Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First day back

This boy started at high school today...

...and this girl started in the juniors

Those socks are a crime against children.

They both had a great day, despite a few nerves.  Joseph also had a good day and has the same teacher that he had in yr 3.  Archie goes back to yr 8 tomorrow and Robert goes back to pre-school.  What will I do with myself?  Ah yes, small matter of trying to find a job...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

End of Holidays

So we're at the end of the holidays now and we've fitted in a fair bit.  I have been unusually organised this year - all shoes and bags were bought, not today, but weeks ago!  I have this dreadful feeling that somebody will remember something they were meant to have had/done at 8am tomorrow though...

The weather turned out to be better than expected so we've had a couple of beach days, one just walking, talking and paddling and one with swimming, body boarding and rock pool hunting.  Great fun and we left just as the rain came.

 Can you see all the starfish?

High 5's starfish style!

Squirty things - if anyone knows what they are actually called, I'd love to know!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Making and Baking

It's been a pretty dull week for the last week of the holidays.  I would be prepared to put money on the fact that the sun will be splitting the heavens on Monday morning.

We were lucky to have a nice day for our jaunt to Sydney on Sunday, although we were indoors most of the time so it wouldn't really have mattered!  We went to see the Harry Potter Exhibition at The Powerhouse Museum as part of everybody's Christmas presents.  I have never heard Jonathan say "COOOOOL!" quite so often.  It was pretty impressive but, according to John, not as interactive as the ('obviously far superior' - in his words) Star Wars Exhibition that they visited there 3 years ago.  Unfortunately the gift shop was ridiculously over-priced so Mean Mummy said "no" to souvenirs.  I was pretty disappointed that there was nothing in the pocket money range.  Before lunch we also popped into The Wiggles Exhibition (who wouldn't after all the scandal last week?!) downstairs which suited Robert perfectly.

On the train, wearing my 'Wendy' necklace

Walking through some Chinese New Year celebrations in Belmore Park

Quick muck about in fountains at Darling Harbour

So far this week we have been mostly indoors reading lots  (favourites have been Hugo Cabret, The Famous Five, Gangsta Granny, various comics, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The BFG) playing Robert's favourite Marvel memory game (he wipes the floor with the rest of us), playing with Lego, having friends for sleep-overs, watching Harry Potter (again) (and again), bickering, scrapping, tidying, although there has been some football, scooting, ripstiking and dog-walking thrown in for good measure.  I have even done some Making and Baking.

I've been working on another Isar scarf.  So simple but so suited to these lovely colour-change yarns.  I worked on this while chatting to Smallest and being swooped around by Miss Meg practising her RipStik moves.

Too fast!

Then I've been after more inspiration for the sewing machine.  I'm desperate to learn to sew properly before I mess up some very important project so I'm doing lots of mending (I do live with a lot of boys) and finding more things to do with all the scraps I have floating around.   I fancied trying an apron, although I never wear one.  Instead I just wander around with tea-towels slung casually over my shoulder.  I figured they should be fairly easy, no zips or buttons required, and did some googling.  I didn't find anything that appealed but did find an annoying tea-towel that never properly dries anything which got me thinking.  A quick trip to Spotlight,  $2 and 15 mins later and I had an apron that I actually like and have worn!

The next thing was inspired by tutorials found on Pinterest  (more specifically here and here).  I had a couple of zips hanging around and wanted to see how to attach them and came up with this.  I'm ridiculously pleased with it although it's not quite perfect.

 Then to the baking, there really hasn't been much of it these holidays so we decided to rectify that this morning.  Joseph wanted to help bake some bread, we mixed up some Granola and then baked some of Nigella's Flourless Chocolate Brownies.  I have just finished one with my cuppa and to call them divine would be an understatement.  Must resist the ones left on the plate...

We're off to read some Burns poetry for Burns Night, although sadly no haggis (must try and make one myself sometime), then tomorrow we'll be bbq-ing some snags for Australia Day.  Weather looking like it will be rubbish so not sure what Aussies do when they can't get to the beach?

Whatever you're celebrating I hope it's a good one!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lego Ninjago Birthday Cake Tutorial

I've noticed that my post for Joseph's 9th birthday is always one of my most popular posts and I couldn't think why until I checked my stats and discovered that most people find it by googling Lego Ninjago Birthday Cakes.

I had a look at the post again and realized that while it might be a good pic, it's maybe not all that helpful so thought I would write a quick tutorial just in case people might need a little help.

So, here goes...

I started by baking three sponge cakes in 8" pans and in 1 8" pudding basin according to this recipe
12oz sugar
4oz butter
12 tsp vanilla
2 lge eggs and 1 egg white
2oz SR flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pint milk

Once the cakes were cooled, I stacked them together with butter cream and jam, then covered the whole thing in dark chocolate ganache made by bringing  21 fl oz cream to the boil and mixing in 2 lbs 10oz of dark chocolate.  This will make plenty to cover the cake and probably give you some left over to eat off the spoon...!  The reason for using the ganache is that it gives a really good, smooth finish for any decorating you want to do.  You should leave it overnight to cool, or put it in the freezer.  There are some tutorials on Youtube  if you need more help.

