When Summer froze over for a fifth birthday party

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I think I blinked and suddenly Bubby was turning the big five. Bubby had been so desperate to turn five, that for the months leading up the big event, it was her first topic of discussion upon meeting anyone. “Did you know I’m nearly five?” she would inform them. “Really?” they would respond in mock surprise, as though this was not the third time they had not been informed of this momentous occasion that month. Next up would be the party discussion. “An Elsa party” she would excitedly inform them. “Really?” they would respond hiding their smirk at the pained look on my face.

Since I mistakenly created an (awesome) backyard carnival party instead of the preferred Elsa theme, Bubby has been talking up her ‘Elsa party for number 5 birthday’. There was no escaping it. That’s meant a whole year of Pintrest stalking, recipe planning and losing all the screen shots of Frozen inspired tips and tricks. Grand plans of sugar dusted snowflakes and blue crystal blades at the start of the year became frazzled post-christmas/new year exhaustion turned into heat effected splotchy chocolate Olaf arms and a sparsely decorated ‘snow’ cake. And I don’t know about you, but I also discovered there’s a serious lack of naturally bright blue food out there, so sugar and blue food dye were used unashamedly. It was a party after all.

Note: if anybody has a blue lemonade recipe that doesn’t consist of Blue Curacao (apparently not suitable for a fifth birthday party) or Koolaid please send it my way. Against my better judgement, the recipe I followed complete with image of a bright blue lagoon looking drink, did not in any way come near blue. Purple or reddish maybe. Blue? Not a chance. But in hindsight, I should have known there was no way blue & blackberries would have without some extreme artificial assistance (insert face palm).

frozen jelly

frozen snowman

frozen bread

frozen cupcake

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frozen crown

frozen table

I pulled out my favourite Sweetapolita lemon cake recipe for the birthday cake interior. White chocolate ganache held the cake layers together, with royal icing and topped with my own last minute blue-glass-shard-design-failed-so-threw-on-lots-of-silver-things styling. The rest of the food was coloured or covered blue glorious blue!

Blue layered jelly with sugar snow
Olaf yoghurt
Blue ice crystal bread
Lemon blue ice cupcakes
For the first time in forever sandwiches

And for our little Elsa’s to take home, a simple chocolate snow freckle and Pipla custom crown.

Obviously a Two Houses party isn’t complete without some piñata action. For this party we created a silver geo piñata for the kids to let loose on.

frozen pinata

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The Lunchbox

I have a child who loves her food. So much so, that Bubby has been known to out-eat any other children, and sometimes even adults. Two breakfasts, morning tea and elevenses is not uncommon for this child. Her passion for food is one of many things I love about her.

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The lunchbox

Bubby recently started one day a week at a new little pre-school. It’s a beautiful little school with the loveliest of staff who welcome you at the door in the morning, and escort you and wave as you leave through the garden gate. The educators are all dressed in beautician style uniforms that make them appear as though the children are actually attending a day spa for a relaxing pamper session – not a day filled with messy fun. It makes me wish I was four again.But with this oasis of glorious play, came the reality of having to prepare my own child a ‘lunchbox’. Dave and I have had a pretty easy ride on the whole lunch thing where mostly we rush out the door on a weekday morning with a coffee from home and fork out for a yummy lunch from the local takeaway. The girls are usually sorted by day-care with their nutritionist approved healthy menu and as a result, my lunchbox making skills have rarely been called upon.

I was terrified of not sending Bubby with enough food. Or what if she decided she didn’t like something new I’d put in and was starving because I had misjudged my child’s taste buds for that particular Thursday?

I would be the mother who let her child go hungry.

I held this anxiety for months as the start of the school term came near. In preparation I sussed out the sea of lunch packaging options and settled on a trendy stainless steel two-tiered lunchbox with matching small snack container and some reusable lunch sacks in two sizes. If she went hungry, at least she would be eco-friendly.

Obviously I immediately then felt bad that there wasn’t enough Disney paraphernalia included and picked out a hot pink ‘Frozen’ drink bottle* and matching spoon and fork set. For school only though. Can’t go too crazy on that stuff or I’ll never see the end of it.

