turns it into a fully sealed nappy sack within the pail with a safety sealed lid and zero odour release. The pail is steel and does not retain smells. It is easy to change and you don't need to buy expensive refill bags to line it or wrap nappies individually. They retail for just under $70 and come in a stunning set of colour choices to match any d├ęcor.
I also highly recommend a Tomy Starlight Dreamshow. This crib musical toy has been a real hit around here - it's brilliant! It attaches to a cot and can also be used free-standing and plays a selection of lullabies. The best part - it projects a 10 minute colour feature onto the ceiling for baby. Celeste just loves this toy! It never fails to settle her and lull her to sleep. I have to say it works wonders on me too. I swear, one of the tunes it plays is so sweet I tear up every time! (I am serious)! I believe we will be using this for many years to come as it is just so good. The toy is inexpensive at around $29 but it seriously earns its keep. If Celeste ever tires of it, I bags it for me - the best solution for insomnia yet!

What top baby buys would you add to this list? Did you have a favourite item or brand?
Please leave a comment below.

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Monday, 16 September 2013

The Coconut Passionfruit Cake

I have a passion for the scent of coconut. It reminds me of summery places, holidays and long, warm days. Even Champagne!
I have a love for things containing it too. So delicious!
Here's a recipe that just resonates summer and all things warm.
This is a quick cake to mix. You won't need anything too exotic or even an electric mixer. It is a nice wet cake mix which blends easily. You will however need a large mixing bowl, cake pan and a lot of guests to help you to enjoy it. This is quite a large cake!
In a big mixing bowl add:
2 and 1/2 cups of self-raising flour,
1 and 3/4 cups of caster sugar,
2 and 1/3 cups of desiccated coconut,
1 large can of coconut milk (you need 2 and 2/3 cups. This tin will be a little under so just add water to make up the remaining quantity).
2 eggs
I small tin of John West Passionfruit Pulp.
1 1/2 cups icing sugar.
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and flour your cake pan.
Combine all ingredients for the cake and mix well.
Add the batter to the cake pan and bake for 1 hour until golden.
Cool your cake before turning it onto a wire rack.
Prepare the passionfruit glaze: Add enough passionfruit pulp to the icing sugar to make a smooth paste. Microwave the glaze for 30-40 seconds and pour this warm icing over your cooled cake and allow it to set before serving.
But why stop at passionfruit glaze? There are so many tropical fruit toppings which would work with this cake. Try pineapple, mango or lemon. Whatever you like with coconut would work with this cake.
Cake baking just got a whole lot harder cuter around here. Miss Celeste decided now is the right time to get mobile. Up on her knees, she has worked out how to propel herself forwards.
My work has begun! It must have been the gorgeous smell coming from the oven that attracted her.
Happy baking!
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Thursday, 12 September 2013

My KitchenAid Stand Mixer...

About a year ago I was in fits of laughter watching a Youtube video. It featured an excited adult male opening his latest, long-awaited, new release video game! It was a slow, wordy and lengthy epic tale about opening the box basically! I was in awe that someone would document and upload such an event. I was even more surprised to see there were so many of these types of videos on the net.
Fast forward to myself in the present day, running my own blog and documenting my very own excitements and mundane events! Look who's laughing at who now!

The outer box...much excitement
I recently purchased a KitchenAid stand mixer. I ummed and ahhed about where I would purchase it, what colour I would choose and where I would set it in my kitchen. The process took me weeks to decide. (Too many choices). I bored my family and used many net gigabytes hunting for my ultimate kitchen helper.

The inner box...growing excitement
Finally I decided on my new baby: The Platinum Collection's Raspberry Ice mixer - retro mixing heaven!

She's a sexy lady indeed and I have named her Lucille in recognition of her retro appeal. The KitchenAid mixers have changed very little since their inception in the late 1920's.

The early version has a fin (pretty cool)! You can still interchange the parts from these originals with a new one store-bought today! It's like a fine American car.

My Grandmother used to have a Sunbeam Mixmaster when I was little. I loved watching her whip up her stunning cakes and biscuits. I vowed to one day own such a desirable object. Now I have her!
I smirked at my own silliness as I photographed the arrival of my mixer, embarrassingly recalling the Youtube experience. I could suddenly understand why an excited adult would go to such lengths.
We never really lose our sense of excitement for something we desire, no matter what our age. (Kind of explains the older generation on motorbikes doesn't it)!
I am so glad I invited her home too. Lucille's a very important member of my household now. She is my extra set of hands. I usually bake around 4pm on weekdays which coincides with the arrival of the kids from school. Probably not the best time to undertake anything. My mixer has made my life much easier though. I simply throw my ingredients in and put her on a slow spin. She whisks and beats to perfection while I attend to the chaos of home life.

