Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Make a personalized Christmas card, they said...

It'll be fun, they said.

It'll be cute, they said.

You can even do it yourself, they said.

Yeah, right.

See, "they" forgot to mention a few things:

  • one year olds don't take direction very well
  • four year olds get bored when the one year old is mucking around
  • baubles can and will be used as projectiles
  • someone will cry (it might be you)
  • props will be knocked over and broken
  • you will bribe them to stay still
  • at least one of them will have closed eyes in about a quarter of the photos you take
  • their young ears may be subject to a few muttered swear words
  • they'll do something cute but because you're just using your phone, it will be blurry
  • when one is looking adorable the other will be mid-sneeze or have a finger up their nose
  • out of 4,382 photos, only three will look somewhat acceptable
  • you will need a stiff drink after

Cameo from our Colzart Duxzart Christmas Duck.
Merry Christmas, gorgeous people of the Internet. Those are my three somewhat acceptable photos. You're welcome.

Note to self: start saving for a photographer for next year's card.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ridiculously Easy Fudge Christmas Trees


Last Christmas I came up with ridiculously easy fudge Christmas trees and my god I was so proud of myself. They went within minutes at all the parties I took them to because they're just so darn cute and, well, fudgey. I put a quick instructional together for Facebook and it was shared hundreds and hundreds of times, making my head swell to enormous proportions. This year I thought I should put it on an actual post so people could pin it rather than trawl through their feed from last year.

The base of this recipe is the two ingredient fudge that is my go-to recipe in "oh shit I forgot to make something" scenarios. Add some green food colouring, some lollies for decorations and voila, Christmas trees.

Tricky and I made these on the weekend as part of our advent calendar activities and he was so chuffed. He broke up the chocolate, poured in the condensed milk and sprinkled over the lollies. I tell ya, lettings kids decorate is a fabulous way to see just how much of a perfectionist you are! Let it go, they'll taste the same whether all the decorations are bunched up or not.

how to make fudge xmas trees

You'll need:
  • One 395g can of condensed milk
  • Two blocks of white chocolate (between 180-200g per block is fine*)
  • Green food colouring
  • Lollies to decorate - I used mini m&ms and silver cashous
Thermomix Method:
thermomix xmas recipe
  • Line a lamington tray (you MUST do this first)
  • Place chocolate in to bowl and mix for five minutes on speed 2 at 50C
  • After five minutes, check to see if it is melted, scrape down the sides and add another minute if necessary
  • Add a few drops of green food colouring and mix for four seconds on speed 4
  • Pour in the condensed milk (see note below) and mix for six seconds on speed 5
  • Tip the green slime in to the tray and spread evenly, working quickly
  • Sprinkle over your decorations and gently push them so they embed slightly
  • Chill in the fridge until firm - allow an hour or so if it is a hot day
  • Remove the fudge from the tray and cut it in half length ways
  • Cut triangles from each half - I usually get about seven or eight
Standard Method:
  • Line a lamington tray (you MUST do this first)
  • Place chocolate in to a double boiler or the microwave and melt
  • When completely melted, add a few drops of green food colouring and stir to combine
  • Pour in the condensed milk (see note below) and mix thoroughly - it will start to thicken instantly, so you'll need to use your muscles
  • Tip the green slime in to the tray and spread evenly, working quickly
  • Sprinkle over your decorations and gently push them so they embed slightly
  • Chill in the fridge until firm - allow an hour or so if it is a hot day
  • Remove the fudge from the tray and cut it in half length ways
  • Cut triangles from each half - I usually get about seven or eight
Keep these chilled until you are ready to serve them. On a hot day they can get very melty if left on the table so be careful! I find they are less likely to melt if you do use the full 400g of chocolate.

*If you use 180g blocks don't scrape the condensed milk from the can, just pour until it mostly stops - you'll be left with the perfect amount to make a few condensed milk sandwiches and the fudge won't melt so easily!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Three ingredient Choc Mint Truffles

High off the success of the amazing three ingredient choc orange truffles/balls, I have been tinkering.

I thought I'd try a new flavour and also an easier way to decorate them - because it's the decorating that turns them from balls to truffles, ya know!