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The anatomy of a lunchbox

I pored over articles on inspiring lunchbox ideas full of cut-out faces and freshly made sushi.  ‘I could do that. I’d love to do that’ I’d say. Then I’d look over at the washing that hadn’t been folded for a week and think, ‘Or I could finish my coffee while it’s remotely warm for the first time four years’.

In the excitement of Bubby’s first day, I did pull my finger out and make a batch of mini-pasties with her. Cute mini-cheeses and other essential small snack foods were in the fridge ready to be prepped for the big day. But I was still anxious about the logistics of ‘the lunchbox’. To calm myself down I sketched out how to pack the containers. Yes you heard me. I drew which items were going to be put where in the lunchbox assembly.

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Yoghurt and last seasons frozen blackberries with a side of apple for morning tea
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A warm pastie for lunch (for full disclosure the actual plastic lidded container for sauce just wasn’t pretty enough for this picture)
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And because all of the above still isn’t enough to fill her little belly, an assortment of snacks…

The next morning, thanks to my trusty diagram, the lunchbox was assembled with maximum efficiency and prettiness. I had made my first school lunch with pride. Turns out I put too much curry in her pastie but her smorgasbord of little food had kept her happy and my child had not gone hungry.

I’m a couple terms in now and no longer feel the need to sketch out what my child has for lunch. Unfortunately the ‘Frozen’ drink bottle met a dire end when it slipped out of my hands and split open during a ‘does-this-drink-bottle-leak’ test. Because, despite the ‘leak-proof’ promise on the label, it did leak. Bubby and I are now very happy with her new drink bottle with Robots on it.

The Absolute Favourite

Even before I was a parent I was fascinated by the idea of the special toy.  The Chosen One. The one subjected to the kind of love and attention that other toys can only dream about. I enjoy the look of them. These well travelled, precious companions whose bodies have been wrung limp by the passionate grips of toddlers.

Teddy - loved by Rachel for 37 years.
Teddy – loved by Rachel for 37 years.

Neither myself or my siblings had any such attachment as children. In my case I put it down to sheer laziness. I didn’t have the dedication that it takes to commit to that kind of relationship. None of my toys had the fur loved off them unless you count the Barbie dolls I cut the hair off. I was faithless and careless with all of them equally. I remember being aware though, that such exclusive friendships existed. Inspired books such as ‘Dogger’ and ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’, I made a few feeble and short lived attempts at playing favourites. But as much as I might have wanted it, I could never make it stick.

Ted - loved by Josh for 28 years.
Ted – loved by Josh for 28 years.

How are these honorary members of the family chosen? And how long does it last? I’ve been introduced to favourites who have survived long enough to accompany their owners into adulthood. Others eventually get lost or tossed away, living on only in family folklore.

Hello Kitty has four back up friends. Loved by Boo for almost 2 years.
Hello Kitty has four back up friends. Loved by Boo for almost 2 years.

Any parent can tell you that the favourite toy becomes both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because that toy now has, let’s face it, magical powers. The power to soothe and induce calm and with any luck, sleep. At a time when you need every baby settling tool you can get your inexperienced little hands on, it can be a valuable addition to your armoury. That said, it can also screw you. Lost property boxes are full of favourite friends who have been left behind. Or you can forget to pack them for daycare and then you’ve screwed the daycare staff too. My sister has tried to get around this problem by purchasing five (essential) Hello Kittys. Another friend, whose child likes pieces of material, cut the silk into a number of smaller pieces, so that he never need be without.

Patchy and Pinky. The absolute favourites of Campbell (aged five).
Patchy and Pinky. The absolute favourites of Campbell (aged five).

At my baby shower I was given one of those popular French rubber giraffes called ‘Sophie’. I loved it and quickly decided that this would be his favourite. It was my plan that G and Sophie would be inseparable. This was both super wanky and naive. Sophie is a posh squeaky chew toy probably best suited to a small dog. She’s about as cuddly as a tube of toothpaste. However, I kept popping Sophie next to G in the pram, feeling sure that they would soon be besties by default. One day she was unceremoniously dumped out of the pram and never made it home. Point taken.

