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

frozen sandwichesfrozen white choc

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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A Spring birthday party for Boo, with lots of lace…

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Our delicious little baby Boo turned two. From finding her mid-bookshelf climb to ‘singing’ at the top of her lungs whilst standing in the swing starkers, this cheeky, stubborn bundle of love has us all on our toes.

Organising a birthday party to celebrate Boo’s second birthday may, or may not have slipped to the bottom of the list amongst the many other ‘busy life’ things we had going on at the time.  I’m sure most would just say to skip to the party altogether. But the guilt of an adult Boo reminding me year after year of how she didn’t have a second birthday party meant she was having one, even if it was a week late and most guests received their invitation as they were leaving the party.

‘Busy life’ was not going to stop Boo’s birthday, but my efficient/lazy Mama tactics did set in. A simple menu, simple activities and simple decorations. Efficient/lazy shortcuts adult Boo will not be able to hold against me.

The weekend before we prepped EVERYTHING we possibly could. The cake was baked and frozen ready to be decorated, biscuit mixture was stored in the fridge and sausage rolls were rolled and ready in the freezer. This left a little preparation the day before for a few food items that needed to be completed closer to the big day, and bit for on the day too. I even sneakily asked Lex to make her delicious mini Beef Wellington pies to take the pressure off!

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Framed by a fabric lace, cream and gold garland, and floral arrangements hurriedly grabbed from the garden, the party table spread included…

A whimsical cake based on Sweetapolita’s lemon cake finished with white chocolate ganache, royal icing and floating clouds, topped by a golden number two (which unfortunately on certain angles also looked like golden poo – sigh)

Floral sparkling apple jelly

Cheesy biscuits

A mini version of Sausage rolls for superstars

Apricot marshmallows (that ended up very pink due to some guidance from Bubby)

Peach lemonade

Thank you gifts of homemade Origami Flower Kits and gold painted macrons.

We kept the littles busy with decorating their own spring headwear and of course a Two Houses party isn’t complete without a whack at a lacy number two pinata!

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

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.

How to: Make a Driftwood Christmas Garland

Festive christmas styling
Christmas styling

This Driftwood Christmas Garland is a simple, elegant decoration included in my Last Minute Christmas Styling ideas for TasMagazine. Here’s how to put together your own…

You’ll need:
2 Star shaped cookie cutters
2 bundles Copper embroidery thread
1 A3 sheet copper cardboard
Needle
Scissors
Ruler
Strong beading thread
4 Pine cones with stems (preferably sun bleached like your driftwood)
A mix of gold beads with matt finish and clear deep green shaped beads
A medium sized piece of driftwood
Sage coloured flat knitting thread

Using found objects and everyday cookie cutters
Using found objects and everyday cookie cutters

Cookie cutter decorations
Wind the copper thread around the sides of the cookie cutter, twisting the thread as you go so it unwinds and lays flat against the cutter. Continue until the whole cutter is covered and tie off the thread. Tie beading thread in a length suitable for your hanging. Repeat for the second star.

Before and after
After and before
Wrap the thread around the cookie cutter
Wrap the thread around the cookie cutter
Completely wrap the cookie cutter until it has a new finish
Completely wrap the cookie cutter until it has a new finish

Paper flowers
Cut the copper cardboard into strips 2cm x 29.7cm (the short length of an A3 sheet). Fold the ends of a strip to meet in the middle. Pierce through the 4 layers of card about a cm off the folded end and thread onto the needle. Keep adding the folded pieces of card onto the needle until you have 7 strips of card (all folded) and then pull the thread through and tie in a knot. Cut the thread off, leaving enough attached to the flower so you can hang it. Fan out the folds until you have a looped circle. Repeat for the rest of the paper strips, each flower will have 7 strips.

Fold the paper strip over
Fold the paper strip over
Thread the folds onto the needle
Thread the folds onto the needle
Fan the folded paper out into the flower shape
Fan the folded paper out into the flower shape

Pine cones
Cut a length of beading thread long enough to suit the hanging length. Tie off one end of the beading thread to the stem of the pine cone. Thread on the first bead and loop it back through to hold it in position down close the pine cone steam. I’ve chosen a semi-random pattern to place my bead in, so add the next beads as you like, remembering to loop back through the first bead after the gaps. Repeat for the remaining pine cones.

Driftwood
Wind the sage thread around sections of driftwood. Tie off each section so the knot is hidden to the back of the branch.

Assembly
You’ll need two hanging points to hang your garland from. Tie 2 lengths of beading thread to each end of your drift wood to suit the distance of the hanging points.

Lay your driftwood on the floor as though it would against the wall. Arrange the decorations in position then tie off to the driftwood, looping the beading thread so the decorations can be repositioned once hung up.

Carefully lift the driftwood with the decorations attached and tie off to your hanging points on the wall. Adjust the positioning of each decoration and when you’re happy with them, tie off and trim the excess thread.

