Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Easy Chocolate Cake w/Fudge Frosting & Maltesers

I had this grand plan to try out another recipe from my Women's Weekly 'COOK' bible, one for a Family Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting. Then when I came to prep the ingredients, I realised that this recipe was going to bake up one mother of a chocolate cake. 250g butter in the cake alone is a pretty artery clogging thought. So I decided to refine the recipe somewhat, not wanting to be eating mountains of cake for the rest of the week. What turned out was a hybrid creation birthday cake for Scott. I chose an easy chocolate cake recipe online at ninemsn; Took the Fudge Frosting idea out of the Women's Weekly 'COOK' bible; And added a finishing touch of a little favourite in this house, maltesers (another nifty idea I stole from the Women's Weekly, where I've seen a recipe for cupcakes with the malteser topping). The result... a rich, soft, uber chocolatey birthday cake:

Easy Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting & Maltesers

Easy Chocolate Cake

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 (45g) tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 160 degrees (fan forced)
Sift all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl
Add milk, eggs and vanilla
Mix ingredients roughly
Melt butter in saucepan and add to bowl. Mix thoroughly, until all combined
Pour into 25cm round cake pan
Bake for approx 25 mins

Fudge Frosting

90g Butter
1/3 cup (80ml) water
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (240g) icing sugar
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder

Stir butter, water and caster sugar in small saucepan over heat until sugar dissolves
Sift icing sugar and cocoa in a small bowl, then gradually stir in butter mixture
Refrigerate 20 mins or until thickened; Beat; spread over cake


Cut 155g pack maltesers in half and arrange on top of cake

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

His & Her Birthdays

Scott and I met the year I turned 21. It was April and I'd just started at the company he worked at. We shared a connection from the very beginning. He was smart and funny and charming. Time spent together was always fun and filled with talking and laughter. A couple of months on, we discovered our birthdays fell one day apart. Rather coincidental, though it only added to the growing list of things we already had in common. 

A good friend and work colleague at the time was in charge of organising birthday cakes for the team Scott and I were in. He produced a rather memorable one for us that year. A chocolate mud cake, with little icing red roses and 'Scott & Julie', ever so romantically scribbled across the cake. Everyone remarked on how much it looked like an engagement cake and boy, were we red faced by the comments. Both in relationships with other people at that point. But as always, we saw the humorous side and had a good chuckle. 

Well, our friend who ordered that cake must have known something, because fast forward 12 years... and here we are! Married, house, children and still sharing a birthday cake each year. I had a lovely birthday today. Spent with my two boys and my wonderful parents. I make no secret about how uncomfortable birthdays make me feel. I dislike the fuss and undue pressure of it all. LOVE spoiling others on their birthdays, just not so keen on mine being the focal point. So it will be nice to hand the baton over to Scott at midnight, to mark yet another of our his & her birthday celebrations.

A few of my favourite birthday things 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Backyard Beauty

Our yard needs some TLC. A makeover. An overhaul. It has potential, because it's pretty, in a secret garden kinda way. But it's overgrown and not well set out to maximise the space that is there. One thing it does hold, is a brilliant star jasmine, which runs wild throughout the yard. It captivated me from the moment we moved in (almost 2 years ago) and I remember eagerly awaiting the first bloom last year around this time. Except it took longer to flourish than the year before and I have a feeling it may take it's time in popping this year also.

For a week or so, I have been searching through the glossy green leaves with a fine tooth comb, for any sign of bud. At this stage, nada. Not a one. I'm starting to think maybe if I showed a little more of that TLC towards the garden throughout the year, then it might feel more inclined to deliver the good stuff in abundance come Spring. Just as it did the year we moved in. Then I have to remind myself of the sweet, elderly couple who lived here before us. Evidently knew a thing or two about plants and gardening. They would no doubt freak out at the state of the star jasmine these days. But it's not Spring for another couple of days, so there is still time for the vine to burst forth with blossoms. I'll be checking either way.