I have been baking much more frequently since her arrival. There's very little to clean up now and even then, the dishwasher takes care of that. (My dishwasher is named Alice after the Brady Bunch)!
Everything is mixed so beautifully too. No more little lumps and bumps in my batters or flat cakes. I have never been much of a flour sifter or stirrer for that matter.
Lucille is looking out for me like the lady she is.

Have you invested serious time and money into an ultimate kitchen appliance?
What appliance would you never give up?
Do you covet a brand-spanking new appliance? Confess in the comments below!

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Nuffnang Blogger Meet Up at Cacao Green...

I was invited to attend Nuffnang's #TGIFroyo blogger meet up at Cacao Green's store in Melbourne's iconic shopping centre Chadstone. I was eager to attend the foodie event because...well, it's food, and great food at that! Even better is that it's food I don't have to prepare and a chance to take leave of the kids and meet other bloggers for some fun conversation.
Cacao Green for the uninitiated, is a delicious provider of sweet-meets-healthy meals and desserts for the health conscious. Some may be familiar with the brand under its other company name - Red Mango.

Gorgeous table treats such as waffles with an array of savoury and sweet toppings were laid out for us to try. There were waffles topped with salmon, ham and cheese and the more familiar banana and caramel, chocolate and strawberries.
Then there were the delicious servings of frozen yoghurts, all of which were 100% organic. Cacao Green treats are all organic, all natural and loaded with healthy nutrients and probiotics. This company proudly promotes fair-trade. All this amounts to guilt-free dining. In fact, the principle behind Cacao Green is just that: food for well-being - food for the environment.

I loved the mango yoghurt with fresh strawberries. There were smoothies with beautiful colours and flavours which added to the excitement of the afternoon.

In addition to the tastings, this was a blogger meet up. I was pleased to meet Valissa Warren of Nuffnang Advertising and get a good rundown on the intriguing industry that is blog advertising.
I also made some new bloggy friends. It's always exciting to hook up with other like-minded peeps and see what they 'bring to the table' in this industry of ours. 
This select group of bloggers were mainly foodie bloggers and Mom bloggers who do food as part of the profession.
It was a great afternoon. A big thanks to Valissa from Nuffnang and Cacao Green Chadstone for hosting.

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Thursday, 5 September 2013

My Shoe Epiphany...


When most people think of large families, they usually think the obvious: busy, fun, chaotic, noisy and expensive. Yes, they are certainly all those things! 
What people often don't consider is that commonplace things can take on new heights too. I had never really given thought to just how much the ordinary things have become extraordinary in our lives. Perhaps it is because the extraordinary is just ordinary here.
My son Joaquin couldn't find one of his thongs on Sunday, so I prompted him to empty a giant tub of shoes on our balcony to have a good hunt for it. Well he did that and more!
He was ultimately unsuccessful at locating his missing shoe but he did make a startling statement in the process:
We have a ton of shoes!
I returned to the balcony shortly after setting him on the lookout for his shoe to find this sculpture of family footwear, snaking a very long way around the balcony!
Joaquin had organised all the shoes into matching pairs. (There's no better choice of child to perform such a task - he's great at this stuff). His thong was not there. He had disappeared upstairs to the garage to check for it there. (Where another giant collection of family footwear resides).
Our garage footwear collection. This doesn't even cover what's kept in wardrobes and under beds.
We could open a store.
So how did it get like this?
When buying items like shoes, I try to limit what is required to the basics. For the boys that means one pair of school shoes, 1-2 pairs of sneakers (a black and white pair for example), thongs and Crocs for Summer and gumboots for Winter. I have a rule that requires any old footwear that is worn out to go directly into the bin. Obviously, my rule has been ignored and for some time!
I do pass shoes down through the boys if they are relatively new. This can cause problems too. I can't keep track of the 100's of sets of footwear 'on hold' and end up buying doubles of things when I had a perfectly fitting pair on the rack ready for the next child. It seriously troubles my brain trying to cope with the enormity of everything!
It's not just the shoes that have got out of hand either. There are 8 people in our family but when I count the toothbrushes in the bathroom, there are around 16! I am not sure how this came about. Asking for an explanation is met with at least five little "I don't know" responses. As they all appear to be new, (the toothbrushes), I have turned a blind eye to the problem and hope like Hell Dad knows what he is doing at bath time. (Let's face it - he has no idea either - even less than me no doubt)!
Towels are another thing again. Logic suggests 8 people, 8 towels? No! There are again mysterious extras. I have a sneaking hunch that the daughter's responsible but she denies it each and every time a new one appears.
Cups, plates and bowls: a dishwasher full of them lightning fast but only 5 kids using them?
Whole packets of 16 biscuits disappear in 2 minutes despite the one only rule. 
Things just don't add up around here, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

What chaotic things happen in your household?
Do you house an enormous collection of everyday things when there should only be a few?
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