So here it is, complete with craft Santa that Bobbin and MapGuy made together.

Pin me, I'm delicious
You'll need:
2x packets of Choc Ripple biscuits
250g of Cream Cheese, cubed
Candy Canes to taste
Chocolate for decorating (optional)

I say to taste because some are big, some are small, some are particularly minty and some are just meh. So you'll have to experiment a little yourself. I used three full sized candy canes and it was perfect for me - just enough mint to cut through the chocolate, but not so much that it feels like you're eating toothpaste.

To make:
Blitz candy canes in a food processor until they're smashed up (Thermomix speed 5 for 10 seconds)
Add in the bikkies and process again until it looks like ground up coffee (Thermomix speed 5 for 10 seconds)
Place the cream cheese in and blitz again (Thermomix speed 5 for 10 seconds) until a crumbly dough forms
Take spoonfuls of the mixture, squeeze it in your hands to compact it, roll it in a ball and place on a baking sheet
When you've done a whole tray put it in the fridge to firm them up before decorating

L to R: uncoated with white choc stripes, coated with smashed candy canes, coated with white choc stripes
I love to dip these in chocolate, but it can be a little time consuming and fiddly, so this time I experimented with just putting white chocolate stripes on them and I think it looks just as nice as the chocolate coated ones (see above on the left) - they just look a tad smaller.

Remember they have cream cheese in them so it is best to keep them in the fridge until a few minutes before serving, particularly if it is a stinking hot day (it was 38C here today!).

These are morish. You've been warned. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The difference a year makes

At the start of this year I created a memory jar. It was a big jar that cost a few dollars from The Reject Shop (god, I love that place) that I chucked a bow on in a lame attempt to make it look pretty. It didn't. It looked like a Pinterest fail.

The deal was, every day I would write something nice that happened. It didn't have to be big; just something that had made me smile. Things like got a seat on the train, got a text from a friend, MG cooked an awesome dinner, a good hair day, anything.

After a few weeks, I kinda lost interest which, hello, story of my life. Big plans, not much motivation and oooooh shiny let's start a completely different project and push the other one to the back where it can't mock me for never finishing anything.

Last week as I was putting up Christmas decorations I found the jar with the pathetic smattering of notes in it and sat down to read them. One in particular caught my eye:
29th January 2014
Tricky playing WITH Logan!!! Talking, making up games even!
It was a truly momentous occasion and I'm so glad I wrote it down. So glad that I was completely filled with guilt for not continuing on with it, but there's not much I can do now apart from start again next year, perhaps with a nicer bow. Note to self: check Pinterest again. But I digress.

It was so noteworthy because until then, Tricky hadn't played with Logan despite knowing him, and seeing him weekly, since they were both around six weeks old. His mama, Mrs O, and I met at our awesome mothers group and she's one of my closest friends, so the boys have literally grown up together and even had joint birthday parties as they were born a week apart. But it still took my shy guy three years to begin to interact. That's one helluva warm up period.

The boys at their first Christmas party
Yesterday was Tricky's last day of kindy and the transformation since that memorable day in January when he started to play with other children (and not just adults) is staggering.

At the beginning of the year he would not talk. He would not sing or dance in class. He was coaxed and encouraged by his fabulous teacher who has had lots of experience with introverted kids, but it was just a matter of him quietly growing his confidence. It wasn't something that could be forced upon him; pushing him or punishing him would just make him upset because he was trying. The only person he would talk to or interact with at all was Logan and I was so grateful that they were in class together so there would be a familiar face to help the transition.

And transition he did. Now, he not only talks and plays with his buddies, he begs to have them come over or to go to their houses. When he is at school or with his mates he cracks jokes, sings and dances, makes fart noises, has poo and death in every game, pretends to be a dog, plays chasey, and more often than not, acts completely bloody silly. And I flippin' love it! OK maybe not the poo stuff, but you get my point. Just your average four year old. Average is awesome, never underestimate average.

He and Logan are such good mates. And I'm so lucky that Mrs O and I are too (she is totally my drinking buddy).