Something lovely I did come across while searching for jasmine buds, was this fluffy cutie. Generously deposited around our backyard by the towering gums to the back of our property. Ah, those pesky gums.  So many things I love and so many things I don't love about them. But having clusters of these little guys draped everywhere is quite rustic and nice and homely. Looks like I have some accidental backyard beauty after all.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dominoes, Blocks & Detox

If it's possible to find an upside to being as sick as a dog for 24 hours, the upside is this... detox. Unplanned, unwanted, heavily enforced, detox. When I woke on Saturday morning, I felt as though I was stepping out of a blurry haze. Depleted and empty. Yet strangely cleansed. It's kind of weird, but it felt good not to be craving anything in particular and it made me realise just how reliant I am on certain foods and drinks on a regular basis. My vices... diet coke and chocolate. There is not a day that goes by when I don't indulge in both of these. But for almost two days, I stayed clean. And it felt pretty good. (I did say almost two days though).

The rest of the weekend consisted of lots of rest and sleep. Mooching around home, with just one short, efficient trip to the shops. We have a fabulous toy store near us. Filled to the brim with absolutely every kind of toy, game or puzzle one could wish for. A beautiful collection of old fashioned treasures and modern wonders. I have been in search of alphabet blocks for some time now. Of course they needed to be a particular type of alphabet blocks, as Angus requested a set just like the ones on his favourite Tv show Toybox. Yesterday we struck it lucky because that was exactly what we found. I don't know why I hadn't thought to look in this shop sooner, but we have them now and along with a set of old school dominoes (which were also on the request list as a result of Toybox) they've been very well loved and appreciated this weekend.

The best part by far though, was the improvement in my littlest big boy's health. The sparkle in his eyes, the cheeky grin on his face and the devilish demeanour, all resurfaced from their dormant state. Although he is rather troublesome with his climbing on the dining chairs, standing and attempting to ride them across the floor, rodeo style. I would choose troublesome in a second, as opposed to the miserable, motionless little babe from a couple of days ago. Health really is the most valuable possession we can have. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Better Days

The last 24 hours have been rough. In fact the past two days feel like one long nightmare. It started with a phone call from day care yesterday afternoon. Felix was running a high fever and extremely listless. He's had a nagging cough for weeks now, but it wasn't getting him down, other than being a bit restless at night. When I picked him up he was nothing like the bright, cheerful little babe I know and love. I felt bad. Really bad. Mother guilt soaring, as I tortured myself for leaving him and going to work. I had no idea he would spike a fever during the day and yet irrationally I blamed myself for not being there for him when it did.

The entire way home, I checked on him in the rear view mirror. Looking for any signs of improvement. Or deterioration. He seemed weak and uncomfortable. It's one of the hardest, most challenging things that face us Mama's, watching our babies suffer. Not being able to do anything to help, is even harder. By the time we arrived home, the fever had returned and his little face and body were on fire. He didn't want to be anywhere other than resting on my chest, nuzzled into my neck. After 2 hours of no success in bringing his fever down, I made an executive decision to get him to hospital. The next 4 hours were spent perched on a back breaking chair in the waiting room of the Children's Hospital, while Felix slept on me. At around midnight, we finally saw a doctor, who confirmed he has a viral infection, requiring a course of anti-biotics. I'm a tad cautious of anti-biotics for the littlies and although this is the first time either of the boys have ever taken them, whatever it takes to bring back my healthy happy boy, is ok with me.

It was a physically and emotionally harrowing night. Tired, exhausted and still in my work clothes, I watched as babies and children streamed through the emergency doors. Parents and grandparents with worried expressions and drawn faces. All looking much how I was feeling. When we finally walked through the front door at home, I was wrecked. I hadn't eaten or drunk anything since lunch time at work, over 12 hours before. And I felt ill. Within an hour, I was ill. Violently ill. It seems the lunch I'd eaten all those hours ago gave me food poisoning. I hated throwing up as a little girl and that dread is no different now. Today has been in a word... horrendous. No work, no daycare or preschool, just a sleepy babe, nauseous Mama and a wound up three and a half year old, who just wanted "to go somewhere!" Thank heavens for Scott being able to break out of work in the early afternoon, to come home and take Angus to the park, while Felix and I slept off our woes. We're both looking quite lack lustre this evening. Snuggled up on the lounge, resting our weary bodies. But we're on the road to recovery and looking forward to better days ahead.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins

I broke with my usual weekend tradition today and whipped up some mid week baked goods. Had to be a wee bit creative with the choice too, as I only remembered at 3.30 this afternoon that it's teddy bear's picnic day at daycare/preschool tomorrow. If I'd realised sooner, I would have picked up some specific ingredients at the shops this morning and almost certainly not have made something with quite so much sugar in it. But what the hey, I'll cut them in half and only take along a small plate... and I'm sure they'll go down a treat with the teachers anyway!

