Sunday, 7 August 2016

A Cake or Two

One of my crafty hobbies is cake decorating. For years I  have watched Cake Boss, The Next Great Baker and similar shows on Food TV and wished that I could create these beautiful works of art. 

While living in Auckland with a baby, I felt like I needed a hobby to get me out of the house and talking to people about things other than how my baby had slept or pooped or met her milestones. So I signed up to some cake decorating classes through Millys and ended up taking four sets of Wilton classes! 

I love playing around with different techniques and my Pintrest board is filled with gorgeous cakes for inspiration. 

Recently I have had two requests from friends and family to decorate cakes, which has been so much fun and a great excuse for me to have a play around! 

First off was the Chocolate Madness cake- coated in vanilla buttercream and then drizzled with chocolate ganache and an assortment of yummy confectionary including home made meringues and fondant stars 

I was then asked to make a cake for the father of my sister in law. He is Irish and so she requested a large cake with a Celtic theme- but no leprechauns, rainbows or shamrocks! 

This was the result- a 30cm double layered Annabel Langbein Ultimate chocolate cake,  filled with chocolate buttercream, covered in vanilla fondant and then piped with royal icing. 


I have also been asked to decorate a wedding cake for my cousins wedding later in the year, which will give me the chance to perfect my gumpaste, wired flowers. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

A Crappy Time

It is coming up to nearly a month since I last blogged. I have been filled with good intentions and have been snapping pics ready to blog. I have ideas about posts and have drafted them in my head many a night. It has just been the physical act of sitting down to write that has escaped me.

This past month has been one of the hardest months I have experienced. Poor little Buttons has been sick for 7 weeks and counting- and she is only 10 weeks old. She has had bronciolitis and then a nasty cold which left her so congested that she would choke on the gunk in her airways and turn blue. We have had four doctors visits and one overnight at the hospital. And there is not much we can do but just wait it out. We are doing all the usual cold and flu tricks and ending up hibernating at home  in order to keep her warm and avoid exposing her to any other nasties. 

Her being sick, the absolute terrifying scare of seeing her turning blue and the broken sleep has taken its toll on me and I have been a wreck. You can see it physically- my skin is breaking out, my hair is getting oily very easily and I feel achey. Emotionally, I have been hideous. Tears at the drop of a hat and swearing like a sailor- and I NEVER swear- one of the side effects of teaching! I feel so tense and stressed all the time and like I fail to exist beyond a milking, cracker providing, nappy changing machine. There has been no crafting, reading or any of go to activities beyond watching Food TV mindlessly.

And then there is poor Miss Muffet. She has also been full of a cold and has been suffering from not enough attention. We are right in the thick of the terrible twos- with tantruming occurring daily. My darling little drama queen has developed a penchant for throwing herself on the ground and shrieking and for throwing sweeping her plate of food off the table if it doesn't meet her exact ( and not communicated!) wishes. Her little two year old body shakes with anger and frustration and she can turn from sunny and happy to a fire storm in two seconds flat. I have to keep remind myself that I am the adult and that however frustrated / tired / fed up I am, me yelling will just add fuel to the fire. But damn it is hard to keep your cool when you find that she has explored all of the spices from the spice rack... All over the kitchen floor... That I had just mopped! 

I am so thankful that even though I feel like we are in the middle of a really crappy time, that we are in our home town and surrounded by family and good friends. My mum and amazing siblings who have visited and cooked meals and vacuumed and folded washing, my fabulous bestie who talks to me everyday and and visits with baking, and my Bestie # 1 who although living in another city, manages to ring and text and brighten my day. I am lucky to have these wonderful people in my life. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

The To Do List

Tasks that weigh on your mind are like little alarm bells constantly going off. They pop up on your mind when you are in the middle of doing something else and make you feel guilty for not tackling them. I get into bed at night and think " I MUST get onto that to do list" and then life promptly gets in the way. 


Some of the jobs on my To Do list are actually important and are time specific, like getting Button's thank you cards out. Some fall more into the category of well that would be nice to do and would make your life easier, like weed out the newborn clothing which Buttons no longer fits, clean them and store them away for Baby No 3. Other tasks are more of the wish list variety and are likely to be on the To Do list the longest, like organising our digital photos and ordering some to be actually printed instead of just hanging out on our phones and computers. 

Every weekend Action Dad and I negotiate what needs to get down while there are two of us available with two little girls who need us, and what we want to do so that we actually spend some time having fun together.  On Saturday morning, the weekend seems to stretch out and is filled with time to get things done and play and relax and enjoy ourselves. On Sunday night, once the kids are asleep I look back and think how did two days just disappear? Why does bloody Monday stretch on for days, yet Saturday and Sunday are gone in seconds? It's like some mystical time bending magical trick. 