I'm bursting with pride at all his achievements this year. He has come so much farther than many of us had anticipated and it is magical that other people can now see his gorgeous, kind, funny personality shining through - a feature that only his family had experienced previously.

I will be forever thankful that he has had such a wonderful teacher who has been caring yet firm, and that he ended up in class with Logan and a beautiful bunch of kids who are just lovely to be around. Plus all the parents are ace, too. Any class mums and dads that meet ups in the pub to celebrate the end of the school year are OK by me!

Tell me what you're super proud of your kids for this year. Embrace the #mumbrag

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Three ingredient choc orange balls (or truffles if you feel like being fancy)

Pin me. You know you want to.
I never know whether to call these things balls or truffles. I figure any opportunity to say balls just cannot be ignored, so we'll go with that for now. Plus when I hear truffles I think of involved recipes, double boilers, leaving it to cool and that's just not my scene because effort.

So I cheat. Yes, you read that right. I cheat and make DELICIOUS three ingredient choc orange truffley balls that, so far, everyone who has tried them has loved. Even the people who wouldn't call themselves jaffa aficionados have loved them. They have a beautiful, creamy texture and the orange cuts through the chocolate juuuust enough.

I make mine in a Thermomix but you can use any food processor. This recipe makes approximately 50 balls because I've been making them as gifts, but you can halve the recipe if you wanted to make less. Though I have NO IDEA why you'd want to do that.

You'll need:
Two packets of Choc Ripple biscuits
250g of cream cheese, cubed
The finely grated zest of one orange
Dark chocolate for dipping (optional)

Blitz the biscuits to fine crumbs in your food processor (10 seconds on speed 5 in Thermo)
Add the orange zest and the cream cheese in to the bowl
Mix together until a crumbly looking dough forms (10 seconds on speed 5 in Thermo)
Grab spoonfuls of the mixture and squeeze it in your fist to compact it then roll in to a ball
Place on a baking sheet and put it in the fridge until firm (20 minutes or put them in the freezer for 10)

If you want them to look fancy and be called truffles, melt some dark chocolate and dip them in, then add a few orange sprinkles. The dipping process can be a bit time consuming so feel free to skip it and serve them as is.

It's best to keep these in the fridge and take them out a few minutes before serving - though I eat them straight from the fridge sometimes!

Will you make some?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thriller Live: not so thrilling {review}

This is a C2 post
For full details please see my disclosure policy
Photo of previous cast member
Aunty Penny and I were invited to see the preview night of Thriller Live last night. It's a bit of a treat to go out mid-week so I wore heels and lipstick. Fancy, no? 

I was excited to see the show because I'd heard a bit about it; it's been going for six years, five of those in the West End before heading on tour and meant to be jam packed with awesome tunes celebrating the career of Michael Jackson.

Now, I'm not a die hard fan of MJ, but I do know a lot of his songs and figured a show that condensed his best bits in to a few hours would be something an ordinary fan could really get in to, in the same way I actually enjoy 20/20 cricket but would sooner swallow razor blades than watch a test match. I don't want the whole back catalogue, but the iconic songs? Yes please.

It didn't get off to a good start with a cursor visible on the screens for a while and flashes of another program running. I work with duplicated desktops for presentations so I understand how one false move can spell disaster, and I know how much the lighting peeps would have been kicking themselves.

Opening the show was MiG Ayesa. He's a bloody talented dude. Sings. Dances. Probably can cook, too. However, he kinda sucks at an American accent. He spoke alone on stage at the very beginning and his accent kept changing every few words. American one second, Australian the next, then that weird inbetween "I grew up in multiple countries" accent. I don't understand why he had to put on an accent anyway. Just be you, man, you're freakin' awesome. 

Watching the first half it was evident all the singers were amazing. Samantha Johnson (I think?) blew me away. I'd pay to just watch her alone on stage, she was outstanding. But on the whole, something was definitely lacking. 

At intermission I turned to Penny and said "I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?" to which she replied, of course, "I think you can in Europe?". We were both just "whelmed". 

