Thursday, 27 March 2014

Turtle power!

As a child, I watched a lot of this TV cartoon show about talking reptiles who climb out of the sewer to fight crime, have a rat as a karate teacher, and a friend named April- who often wore a yellow jacket...

As an adult, I think they actually might be tortoises...

Anyway, last weekend I made some simple TMNT cupcakes for a birthday! And I thought I would share with you how I did it :)

In a similar fashion to these cupcake toppers, I started with a round piece of fondant (which could be any shade of green - I used dark because it was what I had), added strips of coloured fondant (orange, blue, red and purple) onto the top half of the circle to resemble the turtles' bandanas, then added an upside down letter "Y" in the same colour onto the side to represent the bandana's tie.

After the eyes were added, with fudge frosting I drew a simple smile on them all (admittedly, I could have made a few different smiles/smirks to create different characters and attitudes, but I got a bit carried away with "simple").

Ta-da! They were then ready to place on top of some cupcakes :)

Monday, 24 March 2014

Birthday countdown!

It's now exactly 2 months until my birthday!

It has become clear and confronting* that I am not where I would like to be fitness/weight/health-wise (though, I've had an inkling for several years now). I'm still holding onto so many different tops, dresses, and pairs of jeans in the hope that maybe, just maybe, I might one day actually fit into them again...

* Mainly whenever I get dressed, or stumble upon my reflection.

Some people <coughHusbandcough> might say that I'm a bit impulsive. Which could be the whole reason for this post. Knowing that I've spent the last couple of months getting into yet another eating-all-the-time/not-exercising-at-all rut, having a two month time frame 'til my birthday, and being inspired by another friend doing something similar, I have now made a goal to complete two separate 30-day challenges in time for my birthday!

Instead of particular body part exercise challenges (e.g. squat or plank), I've chosen all-rounder and appropriately named challenges: The 30 Day Beach Body Challenge, and the 30 Day Little Black Dress Challenge.

Sounds sexy, right? And it just so happens that I have a little black dress that I'd like to fit into again!

Here's what the challenge with the most appropriate background picture looks like:

Though they may look like there's only a couple of minutes a day needed to complete them, I am sure they will be hard work, otherwise they wouldn't be called "challenges"! And there's probably going to be a few exercises that I'll need to Google to find out what they are...

But I'm most certain that I will need a bit of creative encouragement to get me through the next 2 months without giving up!

Would anyone like to join me with a 30-day challenge?
Day #1 is today!

Friday, 21 March 2014

A Day for Harmony...

It's Harmony Day today! Last year, I wrote some thoughts about; and baked cupcakes for Harmony Day, which you can find here.

My thoughts have not changed, and my addiction to baking has not changed either- Any excuse to create! ... This year, though, I waited until the last possible moment to decide what I was going to create (not just cupcakes, but a cupcake project), which turned out to not be the most harmonious decision I've made...

I enjoy learning new skills. This year, with help from 52 Kitchen Adventures and Cake Central, I have created my very first cupcake bouquet! Partly, it was to practice for making one for my great uncle's 90th birthday on the weekend, but mostly... actually, I don't know if there is another reason apart from being a completely different way to present cupcakes that I wanted to learn!

Well, after spending 1.5 hours travelling to 5 different shops, the one I stopped at last had everything I needed: Spotlight. Should have gone there first, I know!

Here are my supplies (minus the cupcakes, and toothpicks):

Somehow, I wanted the styrofoam to be green, because the background for flowers are usually green leaves... So, I cut and wrapped some of the green plastic table cloth around the wreath and the ball, for the backdrop of the bouquet (which is really a pot now - don't judge me).

It was about this time when I realised that I had no idea what I was doing... But, continued anyway! I added some more bits of table cover around the base to act as 'leaves' (and to cover a bit of the wreath).

Next, I poked toothpicks all over the ball. I guessed where they'd all go, and if the spaces are too big for the mini cupcakes then I s'pose I'd just stick more in, or move them around a bit (which did end up happening). I also added some ribbon on the cardboard pot to make it pretty :)

I also placed two toothpicks in between the ball and wreath to hold it in place, because as I was poking the toothpicks into the ball, I could only imagine the whole top falling out, similar to an ice cream scoop falling out of a cone right onto the ground with a 'splat'.

Seeing as orange is the colour theme for Harmony Day, choosing the colour of icing for the cupcakes was easy: Orange. Once I had piped orange buttercream icing onto the cupcakes, I started placing them on the "bouquet".

Upon seeing all the many gaps left over, I cut up some small squares of the green table cover, squished them into the kind of shape below, and, using a skewer, poked them into the spaces between the cupcakes... For next time, I may have to find a way to keep them in place, as once the "bouquet" started moving, some of them blew out! Not sure how to fix it, though...

And then it was complete! Sure, it looks more green than orange, but my kids loved it, Husband was impressed, and the school staff were delighted to be the guinea pigs for my very first mini cupcake bouquet :)

Happy Harmony Day!!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Reasons why I hate amazing parents.

In the age of Facebook and Pinterest, I find it hard not to get swept away by all the amazing food ideas, activities, and artworks that are constantly being added to walls and boards. Pictures of happy families, healthy kids snacks, pretty kids hair do's, sentimental artworks, educational games, and beautifully presented food.

For me, it's then a struggle not to feel both guilty and depressed that I just don't cut the grade of being an awesome parent. Each time I read about parents who've created an email address for their children, or written letters to them, saving them up to give them on their 18th, etc, it's a painful reminder that I've been too lazy in organising super cool stuff like that; it's too late to start now; and my kids will just have to miss out... again.