Space the shapes out to suit your driftwood
Space the shapes out to suit your driftwood
Hange the shapes at different lengths
Hang the shapes at different lengths
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When you wish upon a star…

 

Last minute Christmas styling – Featured in TasWeekend Magazine!

Pip's Christmas styling in TasWeekend
Last minute Christmas styling in TasWeekend

I’ve been a little in denial, but it’s well and truly Christmas time. I’m back at my Interior Architecture position, and now with two small children and my own children’s accessory business to manage, Christmas this year has had to be organized on the run.  I love to make sure I’ve selected decor that can be set up the night before and a menu easily prepped ahead of time, leaving me a moment to hang about with Dave and the girls before the excitement of the big day begins. If you missed getting your hands on a copy of TasWeekend Magazine to read about my concepts for last minute Christmas styling in Sally Glaetzer’s article – here’s the low down…

Simple succulents make for an exquisite Christmas centrepiece – Photo by Sam Rosewarne (courtesy of TasMagazine)

Table Styling
Metallics are stunning either as the table feature or accent pieces. I’m especially in love with the metallic paired with soft pastels. For this table setting I’ve brought together classic décor and dinnerware I have at home, with a couple of key feature items.

Classic white damask table cloth layered with a soft grey linen table runner and deep  grey cloth napkins. White dinner plates dressed with a succulent bouquet. Antique silver and bone cutlery and elegant vintage champagne glasses. Keeping it simple but beautiful works for me like including this living wreath as a statement centrepiece. The wreath is created from succulents by Botanical’s Kate Sice and accent table pieces including geometric wire decorations and candles in copper holders from Deb at Grey and Felt.

Christmas Decorations
Found objects and papers are fantastic for creating your own Christmas decorations with. Sparkly metallic papers and card can be used to make simple yet striking ornaments and brighten the soft weathered timbers which add that warmth and texture to any room. This driftwood Christmas wall hanging is an elegant way of using found objects from our local beach with the house hold cookie cutter and some craft supplies. Make your own with the details in my How: to make a driftwood Christmas wall hanging.

Festive christmas styling
Festive christmas styling
Gentle pastels with a hint of metallics make a stunning combination for Christmas decorations Photo by Same Rosewarne (courtesy of TasWeekend)

 

Another contemporary take on the traditonal decorations is Botanical's artichoke and holly wreath. Photo credit Sam Rosewarne
Another contemporary take on the traditonal decorations is Botanical’s artichoke and holly wreath. Photo credit Sam Rosewarne (courtesy of TasWeekend)

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Living Wreath supplied by:
Botanical | 139 Macquarie St Hobart Tasmania | T: +61 03 6223 4445 | enquiry@botanicalhobart.com.au

Copper holders supplied by:
Grey and Felt | 169 Sandy Bay Rd Hobart Tasmania | T: +61 03 6224 9929 | greyandfelt@internode.on.net

Christmas Stockings supplied by:
Pipla | pipla.bigcartel.com | piplastudio@gmail.com | Instagram piplastudio

Op Shopping (for people who don’t)

I was looking for a good Christmas jumper recently and ducked into the Salvation Army shop in town.  I had my good friend, Willow*, with me.  She stood, wide eyed, as I had a quick flick through the racks.  Sadly, there were no Christmas jumpers to be had that day.  As we were leaving, Willow confessed that she’d never been in an Op Shop before.  Whaaaaaat?

Treasures.
Treasures.

There are people who never consider buying second hand items and I just don’t get it. In particular there still exists a weird sort of snobbery about Op shops like the Salvo’s and Vinnie’s. This is obviously not great for the world in a bigger sense (hello? recycling?) but also, how do these people not understand how much fun it is? In Willow’s case, it’s a matter of germs – she’s worried about them. I am apparently not.

I always get brilliant things in Op shops around Christmas time when everyone suddenly decides to clear out room in their houses to make room for more things. Oh my GOD,  I hear the non-believers thinking, please don’t be buying underwear! Of course I’m not buying underwear. I’m buying wonderful things like old crockery and chairs and kiddies books and toys and magazines and bookshelves and wardrobes and hats and bags and baskets.

I’ll admit it’s not what it used to be. Ten years ago the Op shops were full of clothes you could actually wear. Vintage blouses and dresses, cool jackets and beautifully tailored long coats and pants.  It’s hard to get these things now. Now you mostly get funny old coats with the huge daft furry collars that no one wants to wear and most of the clothes are just cheapie modern crap. But every now and then you get something that restores your faith and keeps you going back.

Bucket baskets. And a small spider! Cool.
Bucket baskets. And a small spider! Cool.

The Glenorchy Tip shop is my current favourite. I probably shouldn’t even tell you that in case you go and empty the place. Not for clothes but for books and kitchen wares and general stuff. I can spend a great deal of satisfying time there, in search of potential treasures.

The cutest of storage.
The cutest of storage.