Photo of previous cast member
I was having trouble concentrating on the whole of the stage for parts of it because one of the dancers just seemed so out of place. Now, granted, she is at least eleventy billion times better at dancing than yours truly, but yet still it was just... awkward. I felt like she was an understudy, or that she had trained in classical ballet and came over to this style recently or something. Because she stood out from the others and not in a good way. I thought I must have been being unfair but after chatting with Penny plus bloggers Raychael from Agent Mystery Case and Jules from Zippy Zappy Life, I realized I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

I tried concentrating on the dancers that were my favourites; MiG Ayesa, a little pocket rocket chick with an awesome booty, and an afro-sporting dude that was a little easy on the eye. I leaned over to Penny and said I'd like to take him home and eat him on a crumpet. Tasty. 

There were definitely good bits. Moonwalks, crotch grabbing, the lean (I love the lean!), some cool outfit changes, and even pyrotechnics. Still just whelmed. I began to think that maybe I was missing the point, but Penny, who knew all the songs, was also a bit meh.

I felt the audience participation was a bit naff, though perhaps the die hard fans would be all in for it. I got my groove on towards the end of the second half and bopped along in my seat to Billy Jean. It finished and the lights stayed down in the annoying tradition of encores. Just play your show. Don't pretend to finish and then come back when the crowd cheers. We all know it's rehearsed so it takes away the true "screaming for more". I think this of every single concert I go to, not just for Thriller Live. Having said that, the encore was the only bit I found thrilling. If the whole show had been like that, it would have been brilliant.

Photo of previous cast member
For over $100 a ticket, even for the matinee shows, I don't really think I could recommend it as is. To only clap properly in the last fifteen minutes of the show is kinda disappointing. I can only hope the screen issues (which popped up again at the end) lack of flow and the dodgy dancer were just first night jitters. 

Do you like Michael Jackson? What is your favourite song of his?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Explaining death to a four year old

Perth has been rocked by the tragic death of two year old Sam Trott today.

He went missing at 10:30am yesterday after slipping out of his house through a door that had been left open accidentally.

The community rallied. Hundreds drove and walked the streets calling his name. When they learned he might not respond to his name because of his Autism, they sang his favourite song, The Wheels On The Bus. As night fell, many residents left lights on to aid the search and left out blankets, food and water in the hope that a by now starving Sam would stumble upon them. Police said it was unprecedented in the metro area.

By the time I could go out to help, he'd been missing for twelve hours and the police told me they didn't have enough SES members to escort the huge numbers of volunteers so I should stay home. I laid in bed and cried, then rang my dad and told him to re-check his garden and leave the lights on. I have no connection to the Trott family, but like so many others I was drawn to help, thinking of this poor boy wandering alone, a few kilometres from my house.

I'm always surprised at how different tragedy feels now that I have children. It's no longer something sad that happens to "other people", because you can see your own child in the eyes of the one on the missing poster. It tears at your heart as you try, and fail, to fully comprehend the pain and torment the parents must be feeling.

Tricky caught wind of what was going on last night so we explained to him over dinner that a little boy was lost and that lots of people were trying to find him to take him home to his parents. He didn't say much then, but as I lay with him to put him to sleep last night he asked if we could go and look for Sam. He said we had to take our torches so that Sam would know we weren't monsters, then he'd come to us and we could take him home. He was very specific about which torches and batteries we should take, he had a plan and he was certain we would find him.

I managed to wipe away my silent tears and I cuddled in to him for a long time after he'd fallen asleep, not wanting to let go.

Today when I heard that a child's body had been found in the lake, my heart sank and I had a cry in the car. I didn't know how I would explain it to Tricks. He talks about death quite a lot, but he doesn't fully understand. I've tried to be straight forward with him but I never know what is appropriate. I knew I couldn't just sweep it under the carpet because he still asks about a neighbour's bloody bird that went missing almost a year ago.

When  I picked him up from school, I knew we were going to the beach so I thought I'd tell him before hand, thinking the frollick in the water would be a good distraction for after.

We sat in the car together and all I could think of was "don't fuck this up". I wanted him to hear it from me rather than overhearing a conversation. I cuddled him and held his hand.
"You remember we talked about that little boy Sam who was lost?"
He nodded.
"Well I have sad news, he died."
He looked completely shocked and audibly gasped. Then he frowned. "How did he die?"
"He wandered to the lake and he couldn't swim, so he drowned."
He contemplated this for a moment before continuing "What happens when you drown?"

