Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finding his way

Yesterday we scorched, under sultry sunny skies. Nice to finally feel the punch of Summer, which has been seriously lacking around these parts, over the past two months. Angus returned to preschool with a positive approach and a beautiful smile. Our heart to heart last Tuesday evening worked wonders for his outlook and confidence in his new surroundings. A great relief to this anxious Mama, who quite often over thinks these bumps in the road, even when I know deep down, they have a way of smoothing themselves out.

Avoiding the topic of friends altogether, we strolled home, chatting in the afternoon sun. As I was preparing dinner, an excitable Angus bounded into the kitchen with some information. "Mama, I made a new friend today!" Playing it cool, I casually prompted him to tell me a bit more about his friend. "His name is Will and we were throwing balls into the cubby house, I like him Mama... I might even make another new friend tomorrow!" Ahhh, music to my ears. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mr Potato Head

Today was one of those days. Planets in disarray, or something like it. Thick, black rain clouds hovered all day. Multiple toddler meltdowns and loads of wet washing, refusing to dry. Then I think the lowlight occurred when I came to pay for a bundle of 'must have' grocery items at the self serve checkout and my wallet... was sitting next to my laptop at home. I have never done that before. I always meticulously double check my bag before leaving the house. Phone, car keys, wallet. Guess there's a first time for everything. And it was one of those days.

Angus received a Mr Potato Head game for Christmas. Filled to the brim with about a thousand pieces. Body parts and accessories for Mr & Mrs Potato Head and even their pet cat and dog. I'm fond of Potato Head, he's been around for as long as I can remember and I love the toys that remind me of my childhood. Of course, there was a highlight to the ho hum day and it came courtesy of Master Felix (aka: Mr Potato Head). Into the kitchen, he waddled hysterically, wearing a pair of miniature spectacles. Straight from the Potato Head collection. As rubbish as the day had been, I couldn't help but chuckle heartily at the cheeky character before me. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lamington Angel Cakes

It is not uncommon for me to decide on something I'd like to bake, only to realise at the last minute I'm missing an ingredient. Sometimes it's a crucial one, other times I google madly to look for substitute ingredients to finish the job. Definitely mastering the art of improvisation around here. I had my heart set on making lamingtons for Australia Day and the proverbial missing ingredient happened to be corn flour. I wasn't too comfortable with any substitutes I found online, so resigned to making a totally different sweet.

Until I remembered an alternative recipe I'd used years ago, from a Women's Weekly Cupcakes pocket book. Sure enough, I had every ingredient required... and it meant using four less eggs than I would have in the official lamington recipe. The result was a delightful cupcake version. These remind me of the old butterfly cakes, which I loved as a child. Whilst mine didn't turn out looking quite as angelic as the name suggests (or as the picture in the book demonstrated), they tasted every bit as ethereal. Sweet, soft, flavoursome little morsels, that certainly did the trick for an Australia Day treat. 

Lamington Angel Cakes

90g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup (80g) desiccated coconut
1/4 cup (80g) jam (raspberry or strawberry) 
1/2 cup (125ml) thickened cream, whipped

Chocolate Icing

10g butter
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
2 cups (320g) icing sugar
1/4 cup (25g) cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180/160 degrees for fan-forced
Line 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases
Combine butter, vanilla extract, sugar, eggs, flour and milk in small bowl
Beat on low speed using electric mixer, until ingredients are just combined
Increase speed to medium; beat until mixture is changed to a paler colour
Divide mixture among cases, smooth surface
Bake about 20 minutes
Turn cakes top-side up onto wire rack to cool
Meanwhile make chocolate icing
Remove cakes from cases
Dip cakes into chocolate icing
Drain of excess; toss cakes in coconut
Stand cakes on wire rack to set
Cut cakes as desired; fill with jam and cream

Chocolate Icing

Melt butter in medium heatproof bowl over saucepan of simmering water
Stir in milk and sifted icing sugar and cocoa until icing is of a coating consistency

Naturally, I also didn't have any cream on hand 
either... then I recalled my Philadelphia gift packcontaining 
a tub of the new Philadelphia Cream for Desserts... and I was set!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Land down under

I'm not sure who was most disappointed to discover our local council had cancelled Australia Day festivities at one of our favourite vantage points. Actually, I'm pretty sure it was me. The celebrations are always oodles of fun and the community spirit always alive and kicking. So when everything is washed out and a vacant mass of soggy grass is the only thing on offer, the mood is somewhat dampened too. Poor Angus suffered with the effects of yesterday's injections also. An irritating fever and hard, red lump on his little arm.

