When Summer froze over for a fifth birthday party

12583636_10153489275546785_799312760_n

12575994_10153489274901785_180697898_n 12570931_10153489275281785_293776954_n

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

12516207_10153489272231785_99309544_n

12576167_10153489272556785_500827237_n

IMG_7627

IMG_7624

IMG_7625

IMG_7626

12583663_10153489275766785_1919135464_n

12576272_10153489275846785_1138095799_n

IMG_7612

Advertisements

Banana Pancakes with extra happiness

For six languid days we shared a house in Ubud with our friends, Lozzie and John. The house was perched precariously on a steep slope above a rivulet that was so far down we couldn’t see it. The surrounding gardens clung to the slope and and were full of the soothing ribbiting of frogs and birds and geckos. Once I’d grown accustomed to the worrying amount of steep stairs and my (completely rational) fear that the house would slide off the slope if it rained, it was wonderful. I gave up wondering how on earth they had built any of it in the heat and settled in.

This was the part of our holiday where we forgot what day it was.

image

There was a cooked breakfast every morning served by our hostess, Ketut. Hotels that we later stayed in, tended to serve a blander, rolled version of bananas pancakes. But Ketut’s were the ones that Lozzie and I raved about. They were deliciously lacy, served flat and topped with freshly grated coconut mixed with a little salt. Even Glenn, who doesn’t care much for pancakes for breakfast, succumbed to their buttery banana goodness.

image

Ingredients (makes 8 pancakes)
For the batter:
2 large eggs
1  1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 milk
1 pinch salt
1 tbsp melted butter

To serve:
2 bananas thinly sliced
1/2 cup of fresh grated coconut mixed with half a pinch of salt
Honey (for drizzling)

Method
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the rest of the batter ingredients and mix til smooth. Cover and rest for at least 30 minutes.

To cook, have your banana slices ready. Stir up the rested batter. If it seems too thick, add some more milk. It needs to be thin enough to spread in the pan when poured. Use a non-stick frying pan over a moderate heat. Add 1/2 tsp of butter. When the butter foams, use a serving spoon to pour mixture into the pan. Let it spread a little, then place 6 – 8 slices of banana evenly across the pancake. When you can see that the mixture is just about cooked through, use a large spatula to flip the pancake over. Let the banana side sizzle for a minute and then remove.

image

Serve banana side down, topped with the grated coconut and drizzled with runny honey.

image

 

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.

w_lunchbox_box
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.

w_lunchbox_sketch
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.

w_lunchbox_morning tea
Yoghurt and last seasons frozen blackberries with a side of apple for morning tea
w_lunchbox_main
A warm pastie for lunch (for full disclosure the actual plastic lidded container for sauce just wasn’t pretty enough for this picture)
w_lunchbox_sides
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.

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.

unnamed (7)

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.

unnamed (8)

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.

unnamed (9)

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.

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.

unnamed (11)

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.

Pistachio and Cranberry Christmas Marshmallows

 Its Christmas time!
Pistachio and cranberry christmas marshmallow
d
Its Christmas time!

I love marshmallows. Soft and gooey. Light and fluffy. Melted or baked. Their sickly sweetness is heaven to me. This recipe falls into the firmer, stickier category but the pretty red, white and green colours and subtle infused flavour of minty citrus are are ingrained in my idea of ‘Its Christmas time!’ and is a perfect one for making ahead of time to wow the family with on Christmas day or to include in your gift hampers.

Ingredients
½ cup heavy or thickened cream
2 mint leaves
Zest of one large lemon
4 cups white marshmallows
2 Tbsp pistachios
2 Tbsp cranberries

x
Delicious ingredients

Once the marshmallows are melted, they cool quickly and become very sticky to work with so a few things to prepare before you start the heating process:

Line a 8x8inch container with grease proof paper including up the sides.
Place the pistachios into a food processor and grind to a mix of dust and fine chunks and set aside. Finely chop cranberries and set aside.
Roughly chop the marshmallows and place in a medium saucepan.

Once these things are ready, place the cream, mint leaves and lemon zest in a small saucepan and heat gently to a simmer. Immediately turn in down and leave to infuse for a few minutes before straining into the saucepan with the marshmallows. Gently heat stirring constantly until the marshmallows have melted and combined with the cream.

Pour half the mixture into the container. Sprinkle the ground pistachios over, then carefully spoon on the remaining marshmallow mixture. Scatter the cranberries across the top and pop in the fridge to set.

x
Its a great one to do with the kids
x
Sprinkle over the pistachios

Once set, use a knife to help prise the top edge from grease proof paper. Once the top has come unstuck the rest will pull away easily. Slice into squares to serve. Store in an air tight container and cut when ready to serve.

x
Serve on your prettiest plates!
x
Someone’s excited about marshamallows!

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.

If you enjoyed this post and want to see more of our daily life then you may want to follow Two Houses on Instagram or Facebook. Subscribe via email (see the side bar) to save you missing out on new posts. Because let’s be honest our website is not very organised and it takes years to find anything. Have a nice day!