One little scrap of Miao Diddy - prized possession of Alex for 3.5 years.
One little scrap of Miao Diddy – prized possession of Alex for 3.5 years.

A few weeks later G had his first really bad cold. He emerged from this period of extra napping and snuggles, with a firm preference for a toy called Duckie. We don’t know how it happened. And even now that G can talk he can’t explain it. It’s just Duckie. He loves him. I didn’t get it at first but I do now. Now the floppy little duck with one lost eye replaced (by Glenn) with a black press stud, has charmed me. The nearest you can come to understanding the attachment is watching this child rub his sleepy face into grotty old Duckie and inhale the (dubious) scent as though it’s freshly baked bread. That and the way he will march right up to anyone game enough to touch his beloved pal, pluck him deftly from their hands and whisk him away to a safe place faster than you can say “Hey, that’s not sharing…”.

For five years I have waited for the relationship with Duckie to wane and it hasn’t. Duckie has outlasted the train phase and the Octonauts phase and is currently laughing in the face of Lego. Puh-lease, says Duckie, your kid can’t sleep with Lego.

Duckie no longer accompanies us on day trips though. And we stopped sending him to daycare a long time time ago after he was accidentally packed away in one of their toy boxes. By the time they rang to let us know he’d been found I was already putting the panicked finishing touches on a bunch of “Have you seen this Duck?” posters.

Basically he’s just so ridiculously special that I don’t know that we would feel if we lost him now.

And when I say “we”, I mean me.

Duckie.
Duckie.

My Son is almost five.

Someone said that their five year old has already stopped holding their hand and I was horrified. It was like hearing that someone had just lost all of their teeth. You can never get those back. Not your real ones.

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I’ve taken to carrying G more than I need to and savouring the lingering babyness. I squish-kiss his face and already loathe the time ahead when he won’t want this.

From behind he now resembles a tiny actual man with Glenn’s long torso.  It’s less like having a cute, foreign creature in the house who doesn’t speak a word of understandable English, and more like having a little friend, albeit a very loud, self-centred friend, who rules me, does no laundry and doesn’t lie politely when you cook something awful. An adorable housemate who is maddening but fortunately loveable. Who unfurls all the toilet paper onto the floor and pretends that it fell. Who strokes my face and declares he will marry me. This is both disturbing and strangely sweet. I’m assuming he won’t still want to when he’s twenty but I will definitely remind him.

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It’s mostly a treat that he can now tell us, in no uncertain terms, exactly what he thinks. Upon being told that TV watching is being temporarily relegated to weekends, he informs us solemnly that we are making him very sad. Other things we do to make him very sad include not allowing him to eat pineapple flavoured jelly whenever he wants. And making him shower at least every other day.

Going out for dinner with him is no longer torturous (yessss). I wouldn’t say it was a breeze yet, but certainly not torturous. Sometimes now when we hear a baby going off its head, we exchange a happy relieved glance and a mental high-five that we’ve passed that phase. Sorry about that.

He has started school and now knows people that I don’t know. He’s been in trouble for hanging with the older boys and when I ask him about them and whether they’re good or naughty, he says naughty  with eyes shining happily.

I’m still astounded we have made a person who now talks and mostly makes sense. He’s long winded (like his dad) and says things like, “Mummy, at some point we’re going to need some more cereal”.

No more high chair and melamine dishes or packing a complete change of everything when we leave the house. We don’t have the space to hold on to many old baby things,  I’ve kept some funny spaceship pyjamas and some tiny shoes and that’s it. Everything else has gone to make room for the bigger G.

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I’m a little wistful, because we won’t have any other children. But I’m also clicking my heels gleefully as we give away the high chair and other trappings of babyhood, and use the last of the wet wipes to clean the bathroom.

My son is almost five, which means that I am almost forty. I remember wondering how I would feel about this when he was born. Him turning five and me turning forty. Because forty seemed like a lot then. Now I round my age up so that I can get used to the idea. But I will never do this with him.

