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.

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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!

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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.

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

Lamb shanks with pappardelle

When I was in my early twenties, Mum gave me a blue Le Creuset casserole pot.  This sounds a bit showy-offy and it absolutely is.  A good quality cast iron pot is a beautiful thing and I was really proud to be in possession of it.  The most comforting of food has always begun for me in this pot.  It was pretty much the only thing I consistently packed and took with me from place to place.  I associate it with good times and moving out on my own.

I swear this is as clean as it ever gets now.
I swear this is as clean as it ever gets now.

One of the best things you can cook in this pot is lamb shanks.  There are any number of things you can do with the shanks once they’ve been slow cooked and meat removed from bones.  You can put it into pies, have it under a layer of mashed potato and parmesan cheese, wrap it in puff pastry or freeze it for later when your in-laws are coming to stay and you want to seem like you’ve pulled out all the stops.  Make a beautiful gremolata to scatter on top.  Make your own pasta to have with it.  Or don’t and buy fresh pasta sheets and cut them up (like Jamie does).  It’s easy, yet impressive.

Hello boys...
Hello boys…

If we had made this back in the day when we shared a house, my friend Lozzie and I would have referred to it as a ‘pick-up dish’.  Yes it is what it sounds like.  You could successfully woo someone with this dish (hello boys…).  Or you could feed about ten without breaking a sweat.  These are qualities I very much admire in a recipe – romance and extendability.

 

Golden brown...
Golden brown…

Slow cooked lamb shanks with pappardelle

 

Ingredients  (serves four )

2 medium sized onions (diced)

4 garlic cloves (minced)

3 rashers of bacon (chopped)

4 lamb shanks (3 if they’re the freakishly large ones)

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 cans tomatoes

at least 1 glass of red wine

5 small carrots

1 long stick of celery (finely sliced)

sprig of thyme

sprig of rosemary

2 pinches freshly ground pepper

salt

1 packet of fresh lasagne sheets

parmesan cheese

Sexy shot of ingredients
Sexy shot of ingredients

 

Method

Get your cast iron pot out and heat up one tablespoon of olive oil on a medium heat

Sautee the onions, garlic, bacon, celery , chopped herbs and pepper for about fifteen minutes

In a separate frying pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil, make those shanks golden brown and then add to the pot

Chop the carrots lengthways and then into longish chunks. Poke these in and around the shanks

Add the tomatoes. It will start to look really full. This is ok

Add as much wine as possible in the leftover space

Cook for four hours at 180 degrees with the lid on. Check every hour or so to scrape the sides and check the liquid level has not dropped too low (it shouldn’t though)

When cooked, remove the shank bones, stir everything up and add salt to taste

Cut fresh pasta sheets into thick pappardelle . Stir some of the lamb through the pasta but withhold at least a third to spoon on top

Serve with grated Parmesan and gremolata.

Bones removed. Ready for anything really.
Bones removed. Ready for anything really.

 

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

Beer-Off: Judgement Day

At last! After nine hopeful weeks in the bottle, today our three judges were invited to a blind tasting of the Two Houses home brews.

Carefully hidden, Pip and I nervously poured out three beers each.  The glasses were labelled ‘Beer A’ and ‘Beer B’.  We fussed over their foamy heads and then watched as Dave carried the six glasses out and placed in front of the waiting judges.

After waiting a few respectable minutes, we came wandering outside and pretended that we were not surreptitiously watching their every move.

The blind tasting begins...
The blind tasting begins…

The first thing that struck me was the silence.  No one was spitting out the beer.  Or giggling.  Or treating it with anything but utter seriousness. Even Lozzie, my drinking buddy and partner in multiple crimes, of over ten years,  with whom I used to drink copious amounts of cheap crappy Chardonnay in our shared house, was talking earnestly about the mouthfeel of the beer…  She was nodding and murmuring with absolute authority and conviction, seated happily between the hop importer and the professional wine-maker.

The beers were given a score out of five in the following categories:

Appearance
Smell
Taste
Mouthfeel
Marketing
Overall impression

Yes mouthfeel is a thing.  I didn’t know that either.

Serious stuff...  these people know beer
Serious stuff… these people know beer

The identity of each beer was revealed only once the judges had reached the ‘marketing’ category.  I had been so confident about my label. Lovingly hand written and sneakily photocopied at work.  What could be more charming?  Um, a bespoke wooden six pack carrier, that’s what.  I’ll admit I had been worried that Pip might pull something designer-y but she’d been very quiet about it and now I know why!  As you can see… it’s quite a little number.  You’d buy that for someone special and they would love the absolute hell out of it.

The marketing category was blitzed by my sister.  I think I may have lost points for having my child on the label (insert awkward face here).  In my defence, G was mostly obscured by lettering and, come on, I wasn’t in any way trying to market beer to children!  I see now though that it’s a little bit strange to have your child on a beer bottle.  In hindsight it should have just a photo of  Glenn and I and then instead of being really quite odd, it would have been one of the most romantic things I’ve ever done.  