Christ I knew this wouldn't be easy, but it's so much harder than I thought.
"If you go under water for too long, you can't breathe. If you can't breathe then you die. It's called drowning. It's very sad. How do you feel?"
His little lip pouted. "Sad. Can we go to the lake?"
"What for?"
"To get him so we can take him back to his mum."
"He's not there anymore, the police came and took him."
"Is he back alive now?"
"No, sweetheart. You can't come back alive after you've died."
He asked more questions about what happens after you die and I tried to answer them as best I could without scaring the shit out of him. He asked again to visit the lake so I said we could go and lay some flowers tomorrow if he wanted to.

"I'm going to die one day. But not until I'm really, really, really, really, really, really old" he chirped. And that was that. He wanted to go to the beach.

I don't know if he understands completely or not. He might forget the whole thing by tomorrow afternoon or he might insist on taking flowers to the lake. He is at a sleep over with my parents tonight and part of me hopes he asks to come home so I can cuddle up to both my babies and fall asleep tangled together with them as usual.

Hold your babies tight.

Rest in peace, Sam.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Adventures in Advent Calendars (with Frozen themed cookies in a jar!)

S1 For full details please see my disclosure policy

Traditions around Christmas are what it's all about. I have such fond memories of going Christmas Tree Hunting back in the days when you had to cruise the streets for hours (OK, maybe 45 minutes) for a glimpse of a tree in a front window. Aunty Penny and I would be in the back seat of the tiny little orange Datsun Stanza, windows down, the cool air of the Freo Doctor on our faces after a hot day, shouting out "CHRISTMAS TREE!" and "THERE'S ONE!", keeping a tally to see who would win. I would always win; as the little sister there was a "if I can't win, I don't want to play" policy.

Each Christmas it's our tradition to make an Advent Calendar with a themed activity for each day. Now, before you start thinking you don't have time for daily activities, hear me out! They don't have to be huge things! Some examples of our activities are: go Christmas Tree hunting, donate toys to a charity, sing Christmas Carols, bake festive yummies, visit Santa, colour in a Christmas picture and other super easy things. Activities we can all enjoy together.

Including baking in to our Advent Calendar traditions was done not just because it was something fun, but so we could give out the fruits of our labour as gifts. We get in the kitchen together, listen to Carols, bake things with a shed load of sugar, have fun and get a gift out of it. It's like a cheesy holiday movie playing out in my own house.

If you're stuck for time and turning on a hot oven in 37C heat doesn't take your fancy, then you can prepare the ingredients and give away COOKIES IN A JAR. I personally don't understand the jar obsession - I drank out of jars when I was poor, now when rich people do it I find it quite funny. But it's on trend, or on point, or on something, so let's go with that.

These aren't just adorable, they are a gift that keeps on giving: the baking experience, eating the cookies and graduating to Official Hipster by drinking from the mason jar. But they're also very affordable. I bought mason jars with handles from BIG W for $2 each, lids ($6 for a pack of 6 - kept with preserving items) popped in the ingredients, tied it up with some ribbon ($2 in the gift wrap section) and hung a bag of sprinkles on the side for decoration. I bought the $6.50 Wilton brand sprinkles - it's my absolute fave and used to be really hard to get, but BIG W stock it now! HUZZAH!

To make your own:
  • Grab your jars and lids and sterilize them by boiling or putting them through the dishwasher
  • When filling the jars, each layer needs to be compressed so that it won't move around in transit. I used a spatula and a melon baller to press it down gently - the only things I could find as Bobbin slept
  •  Fill the jars with:
110g SR Flour
50g oats
35g blue M&Ms
35g white chocolate drops
55g brown sugar
35g white sugar
20g macadamia nuts (or substitute 20g extra M&Ms instead to make this nut free)
extra SR Flour for leveling at the top - fill it to the brim!
Pop on the lid, tape on a label, tie a ribbon around it, or some fabric and voila! I put on the Wilton sprinkles because I thought kids would like to decorate the cookies after they'd made them, but you don't have to. You don't even have to have them Frozen themed, you can vary the recipe really easily by substituting any colour M&M, or swapping it out for dried cranberries for a hint of festive red.