A backyard birthday carnival

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Birthday_03My Bubby has just turned four. That’s four years of this amazing little girl being in our lives and well, four years of being her parents is definitely worth celebrating. And so a party we had.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love party themes – it helps inspire me with cake, food and decorating ideas. Last year when I asked Bubby what kind of party and cake she’d like, the most I could get from her was ‘a pink one’. Not very helpful on her part, but she got her pink(ish) party. This time around, knowing her answer would still be the same, I couldn’t bring myself to ask her. I’m sorry Bubby, but pink was so last year.

A visiting circus was in town, and after a bit of Pinterest stalking, a carnival theme quickly became a great idea. I’m still not ready to completely let loose on bright colours so compromised with myself on ‘Vintage Carnival’. With gorgeous costumes, decorations and spread of activities, we had a fun-filled day of Carnival chaos!

Carnival FolkBirthday_13 Birthday_22Mini tightrope walkers and Mama ClownBirthday_25 Birthday_18The Ring Master Lex and Clown Glenn with their assistant Little G

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Despite several years of hard work, our backyard is still very much a work in progress but with the help of the trusty family marquee and a few decorations, this landscaper’s delight was transformed into a magical Carnival. Dave came through with the goods on a carnival stand and ring toss game constructed using part of our back fence, his stash of homebrew bottles and some rope. And we’ll just pretend the overgrown grass and dandelions was part of the ‘field’ look…

Bobbing for apples quickly became lets throw the apples in and see them splash!

This classic Clown Pinata was developed from my  How to: make a Rose Pinata using felt, white tissue and crepe papers, a clown nose and paper hat with felt balls.

Popcorn for sale at the Carnival stand.

Party hat making with all the trims.

Bringing back our 80’s childhood hoola-hooping expertise!

Balloon making by Lex and Glenn

Party bags – a tassel wand, gold dusted seal biscuit, animal pencil and a clown nose

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A Carnival Cake – based on Sweetapolita’s birthday medley, the cake was constructed with raspberry jam between layers of blue funfetti stars, pink amarena cherry and rich chocolate. Fondant icing was decorated with hand painted green, blue and gold and finished with handmade flowers and elephant cake topper.

My favourite Nigella biscuits finished two ways – Elephants and stars dipped in coloured melted chocolate sprinkled with pearlescent drops and seals in gold dusting.

Freshly cut watermelon stars and blueberries

Strawberry jelly with blue chocolate shooting stars

Mini hot dogs with mustard

Sausage rolls with homemade tomato sauce

Medley of candied and buttered popcorn

Photo credit and a huge thank you to Oliver Bain Photography for capturing the day.

Gingerbread Men

Nothing screams Christmas like a gingerbread man. They’re a consistently charming and amusing thing to make (and eat) and although I can just about deal with not getting a stocking anymore, I would be heartbroken to have a Christmas without gingerbread.

These ones are not fancy. They’re not even symmetrical. For some reason our family G-man cutter has always had one leg longer than the other and I believe it just adds to their charm.

simple currants and cherry mouth are the cutest
simple currants and cherry mouth are the cutest

We’ve been making this same simple recipe since we were children. Back in the day, decorations were always just glacé cherries and currants. Occasionally some would be hung in the tree and forgotten about but they would still taste good long after Santa had been and gone.

 

If placed into small cellophane bags and sealed tightly with knotted ribbon - these guys will last a couple of weeks at least.
If placed into small cellophane bags and sealed tightly with knotted ribbon – these guys will last a couple of weeks at least.

In more recent years we’ve let our own kids have a go at decorating them which ends up being a bit more… elaborate. They like to add extra eyes and accidental genitals. But for me it will always just be currant eyes, cherry mouth and currant buttons. Simple and sweet. You can pop them into cellophane bags and give them away. Or take a tin of them to work to spread some gingerbread love. They’re charming and they’re easy. I’m not just saying that. They really are.