Despite the lacklustre atmosphere, we had a really nice family day together. Scott returned from his stint in Melbourne last night and it was a treat for the boys to have Daddy all to themselves again. A leisurely wander at the beach, while Scott did an ocean swim. Then a couple of keen spectators paused to watch, as a beach volleyball contest got underway. Without going too overboard on the patriotism, I do love this amazing country of ours. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Four years on, I still struggle when it comes time for immunisation injections. I've never liked the idea of taking a perfectly happy child and jabbing them with a needle. Seems a bit cruel to me. I recognise there are completely plausible reasons for it and understand I'd be crazy not to protect my boys. But I doubt I'll ever be comfortable with the process. This time around was a touch more emotional than previous injections. Four year old and eighteen month old immunisations. Together. Ouch!

I worked myself into such a lather leading up to the appointment, I felt sick. I know the anticipation is often worse than the reality. But that knowledge never seems to help me, when I'm in the middle of a situation. Scott has been in Melbourne for the last few days, the rain has been tumbling down relentlessly and then, the good old needles. Gradually turning the screws a little tighter on my overall sense of being. Angus went first, one shot in each arm. He took the first one well, the second he attempted to dodge and then cried like a banshee. Felix was set off long before Angus even had his needle. Writhing and bucking to get to me... because of course I was holding Angus. Different to his brother, Felix let out one loud yelp following his needle and was over it. Such a tough guy.

What a day. The mornings events rendered us all a bit dysfunctional for the rest of the day. Good timing with the weather not permitting any kind of outdoor activity anyway. Come back sunshine, so that the little fellows can be in the fresh air and warmth. And we can all enjoy some semblance of Summer. 

The boys doubling on Felix's little tricycle... in sunnier times (on the weekend actually)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fresh Start

When I think back to this time last year, I'm reminded of that sinking feeling of dread, as Angus embarked on his first days in care. The worry that plagued me each day I dropped him off, not to mention the days leading up. I'll never forget the look on his sweet, sad, little face when I had to go. And the tears. So many shed, by both of us. It was a tumultuous year for all of us, with two different centres for Angus and a short stint in care for Felix. Very stressful, unsettling times.  

Today, Angus commenced his first day of the real deal preschool. School hours, school terms, no nap times, proper lessons. My, what a difference a year makes. Confident, peppy, bubbling with enthusiasm. My heart burst with love and pride, as we walked the short distance from home, chatting as we went. I am so in awe of this spirited four year old and all he has learnt, all he has taught himself and all that he is so eager and willing to learn. The drop off went as smoothly as the day itself. His lovely, young teacher Angela, offering only encouraging, positive stories about his first encounter with preschool. But the best part by far, no tears, from either of us. 

Addendum: Just before bedtime this evening, Angus made a revelation about his new preschool. "I don't like it and don't want to go back". I have to admit, a part of me broke when I heard those words. Upon further gentle probing I discovered the concern was that he hadn't made any new friends. I was somewhat relieved to hear we are only dealing with a friend related apprehension. Friends are something he can work on. After a good long discussion, we were back on track with the positives of his brand new school. The sparkle in his eye returned once again, before he drifted off to sleep. "Next week, I'll tell the kids, I'm Angus!" he chirped. Sometimes I do forget just how fragile the world appears at his age. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One point five

The sea put on an angry face today. Churning and swirling and roughing up the sand, as white frothy waves continuously pounded the shore. After a few average days, with minimal sunshine and a distinct lack of Summery warmth, we were all eager to be beside the seaside. Angus, boogie board positioned purposefully under his arm, would not be discouraged. Despite Scott and I vocalising our concerns for his delicate nose and general well being, he won the debate in the end. So whilst Scott and he headed down to the least rugged part of the beach, my cheeky friend and I hung out on dry land, in the blustery breeze.

At one and a half, Felix is boisterous and loud and at times, blatantly rough. With an equally tenacious older brother, he has learnt early on, to give as good as he gets. There is a sensitive side to this hardened nugget though. His kisses and cuddles are to die for and he has the ability to make us all laugh... even when he's being naughty. He loves praise and claps his chubby hands wildly as soon as he hears the words "good boy" uttered. I could literally watch him play or eat or sleep for hours at a time. For the most part, he is the sweetest, most amicable babe. And when it's just the two of us, I find him even more charming, as he potters around amusing himself. I've thoroughly enjoyed Angus being home full time from preschool these past six weeks, but a part of me is quite excited to be getting two days alone with my little shadow again, from this week onwards.        

Friday, January 20, 2012

Boys will be boys

Today was beyond draining. Angus took a fall on a piece of play equipment at the park and was very lucky not to have broken his sweet little nose. One of those innocuous moments that seem to happen in slow motion. As always, in plain sight of where I stood. The hysterical scream was enough for me. I knew it must have been bad. Blood pouring, button nose swelling, sweaty body involuntarily shaking every few seconds. SO scary for this doting Mama. Our play date with friends abruptly ended there. Everyone decidedly rattled and worse for wear.