As a special treat I've created some printables for you! Click on the images below to download a sheet of labels for the front and back of your jars. They'll be the right size for a two inch punch - the red will go to the edge but the blue will have a white border.

I'm not the only one with a cool Advent Calendar this year though, BIG W have an online Advent Calendar with a new surprise special every day that sure beats a miniscule square of cooking chocolate. And I can tell you now, all secret squirrel like, that on the 6th there will be 30% off all Skylanders and Infinity Storage products. Ooooh storage. Buying storage things could possibly become a tradition in this house...

Tell me your Christmas traditions. Will you be giving cookies in a jar?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

33: The year of ME

I have a love hate relationship with the number three.

I bet you didn't even know you could have a love hate relationship with a number, but you totally can.

Three is my favourite number. I pick it, and variations of it, whenever I have to choose a number. 333 would be the ultimate, but any number with a 3 in it is preferable over one without. If I'm in a pinch (ie. some bastard has taken all the tickets with a 3) then I'll pick 9 because MATHS. Hell, even my name kinda sounds like three in Italian.

But at times I loathe the number three because whenever I get anxious (usually on days that end in Y), my self soothing routine is to count in very specific patterns of three, usually by moving my fingers. Ohai, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's pretty discreet, most people don't notice and those that do just think I'm fidgety or maybe have an itch. 





That's my pattern. Over and over and over and over and over and over again. Typing it out makes it seem bizarre, and it is, really. 

I'm about to turn 33. Because two threes are better than one, I figure it's a good time to focus on myself in this year of the fave digits. I'd wait until I grabbed the trifecta 333, but alas, I don't think I'll last that long. 

So, the next twelve months I'm going to focus on me, or more specifically, my health and my goals. Why am I telling you this? Well, I have zero willpower and am highly distractable (oooh look, something shiny) so I'm hoping that having this here will give me a sense of accountability. I can let myself down over and over again but no one knows; if I put it out there publicly and say this is what I'm going to do, and then I don't? Well, I'd feel like a bit of a dick. Hooray for internet shame.  

My goals for the next twelve months:

Become more organized and procrastinate less - yeah, starting off with some that aren't really quantifiable, but meh. It could be summarized by: get off Facebook and DO SHIT!

Exercise three times a week - the shitty thing about chronic pain is that it makes it hard to exercise because PAIN. Yet exercise is meant to be the bestest thing ever to decrease the pain so I just gotta stop making excuses. I'm not talking about pushing through the pain to a point where I end up immobile, just consistent gentle exercise. Oh god I sound old. 

Focus on health - mental and physical. My pap smear was due last month and I still haven't made the appointment; I've been wanting to get advice on changing medications for aaaages and I still haven't made the appointment. It's the same story over and over again because it just hasn't been a priority. That has to change. That will change.

Don't eat in secret - I am a huge binge eater and it is the reason I have put on so much weight in the last year. It is totally embarrassing to admit, but I go through drive through and gorge myself if I'm alone. This year with Tricky at school and Bobbin being asleep half the time we're in the car it became so much more frequent. Tricky will be at school full time next year and the rhythmic rocking can still lull Bobbin to sleep sometimes so it will be hard, but it has to stop. Both my health and my wallet are suffering from this one. 

Blog more - I have taken the "slow blogger" approach out of necessity the past twelve months, but I want to get back to it. Consciously pulling back was what was needed at the time, and it's almost like it is a habit now to not blog whereas before I would think "I'm blogging the shit out of this" whenever I did anything. I'm out of practice!

Volunteer - I used to volunteer for Look Good, Feel Better but I stopped when Tricky was born. I loved doing it. It is such an everybody wins situation. It's hard to organize babysitting for little ones, but now that Bobbin can go for hours between breastfeeds, it will be easier to have her looked after by someone else. 

I'm sure there are more things. But I got distracted by making a crappy button. See? Procrastination Queen.

I won't wait until my birthday to kick this off, because why delay? 

How do you make yourself accountable?


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