Gretchen Rubin writes about this in her books "The Happiness Project" and "Happier at Home". She recommends taking the jobs on your To Do list and breaking them down into two categories. Number 1- if a job takes less than 5 minutes, then you do it immediately and stop dragging it out. Things like replacing the screw on the handle to the pantry so that it stops falling off. Or picking up the small purple bead under the coffee couch that I can see every time I sit down to feed Buttons. The second category is for the larger jobs on your To Do list. Rubin's recommends setting a timer and spending a set amount of time on a particular job until it is actually completed. Her example, funnily enough is also organising digital photos- she sat down for 15 mins every day and uploaded and deleted and organised photos for a few weeks until the job was completed and could be crossed off the To Do list.  
Credit -

Sometimes I think I spend so long procrastinating and stressing over how many things I need to do, that it immobilises me and I spiral further into my To Do list where nothing is getting done. I find myself overwhelmed and end up sitting on the couch, drinking hot blackcurrant and watching crappy tv ( have you seen Dance Moms????? How bad is that show, that it is actually all kinds of fabulous!)  I think because I am so organised with the regular, routine stuff in my life that I find it hard to do the one off jobs that populate the List. 

Update! Apparently writing this post was exactly what I needed to do to shame myself into action- Button's Thank you cards are written, addressed and posted. Yay!!! Tick! 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Baby Bookworm

I am a prolific and passionate reader- I seem to continually have at least two books on the go, plus I also follow a host of bloggers. I completed a BA, specialising in English Literature and one of my absolute favourite parts of teaching was reading aloud novels with a my intermediate aged kids. 

Up until now Miss Muffet has been far too busy to sit and actually listen to a story, which you could imagine broke my heart a little. Action Dad and I persevered and played around with different times and places to read to her and found that the winning combo was reading to her while she was in the bath and was fairly contained. She also insisted on only being read Hairy Maclary From Donaldsons Dairy, complete with different voices for the various dogs. And only Hairy Maclary From Donaldsons Dairy. If we attempted to read anything else she lost interest, so over and over we read the kiwi classic of the adventuring dogs and her personal fave " Scarface Claw, the toughest Tom in town!"  I even made her second birthday cake, a Hairy Maclary cake 

Just after Buttons arrived, Uncle Bogey gave us a collection of board books which his three boys had grown out of. The perfect present for a toddler who has recently gained a baby sister - we have put the basket of books by the sofa where I breastfeed and I invite Miss Muffet to come and read with me while I am feeding. It's lovely to be able to give her some special attention during this crazy time where frankly she is getting half as much attention as she is used to.

There are lots of awesome books in this bundle- classics like Spot, Peepo and other books by Lynley Dodd and some more modern titles like the Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child. 

Being Miss Muffet, with all her quirks, she has latched onto one particular book. It has become the new Hairy Maclary From Donaldsons Dairy. The book I can now recite by heart.
Miss Muffet adores this book and her favourite parts are of course the flaps for lifting. It is a cute, rhyming story and is short enough to hold her attention. The pictures are sweet and the book is sturdy enough to stand up the toddler test . 

To be honest, I don't care how often I have to read Miss Muffet's favourite book of the month. I think it is so important to read to kids every day- they learn vocabulary, phrasing and it extend their world view. It is a special way to bond and share attention with children. It sparks curiosity and creativity.  I hope Miss Muffet and Buttons inherit my love of reading and this is the best way I can think of to introduce them to the world of reading. 

To b

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Sick Bubbas

The Wellington winter colds have finally come and knocked on our door and us on our butts. Buttons has earnt herself a new nickname-

At the moment I am chained to the couch ( where I usually do my writing) with a very miserable Buttons. In my eye sight  is a pile of washing that I am dubbing Mt Washmore. 

In front of me are the kids PJs, a billion threading beads that Miss Muffet has thoughtfully strewn all over the floor, assorted blankets, baby clothing and the contents of my nappy bag. 

Buttons has been sniffly and snotty for the last three days and had started to wheeze and snort a lot so off to the doctors for us yesterday. I actually hate going to the GP after a previous doctor made me feel like a complete hypochondriac by questioning my need to be there. I very rarely go for myself and often feel guilty for being there- like I am not actually sick enough and am wasting everyone's time. But with the kids it is different, and our new GP since we have moved is fab and has reminded us that it is always better to be safe than sorry. 

Buttons has earnt herself the unfortunate new nickname of Schnortle Pig due to her lovely, unladylike noises. It  is said with love and affection but we needed something to make us smile while getting up to her for the umpteenth time each night! 