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Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped butter

2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup golden syrup

1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

1 pinch salt

4 tablespoon cinnamon

4 cups plain flour

4 teaspoon ginger powder

 

Method

Cream the butter and sugar

Beat in the eggs

Add golden syrup and mix well

Add dry ingredients and mix well

Roll into three large discs, wrap in cling film then pop in fridge for half an hour to get cold

Roll each disc out to 1/2 inch thickness and use your cutter to cut out the G -men

Place on a baking tray and decorate with whatever you like (joking – you must use glace cherries and currants!)

Bake in a moderate oven for 10 – 12 minutes

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Gingerbread creatures made by G.
Gingerbread creatures made by G.

 

 

The spider-faced G-Man. By Bubby. I feel this is excellent.
The spider-faced G-Man. By Bubby. I feel this is excellent.

Leave me alone!

One of the first things that you realise when you have a kid is that you will never be alone again. Not truly. I’m not talking about alone as in having a bath by yourself or a nice long walk with the dog on the beach. Or being on the bus. Or even walking around town with your earphones in so that you don’t have to talk to anyone – these things don’t count because they actually re-enter your life again pretty quickly once you’ve had the baby (only you never take them for granted again. Ever ). What doesn’t generally resurface is the long periods of alone time in the house.

Oh. Yeah.
Oh. Yeah.

If you asked Glenn what he misses about his past life he might mention that he’d like to be able to buy Coco Pops or sleep in all weekend and binge watch TV programs. But me, I miss being alone.

I’m well aware that I look back on my twenties with rose-tinted glasses (because most of it was undeniably shit) but one of my favourite things to reminisce about is my daggy old flat in West Hobart which had a garden and an outside loo. I had recently split with my boyfriend and would spend whole weekends padding moodily around this flat, playing music, reading trash and smoking on the back steps or in the bathtub, blowing smoke out the large window. The seediness was so very pleasing to my mental state. I ate jaffles or cheese and biscuits for most meals and napped at inappropriate times. Pip was living just around the corner in her own daggy little flat and it was the only time that I could remember us both being single at the same time. Although on a quick side note, I do remember her beseeching me (I’m a big mouth) not to tell anyone that she quite liked Dave, whom we had just met.

The default, on weekends at least, was that I was alone unless I arranged not to be. Fast forward to now – where the default is that someone can walk casually into the bathroom while I am trying to do private bathroom things. At any time. Even the dog wants to accompany me everywhere and likes to sit on the bathmat while I shower. If I refuse, he sits right outside, where I can see his indignant outline through the frosted glass door. Alone time is not your own if you’re pissing someone off. It should be time where no one knows or even cares what you’re doing.  That’s the whole point.  Would I swap this life for the one I had before? No, of course not. But like the Rat with his beloved river in ‘Wind in the Willows’, I like to think about it.

Could you say no to this face?
Could you say no to this face?

If I want alone time I have to arrange it. I have to plot it. And in my mind at least, I have to deserve it.  Last week when Glenn wondered aloud if he should take G up to visit his parents overnight my ears pricked up. A window of opportunity! I asked myself if I could justify not accompanying them and quickly came to this conclusion: abso-fucking-lutely.

Arrangements were made. The morning they were to leave, my excitement was at its peak. My romanticism of alone time was in full swing.  I had hoped that G would be at his worst and whiniest just before they left so that my alone time would seem all the more thrilling – but naturally he was deliciously cute and outrageously helpful. He even packed up his sprawling train set without being asked (this never happens). He was unfazed about going away without me and eager to go see the grandparents, whom he adores.

Alone time enhancers.
Alone time enhancers.

I wanted Glenn to be annoying so that I could delight in his departure. Instead he was was sweet and unperturbed by my obvious excitement at the prospect of  simulating a life where perhaps they didn’t exist. He said he’d miss me but didn’t seem to begrudge me the couple of days of freedom I had ahead.

They both kissed me happily. Lovingly. Then got in the car and drove off.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t walk back in the house and rejoice momentarily in its emptiness. I won’t go into details of what I really like to do with my alone time and I don’t think it would interest you much anyway.

But whatever I was doing, predictably, after about four hours I missed them stupidly. Because I’m not a heartbroken twenty-something anymore. I live with a boy and a man and a dog. And it’s pretty good. Maybe we just need a proper bathroom door.

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