I know a lot of very passionate op shoppers and the ones that are successful are the ones that keep at it. One of the first things I do when I find something wonderful (like my baskets) is to send a photo of it to one of my friends who will be equally excited as well as reassured that there is still good stuff to be found.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like the thrill of a fantastic second-hand find. Forget about your Catch-of-the-Day or your Brands Exclusive emails. Try finding a 1960’s octagon dining table in near perfect condition. Or your fourth retro bucket basket. Or a book about trains that will keep you kid quiet in the car the entire way home!

Five great things to look for in Op Shops:

1) Kids clothes. Still plenty of those about. Nice ones. Particularly baby ones which are seldom used for more than a few months at a time. The Baby and Kids Market is especially good for beautiful hand knitted baby clothes.

2) Kitchen stuff : Plates! Glassware. Those old fashioned champagne glasses you can stack and make a champagne fountain with. Jars. Vases. Ramekins.

3) Furniture. Lovely solid stuff that has never been in a flat pack. Unique stuff.  Pieces that will make your home look stylish and different. Things you can sand or slap paint on and be proud of.

4) Storage containers: Vintage suitcases for stashing under beds. Baskets – I am in love with old baskets. In particular I have been getting these fantastic bucket style baskets and I use them to house cleaning products and Barney’s toys. Actually I’ve written this whole post just so that I can show you my bucket baskets.

5) Toys and kids books. G is allowed to select one item per outing. It’s invariably a piece of plastic Toy Story junk (hey at least I’m not buying it new and they’re happily washable) but occasionally he finds something great. Like his futuristic plastic gold bracelet which has been a favourite in the dress up box ever since. Little girls have wailed – because he will not give it up.

So you don’t need to be buying a million new things in the Christmas sales this year. If  you’re not already into it, now is the time. Best of luck.

Best 'gold' bracelet ever.
Best ‘gold’ bracelet ever.

 

*Willow is not her real name.

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Quasi Day, Making New Traditions

Growing up, Dave and I both had friends of our parents that were just that little bit extra special to us. Letting us hang out at their place talking, feeding and looking after us as though we were one of their own. They were simple relationships, but ones that even now as adults, we look to  with love, trust and respect. As parents, we’ve chosen to foster similar relationships between a few close friends of ours and our girls, so that they too may have the opportunity to grow up with strong and varied role models in their lives outside our immediate family.

Quasi Cake
Quasi Cake

We started it off with Bubby, and that was when the term ‘Quasi-parent’ was coined by one the friends we’d asked to be one of these special people, and we loved it. It was fun and light-hearted, but with the right amount of sentiment towards the relationship. Others might call it a ‘god-parent’ situation, but as our family and  friends are a diverse bunch, this fits us and the relationship it represents perfectly. We celebrated these friends and officially welcomed Bubby into the family with a day at the amazing property at Armytage House, including a warming lunch of wood-fired quail and pizzas in the middle of a freezing cold and drizzly Hobart winter.

So a couple of weekends ago it was Boo’s Quasi Day. This time around our family has grown and seeing as we now have a lounge room bigger than a shoebox and not to mention the awesome new deck in our backyard, we decided to host her special day at home. We try to keep these intimate so invited our usual family members (grandparents, siblings, partners and kids), some friends and the 2 couples of Quasi Parents-to-be (one couple all the way from London) and their children.  So just a small, intimate luncheon for 20 odd.

Quasi-Matt and Boo entertain the guests
Quasi-Matt and Boo entertain the guests
Mama takes a quick selfie with the party girl!
Mama takes a quick selfie with the party girl!

I’d had my hopes up after days of glorious Hobart winter sun, but unfortunately when the day came, the weather decided to be particularly cold and wet so we were forced indoors for the most part. It didn’t stop us from enjoying a delicious lunch of Felicity Cloak’s Perfectly Pulled Pork recipe, Martha Stewart’s Tofu Scramble with Cotija Cheese, barbecued garlic prawns on skewers and corn on the cob served with a red cabbage coleslaw, fresh baps and mayo.

Perfectly pulled pork and calendula flowers
Perfectly pulled pork and Calendula flowers

To finish up, Dave gave a little speech to introduce and thank our newly appointed Quasi-Parents Matt and Paulette, and Craig and Jon and we welcomed Boo into the family with a rather larger-than-expected layered ombre Pandan cake with palm sugar icing, accompanied by Elsie’s delicious chocolate slice with coconut and brandied kumquat. Yummo.

And that’s how we celebrate Quasi Day, or as Bubby and Little G seemed to think,  there was a whole day to just for their favourite Ocotnaut “Kwazi’…

Papa gives a speech
Papa gives a speech
Bubby enjoying the many layers of ombre pandan cake
Bubby enjoying the many layers of ombre pandan cake
Glenn kindly let me steal some of his succulants for the cake decorations
Glenn kindly let me steal some of his succulents for the cake decorations
Succulants from the other house pretty up the cake
succulents from the other house pretty up the cake
Bubby sneaks in a story from Quasi-Craig
Bubby sneaks in a story from Quasi-Craig
Farewelling London Quasi-parents Craig and Jon
Farewelling London Quasi-parents Craig and Jon