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Dickson IPA and This House Brews – Pale Ale

As it stands, Glenn is very chuffed anyway, because ‘Beer B’ (mine) did take out the overall prize (woo hoo!).  But in all honesty it was so close.  The judges didn’t just score us.  They talked us through the merits and failings of both beers.  Apparently mine, being an IPA, was quite tasty and well developed for a kit beer but you wouldn’t want a lot of it as it was quite strong in flavour and better for having just a single glass of.  All three agreed that Pip’s Pale Ale struck them as being the one they would choose to drink a lot of and if  “scullability” had been a category she’d have scored highly there. But Nick also noted a hint of sugar in her beer which meant that perhaps it hadn’t quite reached its full potential.  Pip was stoked that after the tasting was complete, Nick actually finished his glass of her Pale Ale.  I’d like to point out that when you have small children and you have an opportunity to drink in the afternoon, you don’t finish a glass of just any old rubbish. Especially if your job perhaps revolves around the finer stuff.

I think the highlight for both of us was when Sandy said he was impressed that they were both kit beers and that for first timers we had done pretty damn well.  Go us!  ” The beer equivalent of making a packet cake,” said my husband before all this began. I think it’s a bit better than that!

Afterwards we plied our guests with the full beer snack menu of my Cheesy Biscuits and Beef Wellington Mini Pies and Pip’s Peking Duck Rolls alongside prawn tarts, another family favourite.  The new deck was christened while the kids were happily playing with trucks in a mountain of dirt and all in all it turned out to be a pretty good afternoon.

The snacks! Ducks Rolls, Cheesy Biscuits and prawn tarts.
The snacks! Ducks Rolls, Cheesy Biscuits and prawn tarts.

I don’t personally know any other female home brewers.  I’m sure they’re out there, they probably just don’t feel the need to blog about it.  But generally speaking, it does appear to be a very male dominated past-time and now I’m not really sure why.  I’ll definitely be giving it another crack sometime soon and would encourage anyone who was ever thinking about it to give it a go.  It’s not rocket science and you too could have the pleasure of slipping out to the shed and grabbing a bottle to pop in the fridge to have with tonight’s curry.

What could be nicer?

The Two Houses Families
The Two Houses Families

Photo credits: Kat Barrington Photography, Lex and Pip.

Beer-Off: And the Judges are…

At long last, the date for the Great Two Houses Beer-off has been set and you won’t need to wait long as we’re cracking those babies this weekend! But before I introduce our judging panel, we’ve got a couple of sneaky snippets of our label designs to show you…

Label Design: Lex's "Dickson IPA" and Pip's "This House Brews  - Australian Pale Ale"
Label Design: Lex’s “Dickson IPA” and Pip’s “This House Brews – Australian Pale Ale”

The Judges

Our selection criteria for eligible Beer-Off judges was pretty tough going and we weren’t sure we’d find anyone to fit the bill. So we’ve pulled in some favours from a few mates that came pretty close.

Judges must have the ability to:
a) appreciate beer
b) tell one beer from the other
c) be happy to drink our (possibly terrible) beer
d) keep a straight face when lying to us about how wonderful our beer is

Sandy Ross | Hop Importation and Sales

Sandy Ross and family
Sandy and family

Sandy’s darling wife known to us as Pinky Jane sent us this information for Sandy’s bio.

“Sandy quoting this. I’m typing.

Sandy Ross
Nearly 20 years experience in beer industry with 10 years as managing director of Hopco.
Plus nearly 30 Years experience in drinking beer.
Hopco has been selling hops to the craft beer industry since it began.
Sandy is a member of the international brewing and  distilling organisation and does a lot of international and interstate travel every year to source the best products for Australia’s best breweries.

He also has a gorgeous wife…. I wrote that bit 🙂 ”

Apart from being an awesome Dad to his two sons, this pretty much sums Sandy up and why we’ve asked him to be one of our judges. And it really is rather sweet so I’m leaving it as Pinky sent it to us.

Laura Harper | Program Officer

Laura and family
Laura and family

Looking forward to tasting the ladies debut attempt at mastering the secret man art of home brewing!
Laura Harper Facebook

We won’t reveal how many years of drinking this sassy Taswegian Judge has had, but let’s just say Laura’s sampled enough beer to be for us to deem her worthy of being on our judging panel. Laura’s background in the Arts also makes her essential to making sure I get some marks on my marketing to make up for where my beer is lacking other areas. Like taste. I’m not admitting this to Lex this though. Laura lives on the side of the mountain with her partner John and their kids, including the boy with the cheekiest smile in town. No seriously, it is.

Nick Glaetzer | Winemaker

Nick
Nick

“…first corrupted his hands with wine as a toddler…” Nick Glaetzer GDFW

Ok so its not beer, but with his family’s heritage in the winemaking industry and own lustrous career, Nick’s been around booze long enough to be up for a position as Judge. Nick and his wife Sally moved from South Australia to Hobart in 2005 and since then, Nick has drawn on his experience from Australia and overseas to go on and establish his own award-winning wine label Glaetzer-Dixon Family Winemakers. Naturally we think its pretty good, as does the serious wine-drinking world hence the AWARD-WINNING bit. Nick’s also a bit of a design buff and has designed his own labels and website, and is currently developing an iconic Hobart building into a new home for his family of four – complete with on site winery and cellar door. Not bad Nick, not bad.