Poor Buttons has managed to get bronchiolitis and all she wants to do is feed and snuggle on me. It is AWFUL to see a six week old looking so pathetic and . I have turned to my arsenal of tried and true illness busters to try and help her feel better. 
 We are also doing the whole tilted bassinet trick and using a vaporiser. Funny story about the vaporiser- my lovely sister in law gave me a present and in the card had added the disclaimer that her presents were not cutesy but were totally practical and that I would come to need them and understand their importance. She gave us her vaporiser  that she had used with her three boys and also a pair of navy blue puddle jumpers. Sure enough, both of these items have been used so many times already with Miss Muffet and I am sure that Buttons will get good use of them also! My sister in law is super organised, down to earth and practical 😀

Hopefully Buttons bounces back quickly and is back to her lovely, gorgeous self. Send us healthy vibes, energy and super strong coffee. Xxx

Monday, 4 July 2016

Chicken Parmigiana Casserole

Photo credit to - I was too hungry to wait and take a picture! 

Tonight's dinner is a result of an absolute Pintrest win. I enjoy cooking and try to make something new each week- it keeps meal planning interesting and who knows, I may actual stumble upon a meal that Miss Muffet will actually eat! 

When I was trawling for meal ideas, I had set the following criteria - had to be a chicken dish ( big chicken fan here!) And it had to be able to be freezer friendly as I wanted to cook a double batch and freeze one portion. We tend to eat a lot of Asian and Mexican food so I also wanted to explore a few Italian recipes as well. And low and behold.. Up popped Chicken Parmigiana Casserole from I adapted the recipe slightly: 

3 skinless boneless chicken breasts 
1 cup grated cheese 
1 cup Panko bread crumbs 
Tin of Watties tomato and herb pasta sauce *

Cook chicken and then shred.
Coat casserole dish with spray oil
Combine pasta sauce and chicken and then add to dish.
Sprinkle grated cheese over the top
Combine Panko, herbs, pepper and a dash of oil, then sprinkle over the top. 
Cook for 20 mins at 180 degrees 

Serve over pasta or rice or even as is! 

This meal was super easy to make and was absolutely delicious. A lot less fiddly than making actual parmigiana! Next time I would make my own tomato based sauce as I prefer it and it is less sweet. 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Eating in Survival Mode

 Buttons is now a month old and it feels like she has always been with us. We are deep in the dark of living on very fractured sleep and are learning how to operate as a family of four with two little girls.

You may have noticed I haven't written for a week- I gave myself a wee break as I inched towards meltdown zone, holding everything together. 

One thing that we ARE managing to do well is eating proper dinners. While I was pregnant, I made it my mission to fill the freezer with as many home cooked meals as possible. It was actually a lot easier than I expected- I just did double batches of dinners that we were eating and immediately froze half in tinfoil containers!  I am a big fan of Pintrest and like to try new recipes so trawled through there to find lots of tasty meals, trying to avoid having lasagna every night for a month! I also asked advice from the awesome mummies on a Facebook mummy forum I belong to, and got some great ideas. 

I really like using recipes from and from Both are American sites, with fab crockpot recipes and a lot do Asian, Thai and Mexican inspired meals- yum! We have been enjoying sweet chilli Asian chicken wraps, baked sweet and sour chicken, tortilla soup and lots more.

I also went to one of my favourite NZ chefs- Chelsea Winter , and stocked up on her recipes- so far we have been loving her sneaky rissoles, satay chicken and glorious sausage quiche. 

Combined with our amazing Bellyful meals and meals that wonderful  family have made, we probably have amassed about 20 frozen meals. In the four weeks since Buttons came home, we have been heavily relying on these meals to keep us going- each morning I grab a meal from the freezer to defrost and then Action Dad is in charge of preparing it as Buttons cluster feeds from 4-7ish.  To keep our supply going, I have been cooking meals in the weekend to keep the stock pile full. This has meant that we have only had to resort to takeaways once!!! 

A couple of tips for those of you who want to make your own freezer full of meals-
- Double up your weekly meals and freeze half. 
- Make sure you have a variety and don't end up with all pasta- I did soups, casseroles, curries, quiches, burger patties, meat balls, stir fries etc. 
-  As you package up your meals, write the cooking instructions on the lid! Nothing worse than trying to find the right recipe at 5.00 at night when you are hungry and tired! 
- Keep a list of what your freezer contains on your fridge so you know what you have and what you need to buy to accompany it. Eg salad, buns, etc 

My mum keeps telling me that at six weeks things will get easier and we will fall into a routine. Right now, I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel but every night that we grab another frozen meal, I am so thankful to pregnant organised Me for thinking ahead! 

On another note- VERY excited to have my first official follower who is not family and therefore forced to read my writing! Blogging takes on a whole new level when you realise people are reading!! Xxx