Working with the bits and pieces I had in the cupboard, I managed to pull together a recipe for Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins. They turned out beautifully. Another of the things I love about technology. The fact I'm able to jump on my trusty laptop, go straight to google, punch in a few key ingredients and presto! A range of varied recipes at my fingertips. These yummies came from the That's Life page of the Yahoo 7 site and they were super simple to make. 

Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
50g butter, melted
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
180g white chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 190 degrees (160 fan forced) 
Place 12 large patty cases into muffin pan
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and sugar
In a small bowl, whisk together egg, milk and butter
Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients along with the raspberries and chocolate
Using a large spoon, mix until just combined
Distribute the batter between patty cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and muffins are golden

Monday, August 22, 2011

A new day

When I woke up, I didn't feel much like doing anything today. Or more so, when I was woken up from a completely blissful slumber, at 6am. By any definition, 6am is early for kicking the day off. Yesterday afternoon was a bit disastrous around these parts. Felix threw up everywhere. I sat on my sunglasses and poleaxed them. Angus turned the whine & whinge meter up to extreme. And Scott was out with the boys at the footy. Despite my happy post of lemon slice and a beautiful dinner date... I was feeling pretty low about the day I'd just had. BUT as I always try to focus on the positives, I prefer to write about the lows when I'm in a better frame of mind.

So today I decided to accept the offer of a park play date with a good friend and her little girls. Sometimes it's important to push through the emotional pain barrier and just get out of the house. With that I declared it a hat day. I am not normally one to wear hats. Though I had a beyond bad hair day going on, a puffy, sore right eye AND no sunnies to hide the eye or swoosh my hair back with. It was an obvious choice for me. We walked to another of our terrific local parks and had a really lovely morning. The kids played well together. They shared. Looked out for each other. Enjoyed the sunshine and breeze.

This Mama gig is tough. Not a day goes by where I don't count my blessings for these adorable little big men we've created. Then there are moments where I'm not sure what to do next or where to pick up from. It only takes one bad day, or half a day even, to rock the confidence levels. To leave me questioning my ability to cope. Then a new day dawns and I just dig deep and it's so worth it. Worth every. single. second. After all, nothing worthwhile in life comes easy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tangy Lemon Squares

Last night I was spoilt. By a very generous friend who surprised me with dinner at Uccello@Ivy. She is a naughty girl, but I so appreciated such a thoughtful pre-birthday present. Our meals were exquisite. Mine consisted of Beetroot & goats cheese ravioli, lemon butter, crispy sage; Oven roasted fillet of snapper, braised fennel & endive, Sicilian green olives & thyme; Warm pear tart with brandy frangipane & pistachio emulsion. Then scrumptious sides of Wood fired potatoes, spanish onion & Mixed green salad. The service was exceptional, atmosphere inviting and the food just all round spectacular. I can honestly say that I am SO not used to restaurant experiences like this one. It was a real treat. Just a delightful evening.

Yesterday I decided to try another recipe that has been patiently awaiting it's turn for a run, in my collection of clippings. Ingredients for Lemony Coconut Squares set to go, oven preheating and then I discover that in my haste of snipping, I failed to snip the recipe in it's entirety from the Women's Weekly Mag. Problem being I just recycled my stack of mags last week, so had no chance of finding the extra steps I was missing for the method part of the recipe. I wasn't prepared to risk baking it on guesswork, so I went about sourcing an alternative from a cookbook bible, The Australian Women's Weekly...appropriately titled... 'Cook': How to cook absolutely everything. They are not kidding, this book is the last word in home cooking. It is brilliant and I really should use it more often because it offers up winning numbers like this delicacy. So sweet, refreshing and light. It is all lemony goodness and super simple to make.

Tangy Lemon Squares

125g Butter
1/4 cup (40g) icing sugar
1 1/4 cups (185g) plain flour
3 eggs
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degrees fan-forced). Grease 23cm square pan; line base and two opposite sides with baking paper
Beat butter and sifted icing sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until smooth
Stir in 1 cup of the sifted flour
Press mixture over base of pan
Bake, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until browned lightly
Place eggs, caster sugar, remaining sifted flour, rind and juice in medium bowl; whisk until combined
Pour egg mixture over hot base
Bake, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until firm
Cool in pan on wire rack
Lift slice from pan before cutting & dust with extra icing sugar

Baking sweets & photographing sweets... fast becoming two of my favourite pastimes

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweet moments

It's nice at the end of a day like to day to put all the stresses behind me. The three dirty nappies before we even walked out the door this morning. Getting caught in a torrential down pour carrying two little big men, under an umbrella, from the car which had to be parked two streets away from our home because on a Friday evening it's damned near impossible to park within cooee of our place. Being in the kitchen, still cleaning up at 8.30, after a hectic day at work. Wrangling two tired wee lads into the bath, pyjamas and bed, way past their bedtime at 9 o'clock. Yet another week of barely seeing Scott, due to his ever increasing workload.