We spent the afternoon camped out quietly on the lounge. Fruit juice, a banana paddle pop and plenty of Tv show favourites, along with a customary ice pack, all in an attempt to alleviate the suffering. And they worked, as he ever so gradually became his cheeky self again. Incidents like these unnerve me. They heighten my already wild imagination and rock the delicate confidence levels. Sometimes I'd like to be able to wrap all of my boys in cotton wool. Keep them safe and close and happy, always. Then I see how their eyes sparkle and their smiles widen when they're free, running amok, experiencing life, for all of it's ups and downs. I am aware of my place, never more so than on days like this one. Be there to pick them up when they stumble, wipe their blood and tears as they're spilt and love them with unconditional tenderness. For now, it is all they need. 

More holiday happy snaps - Queensland 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Banana Cake with Passionfruit Icing

It's been a little over two weeks since making Angus' birthday cake and I haven't so much as looked at anything baking related since. I have missed it. Baking is a necessity for me. Love the entire process, from the selection of a recipe, to the tasting of the finished product. Today I chose a classic, with a twist, using a recipe I haven't attempted previously. The thing that struck me about this one, is just how simple it looked upon first glance. And it was every bit as straight forward to make. Bananas are back to their bountiful best, much to the delight of every member in our household. When they were scarce and painfully expensive, those were some dark days.

As per usual, I had my loyal assistant in the mix, questioning each step and ingredient and utensil I touched. I have a sneaking suspicion he's in it for the beaters/wooden spoon. The mention of them every 45 seconds and the insistence that "there is enough mixture in the cake tin now Mama", only add weight to my theory. Taken from my old faithful Women's Weekly COOK book, this cake is heaven sent. The passionfruit icing is a luscious addition and has left me wanting seconds... and thirds... and so on.

Banana Cake with passionfruit icing

125g Butter, softened
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups (225g) Self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
1/4 cup (60ml) milk

Passionfruit Icing

1 1/2 cups (240g) icing sugar
1 teaspoon soft butter
2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp, approximately

Preheat oven to moderate (180/160 degrees fan-forced)
Grease 15cm x 25cm loaf pan; line base with baking paper
Beat butter and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy
Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined
Transfer mixture to large bowl
Using wooden spoon, stir in sifted dry ingredients, banana, cream and milk
Spread mixture into pan
Bake, uncovered, about 50 minutes
Stand cake 5 minutes then turn onto wire rack; turn cake top-side up to cool
Make passionfruit icing
Spread cold cake with passionfruit icing

Place icing sugar in small heatproof bowl.
Stir in butter and enough pulp to give a firm paste
Stir over hot water until icing is of a spreadable consistency, taking care not to overheat
Use immediately

Recipe note: 2 large ripe bananas make 1 cup of mashed banana. It is important that the bananas are over-ripe: not only do they mash easily but, if they are underripe, the cake will be too heavy. A banana's natural starch is converted to sugar during the ripening process and it's this natural sugar that contributes to the correct balance of ingredients. The cake develops a crusty edge due to this sugar content.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The more the merrier

The warmth of feeling welcome. There is nothing quite like it. Approximately half an hour inland from Maroochydore on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, sits a quaint lodge. Tucked away in a picturesque part of the hinterland. Here, my brother, sister-in-law and their adorable family work for two months of the year. Running the business for my sister-in-law's brother, while he takes a much needed break from responsibilities. I couldn't think of two people more perfect for the caretaker role. They live and breathe hospitality, love a chat and know exactly how to enjoy life and all it has to offer. They are fabulous people to be around and for three nights of our holiday, we were blessed enough to stay with them.

Hot afternoon's spent by the pool. Beer and bubbly as the sun commenced it's descent in the sky. Cousins bonding and spending long overdue quality time, just being. The most divine dinners, eaten under the stars, lovingly prepared by my niece's partner, who happens to be a chef. Outdoor games at dusk, littlies in PJ's, adults settling in for good food, great conversation and terrific company. A birthday celebration for a very special 10 year old. Countless laughs, stories and reminiscing. 

I think everyone was a little forlorn on the morning we had to say goodbye. But there is always next time and now we know where they are... they won't need to twist our arms too hard to go back for a visit. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Little Surfer

The evolution of confidence is a remarkable thing. At the beginning of our holiday, Angus would barely set foot in the ocean, with his junior boogie board. His first boogie board. A lovely Christmas gift from a dear friend. We coaxed and demonstrated in the crystal clear waters of the Sunshine Coast. To no avail. True to the observer in Angus, he stood back, with trepidation and each day would return to the car, carrying his tiny, untouched board. On our last day, at Coolum Beach, he finally plucked up the courage to give it a red hot go. Scott and I, super proud of our big boy's mettle. With that, a little surfer was born. Eventually, we were able to lure him from the waves. Exhaustion, thirst and hunger won out.

Today, on home turf, it was the perfect opportunity to test out the boogie board skills. Confidence has grown even stronger. Straight in, no persuasion required, riding the gentle shore-break like a budding grommet. A nice way to spend Scott's last day before his return to work. It's been a terrific three weeks, the boys and I have loved every precious minute of having Daddy around full time. Uninterrupted family time is so few and far between for the most part of our year, so we have really treasured these warm Summer moments.