While the ganche was cooling I rolled out a rectangle of yellow fondant icing then cut some black icing to the shape of Zane's eyes, adding the little white glints.

I stuck the eyes to the yellow fondant and then the whole thing to the cake using some boiled apricot jam.  You can see in the picture below that it's a bit tacky. 

After that it was just a case of wrapping a large piece of white fondant around the cake to look like Zane's turban.  I used his new Zane for inspiration.  It's a bit messy but thankfully it looks ok!

Then just add one happy Birthday Boy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where to begin! Catch up and another Award!!

Well, I have been popping in to read some blogs every now and then but haven't had the time to actually sit and write a blog post for ages.  Christmas has been, gone and is now a distant memory, we're well into the New Year and the school holidays are slipping away just too quickly.  We've squeezed in a fair bit and now just have the joyous buying of school shoes and kit still left.

Those of my facebook friends are probably up to date but for those of you who aren't I'll share a few of our highlights.

When we first arrived in Australia 3 years ago, 3 days before Christmas, we found ourselves at Bar Beach on Christmas Eve, eating fish and chips that were out of this world and wondering what on earth we were doing here!   We loved it so much that we have made it into a little tradition.  This year we even managed to get a family photo taken by a lovely girl who was also waiting patiently in the very long queue - we were glad we had phoned ahead to order.

We even managed to get a photo of John and me - honestly can't think when we last had a photo without children hanging off us!

Christmas Day was lovely.  The kids are allowed to open their stockings as and when they wake up (pretty early this year but thankfully they know not to disturb us!) then one present before church.  This year's theme seems to have been Lego (again) with lots of books, some pj's and other things thrown in.  We opted for sea food and then cold ham, salamis, bread, cheese and olives etc for our feast.  We had heaps left over and had friends for lunch on Boxing Day to help us finish it off!

More Gingerbread Houses!

We've had the usual tennis camps, walks, days at the beach and pool, and even managed 4 days away in our tent.

She's got a great serve!

Kind brother helping Meg with her new Ripstik walking from Warner's Bay to Spear's Point

Sydney on New Year's Day 

Football at One Mile Beach (also Meg dived through her first waves and loved it so much we had to bribe her out of the water!)

Sausage sizzle dinners at the pool

We bought it a couple of years ago but hadn't used it before.  In fact we haven't tented before (other than the boys in the garden) so were delighted that our friends, who are seasoned campers, came with us.  The tent is so huge that they had one 'wing' while John, Meg, Robert and I had the other and the 3 boys had their own 3-person tent.

Room with a view

The Locals

We had a great time, apart from one night of quite scary winds, the weather was perfect for us ex-pats.  The kids had a screen ban, including ipods, so got their amusement from playing pool, table tennis, football, swimming, flying kites, catching Soldier Crabs, face-painting (Jonathan is quite the expert), making paper, climbing trees, drawing, reading, writing stories, glass-painting, learning to play the guitar, hunting for snakes (we saw a python!) and eating!

Early morning Parkour!

Pool at high tide

er... brotherly love...?

At home I insist on a quiet half an hour after lunch to read which we tried fairly successfully, it also morphed into "Rachel's Craft Hour" so the afternoons were lovely when it was too warm for racing around.  Next time we'll go for longer - such a great time.  The boys taught us some fun games to play in the evenings when the wee ones had gone to bed and Chris serenaded us with his guitar.

Our Camp Photo!

Despite some ribbing I started another Granny square blanket when we were camping, again, I'm using a self-changing yarn in blues and greens which I wasn't sure about but bought in the sale.  It looks better than I was expecting and the boys are already fighting over it!

I've also been trying to be a bit creative when I get the time!  I made a few sets of coasters with my lovely new machine along with mending endless pairs of shorts and jeans.  I've been trawling pinterest for ideas for things to make with scraps of fabric that I've carried around with me for 20+ years and have been really inspired by some very clever people.

Also this scarf which I can't wait to wear!  It's from the Isar pattern, that I can't remember how I got to, which was easy to do and more of the colour change yarn!

So now we're back to thinking about routines, Husband is back working, although he's on sabbatical until July-ish which means he'll be working here (never good...)  and I'm looking to start applying for jobs since nothing positive is happening with regards to Teaching.  Jonathan will start High School and Meg will start at the local Public School with Joseph.  She has mentioned a couple of times that she's scared but she'll be going with the rest of her class from the Infant's School and will  make new friends very quickly I'm certain.

So 2012 looks set to be a big year for us all.  I'll be 40 in March and I'm so delighted that my Ma and Pa will be coming to help us celebrate!

And before I forget, I was really touched to be nominated for the Leibster Blog Award by Sonia from Sonia and Fred.  Apparently it is an award that is to be given to Bloggers with less than 200 followers, "Leibster" meaning 'Dearest', 'Beloved' or 'Favourite'.  Thank you Sonia!

Now to spread the bloggy love -
1. Kristen at Cozy Things
2. Lynne at Pieceful
3. Kylie at Blue Teacups
4. Emily at Unravelled
5. Karen at Gooseberry Jam (although I just noticed she has 201 followers!)

These are blogs I look at regularly and am inspired by in one way or another, please go and have a look for yourselves.

See you soon!