If anything, I feel remarkably calm and content. The other day I went to pay for an item at the chemist using my eftpos card and fell just short of the pesky ten dollar minimum rule. Pressed for time and not needing anything else, I quickly surveyed the counter for a little something to bump the total across the line. There they were, a packet of old school glucojel jelly beans. Long before Jelly Belly's were on the scene, these were IT. Back then, for me, chemists were ALL about the brightly coloured glucojel beans. And they were good for me, because they had glucose, which gave me energy. Of course they were. My Nana & Papa lived opposite a chemist and guaranteed, every time we visited, Nana would produce a small packet of them for me. Strangely, the black were always my favourite. Red, white and pink didn't go down too badly either. So I cracked those open this evening and did a bit of reminiscing.

Picking the boys up from day care/preschool is one of my most cherished times of the week. I love the excitement on their faces and the extra tight cuddles they give. I especially love hearing about what they've been up to during the day and reading the gorgeous day book the teachers write in, just to keep us up to date. Illustrated beautifully with small photos of the babies/kids at play. These moments warm my heart and soothe my soul. Today was extra special as they had made an invitation for their Teddy Bear's Picnic next week. Stuck to the front of Felix's invite was an itty bitty photo of him painting from earlier today. It's nothing flash or even particularly attractive, but this teddy shaped piece of paper, I will treasure forever.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Driven to distraction

As a little girl, I used to find it puzzling when my Mama would burn the bottom out of the saucepan or boil the gravy/custard over the stove top. It happened quite regularly come to think of it. She would mutter to herself or sometimes to us kids and on the odd occasion curse having to do all the cooking, all the time. It's only now, as a Mama myself, that I truly understand the reason behind such kitchen mishaps. Or any mishaps. Distractions.

I've lost track of how many times I have started a load of washing, popped the powder in and ducked away, just for a minute, that turns into 20. By the time I realise I've already poured who knows how many litres of water down the drain AND set myself behind on a wash cycle that I have precious little time to make up for. This week my absent mindedness has soared to a new level. Noodles have turned to mush after being left on the boil for too long. Saucepans of milk have heated to the point of having a thick layer of skin on top. Countless bolts up the stairs and back down, without the item I went up to fetch in the first place. And probably most carelessly, I've failed to remember that my one year old explorer can now reach the tops of all tables and bench tops (and also climb (!) like a spider monkey) at least a dozen times.

But I always manage to save my best mishaps due to distraction for when I have an audience. The other day in front of my friend I had to clean poo out of Felix's hair, all because I got distracted while disposing of his nappy. It would have only been a minute, but it was long enough for him to snatch a soiled wipe and well... wipe himself with it. I swear that has NEVER happened before, but again, I don't think I've ever felt quite so distracted before either. Now that's a story he's going to love when he's older.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dance like no one is watching

I started today with cranky pants on. Maybe it was Felix's poo explosion first thing or the milk sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, due to the time it took to clean said poo explosion. The bundles and bundles of washing strewn all over the house didn't help. Nor did the bossy three and a half year old peck-peck-pecking at me for "yoghurt! milk! toast!" Then I worked myself into a flap over the general state of the house, because my friend and her gorgeous baby girl were coming for lunch. And of course she really cares about things like mess, disorder, chaos. Yet I fret about it every time I have friends or family over.

So there I was flapping about causing more angst and drama as I went. Then Hey Ya! by Outkast started up on the radio. My mood shifted. Something about certain songs and the effect they have on me, is almost primal. I love to dance and this one never fails to get me grooving. And groove I did. Right in the middle of the kitchen (our dance floor as it has come to be). It felt good. It made me smile, relaxed my muscles, entertained the boys. It's so nice that they're young enough not to be weirded out by their Mama dancing. They actually really enjoy it.

