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).

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frozen snowman

frozen bread

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frozen crown

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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.

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Onion Jam

Onion Jam (or relish or marmalade or whatever you would like to call it) is a staple in our house. We get a bit panicky when we look in the cupboard to find there’s a only a couple of jars left. It’s slathered on everything from toasties and pizzas to dainty canapes and cheese platters. Onion jam is decidedly ugly but if you can get someone to try it, they never look back. Jars of this sticky brown goodness are given to close friends only. The reason being that the recipe requires slicing an absolute shitload of onions. And I could never do that for someone I only liked a little bit.

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The following is a basic guide to making six jars for your nearest and dearest this Christmas. You can tweak it to your own taste and add extra things like ginger or other spices. Up to you. One hot tip: if you don’t have a wide-mouthed funnel suitable for filling jam jars, then get one. Without it, spooning warm onion jam into glass jars and not making a huge mess, is impossible. You’ve been warned. Maybe ask Santa for one.

Ingredients  (makes 6x 500g jars)

4 kg brown onions (peeled, halved and sliced)
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups brown sugar
Small bunch fresh thyme (or one tablespoon dried thyme)
4 cloves
10 ground pepper corns
1 teaspoon salt
Wine – red or white – to drink while you stir and also to top up liquid levels if they get a bit low

To make

There’s no getting around this: you have to peel, halve and slice 4 kilos of brown onions. Just do it and get it over with. Listen to some music. It won’t take as long as you think. Keep the slices on the thickish side. Say around 1cm. No need to get too fussy, you just want some of them to retain a little shape when they’re cooked.

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Heat the olive oil on a medium-high heat in a thick bottomed stock pot. Add enough onions to fill a quarter of the pot. Fry the onions for about fifteen minutes or until softened and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir for another ten minutes and then as the mixture collapses and makes more room in the pot, you can start to add the rest of the onions slices. Stir constantly until all the onions have softened. There should be plenty of liquid at this point. Turn the heat down and simmer for the next 2 hours. Stir every now and then and check that there’s enough liquid. This is where you can add some wine if it looks like it’s getting dry.

After 2 hours the onions should be dark, sticky and jammy.

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Divide into your six sterilised jars (hopefully you’ve been collecting jars for this very reason all year). Tie some tags on them with cute string. And then decide who has been good enough to get one. Merry Christmas.

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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.

Floral Sparkling Apple Jelly

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Watching Nigella ooze “curiously pleasurable” gooey gelatine leaves between her fingers, seductively describing the clarity of jelly instantly inspired me to create towers of delicate boozy jellies. In reality every time I felt the urge to make a stunning wibbly wobbly castle, the mysteriousness of using gelatine has made me instinctively reach for a packet of Aeroplane. A decade later, I’m finally making my attempt at this curiously pleasurable act and am pleasantly surprised at how easy it is. Unfortunately, as this jelly is in preparation for Boo’s second birthday party, there’s a distinct lack of booze. With or without the pretty fruit and flowers, the fizz in the sparkling apple juice adds a delicious zing to this jelly. Of course, by all means substitute the sparkling apple juice with Prosecco if you can’t handle your jelly without the booze.

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Ingredients

8 leaves gelatine (approx.13g)
140ml elderflower cordial
425ml sparkling apple juice (chilled)
250g blueberries or other berries
Edible petals/flowers

Glass serving dishes (individual serving size or a larger single mould)

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Divide the fruit and petals (if using) into your serving dishes and refrigerate. If using individual dishes, placing these on a tray makes it easier to move them around.

Soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water as per the instructions (for McKenzie 5-7 minutes).

Place the cordial in a bowl over a saucepan on medium heat. For this recipe, I’ve used my homemade clementine elderflower cordial which results in a deeper colour than plain elderflower.

Drain the gelatine leaves and stir into the warmed cordial until combined into a smooth syrup and remove from the heat. Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes.

Very, very slowly pour in the sparkling apple juice and stir gently. Scoop the froth off the top and discard.

Remove the dishes from the fridge and slowly pour in the jelly mixture. Use a skewer to manoeuvre the fruit and petals so they look pretty through the glass.

Refrigerate until set.

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Sausage rolls for superstars

Glenn and I now have one proper honest-to-God birthday party under our parental belt. The kind where you invite the whole kindergarten class because you can (and so you do). The kind where you get overly ambitious about how much goddamn fun they will have thrust upon them and enlist your visiting in-laws to  help you cut out large cardboard glider planes, for each little guest. A back breaking and seemingly endless task that possibly made them wish their son had married someone a little less  bossy enthusiastic.

Almost everyone in G’s class RSVP’d a big fat yes, which thrilled us. Except that when I did the maths we realised that with at least 16 kiddies, multiplied by parents and younger siblings, plus our family and friends– we were looking at somewhere about sixty people or more. Whoa. We had hired a local playgroup hall for the event. But food was still going to be an issue. If only the gazillion cardboard glider planes had been edible we would have been set.

When this happens to you, don’t panic. Just make an absolute shitload of these pork and apple sausage rolls. This is a modified version of Glenn’s recipe. I have to mention this otherwise someone will call copycat.

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You will need:

1 packet of puff pastry (4 sheets)

4 Granny Smith or Pink Lady apples (peeled and chopped)

400g pork mince

400g of sausage meat (you can either buy a tube or use the filling from good sausages)

1 bunch fresh sage

1 bunch thyme

2 grated carrots

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg

3/4 cup bread crumbs

4 tablespoons sesame seeds (for garnish)

To cook:

Chop the herbs and put everything in a large bowl. Wash your hands and get in there and mix it up. I won’t lie, this is not at all enjoyable. It’s cold and sticky but over quickly and you don’t have to haul out the heavy mixer.

Tip: pre fill the sink with warm soapy water so that you don't have to muck around with taps with your manky hands afterwards.
Tip: pre fill the sink with warm soapy water so that you don’t have to muck around with taps with your manky hands afterwards.

Right, you’re ready to roll. Cut one square of defrosted puff pastry in half. Spoon a good strip of mixture length ways across the pastry. Fold pastry over. Roll and seal gently. Roll again so that the sealed edge is underneath. At this point you can cling wrap and freeze if you like. Otherwise cut into 6 – 8 even pieces.

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Place on a baking tray on a sheet/baking paper, daub with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 35-40 minutes or until golden.

Pop them out on the party table with some relish and say goodbye!

Makes about 60 sausage rolls. Triple the recipe for outrageously large birthday parties.

 

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