So many wonderful occasions in my life have been marked or celebrated with music and dancing. It's a drug for the soul. Can't get enough of it. People who know me well, also know this. I'm only too willing to dance like no one is watching... in front of everyone! From that point on this morning, the day changed shape and we all had a ball. And my lovely friend didn't bat an eyelid... she was way too sleep deprived to even move her eyes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


We met at a time when our world had been turned upside down. Tired, emotional, out of our depths. Over the past three and a half years our friendship has evolved, as the highs and lows of motherhood have presented themselves to us. We became neighbours coming up to 2 years ago when Scott and I purchased our new home. So we found ourselves living on the same street, meeting up for play dates in the local park and sharing similar stories from the frontline.

Last year, within a month of each other, we gave birth to our second son's. For the past year, we've juggled life with two boys. The good, the bad and the ugly. This morning my friend announced that she and her husband are moving back to the UK in December. I am really happy for them, as I know they have been agonising over making the right decision for their family. But I'm also a touch sad. We've had such an easy going connection from practically the minute we became Mama's. Thrown together as a result of our boys. It's incredible the people we meet and the friendships we forge, long into our adult lives. When we think we have made our circle and have no desire to add to it. We do. Motherhood has shown me that there will always be room for more and I'm ever so pleased by the realisation.

On a chirpier note, I am quite impressed by the energy levels within the mighty Angus of late. Ever since he started at his new preschool, he has gained a new level of confidence. He seems happier, more enthusiastic and even a little more considerate of his baby brother (with the exception of trying to tackle him to the floor at every opportunity). It fills my heart with joy to watch him play and move. And run. LOTS of running. Everywhere. Boys! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

To sleep like a baby

One of the nicest things about motherhood is getting the little ones to sleep. It's a pure delight. I have whiled away many hours over the past three and a half years, just watching my boys slumbering. At night, I'm the one who puts the baby to bed. At times it can be a difficult process and other times it's as easy as clicking my fingers. But they're only babies once and it's brief in the overall scheme of things. So I try to savour the experience as best I can.

Then there are times when I wish someone would put me to sleep. Or just let me sleep. Instead of being woken at 1.30am to be systematically whacked in the face, laughed at, coughed on and pushed to the far edges of the mattress. Particularly on night's like last night, when I could have done with some solid shuteye. Though in the end, as long as sleep eventually comes, I don't mind how we get there.

The times I love the most though, are the afternoon siesta's. They signify down time. Moments to catch my breath. Have a nibble of lunch. Catch up on the basic to the complex and all that falls in between. Most importantly, they provide the opportunity to capture my bubba's dreaming. So quiet, at ease and perfect. If only I could sleep like a baby.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

C2S 2011

I can think of easier ways to get from the centre of Sydney out to Bondi Beach. Though today was more about having fun, reaching personal goals and sharing in a strong sense of community. So Scott and I ran. We ran our little hearts out. The morning greeted us with rain, mist and chilly temperatures. But nothing was going to dampen the enthusiasm inside of us, to just run. the. damned. race. The sight itself while we were waiting in our group to take off, was awe inspiring. Thousands and thousands of eager peeps, all willing to pound the pavement. Some for a cause, others, just because.

Our start point was particularly beautiful, with a backdrop of St Mary's Cathedral to admire. Looking ever so majestic, against the drab morning sky. We shuffled along College St, onto William St and began to seriously move. The giant Coke sign looking tiny amidst the crowd. It was tough. Painful. Long. Seemingly never ending. My fingers and hands froze as the clouds heavy with water steadily opened above us. And as we finally reached the downhill run to Bondi, I felt as though I may never take this 14km 'fun run' on again.

As we crossed the finish line and saw the "you made, made, made it!" inflatable sign, we were filled with a flood of achievement. We ached all over. Then we headed for the corporate tent on the beachfront. Our company raised funds for two incredible charities. We raised funds for two incredible charities. I ran for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and Scott ran for the Steve Waugh Foundation. Seeing a gorgeous little girl of about 5 (a recipient of Steve's foundation), carried by her father, who was also carrying the oxygen tank she was connected to, kind of put things into perspective. Our pain may last a few hours, a couple of days at most. These little ones are suffering day in, day out. As are the women who are living with and battling ovarian cancer. One dies every 10 hours. Yes, I can think of easier ways to get from the city to Bondi, though none of them quite as rewarding as running.