I haven't been adding little daily love letters in my kids' lunch boxes, or drawing cool things on their sandwich bags, or collecting handprints and professional photos every month or 6 months to track their growth. We haven't even been recording their heights on a space on a wall that the kids will love forever and cry if we ever have to move house, like they all do in the movies...

So as I see other parents breezing through this whole parenting thing (a conclusion I've made about them by that one status or photo that I saw 3 weeks ago on my news feed), I sit here at home, struggling to keep my sh*t together each day, keep the TV to a minimum, consider how we could pay for a cleaner, and have something eatable ready for dinner each night, only to battle the same war again the very next day.

If I had to round down to just one time slot, I find school afternoons to be the most challenging. Basically, that's in between when my kids are all at school/preschool, and when Husband gets home from work.

I figured that the problem lay mostly with me (lack of routine & discipline, etc), so I really wanted to change both my attitude and our routine so that school afternoons would be smooth, calm, and ordered... Or, at least help me feel like I'm getting just a bit closer to my inner parenting goal to be one of those awesome mums.

We were off to a great start to the school term/year. Along with the Homework Corner that I'd created to keep a bit of order to the academic side of school life, I had also decided that I needed to do something different for afternoon tea to stop the pantry being raided which results in the kids refusing to eat dinner because they'd been eating all afternoon.

So each school day, I created and presented a platter for afternoon tea.

For the first couple of weeks, I would have the platters planned and ready before everyone got home from school. I felt super organised (a feeling I don't often get!) and my kids enjoyed the excitement of something different to eat each afternoon. It wasn't long before they were expecting it, and would even suggest ideas for what they wanted the same or following day.

For the next few weeks, everyone would be home from school before I even thought about the platter. When the kids walked through the door, they'd be wondering where the afternoon tea platter was. Clearly, I was either getting busier (or lazier) during the day, or, the novelty was wearing off... These platters would be a bit less thought through, with me raiding the fridge and pantry finding what I could to put on the platter.

Most of the time, the platters were fairly healthy. I did try to make them colourful and interesting, but they always included things like chips, biscuits, cakes, chocolates and doughnuts, and only rarely did those things take up the entire platter. Oops!

But, as it is said that all good things come to an end... By about week 6, there was. no. platter. Though I still liked the idea of it, I really couldn't be bothered putting the effort in anymore! If it was a novelty, it had well and truly worn off.

So afternoon tea transformed from an individually designed and prepared platter each day (whether it was before the school bell or after)... To a half eaten packet of chips:

With a post-it note that says: "Afternoon tea today! I may have already had some..." There were no more post-it notes after this one, by the way, as they also turned out to be too much effort to organise a different one for each day.

Disappointed though I may be, making the platters was fun while it lasted! Now, life has gone back to a case of surviving the afternoons without any yelling, whinging, arguing, slamming doors, pulling hair, or crying!

... And that's just me.

"Parents aren't interested in justice, they're interested in peace and quiet."
- Bill Cosby

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


"No dream is too big, and no dreamer is too small"
- Guy Gangé, Turbo.

Allow me to introduce to you:
An ordinary garden snail whose dream is to become the fastest snail in the world. After a freak accident, he might just be able to achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

Our family went to see this at the movies last year while we were on holidays. For a country town, the cinema was packed out with... probably 20 people in it! It was a highly enjoyable movie for the whole family, though, and now that it's (finally) out on DVD, I highly recommend seeing it!

Through recent eBay therapy session/s, I had ordered a snail cookie cutter (I dream big, too, it seems)... I had thought that it would be a bit bigger than the size it was, and am convinced it was because the description must have accidentally declared the measurements in inches, instead of centimetres...

But, this super cute miniature snail cutter (putting new meaning to "life-size") was perfect for some little shortbread "Turbo" biscuits I had wanted to make since seeing the movie.

I didn't really get the colours right (ironically, I was in a rush at the time I iced them), and couldn't go too crazy with embellishments (because they were so tiny) but  hopefully you get the idea! :)

I'm not sure if I liked the silver or blue fudge better on the shell, so I did both... But I do think the silver stands out a bit more.

So many beady eyes staring at me!

I am happy to admit that these are the only kinds of snails that I am willing to eat. Something about the idea of escargot that puts me off ever wanting to travel to France - which is a dream of Husband's to take me to France one day.

I s'pose we can still dream, though!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Happy birthday Jonathan!

And so... 4 whole years has passed since our youngest son, Jonathan, was born. After being 7 days overdue, he finally graced the world with his presence at 7:45pm, on March 10th, 2010, weighing in nicely at 3.990kg - a few jelly beans shy of 4kg.

Knowing that he was likely going to be our last child, I made sure that we enjoyed each moment with him. Our two older children are only 14 months apart, so the first few years of parenthood for me were almost a complete blur!

For the last 4 years, though they have flown by much faster than I expected them to, it's been a delight to have this little boy in our lives. Ben & Tamara adore him (sometimes a little too much), and do what they can to make him happy (because let's face it - if there's no crying preschooler in the house - everybody's happy!)

There's been triumphs and struggles, as usual with any parent/child relationship. There's been tears and laughter, sometimes within seconds of each other. But all in all, Jonathan's a simple boy. He will tell you what he wants, what he doesn't want, what he likes, and what he doesn't.

But, much like his mother (yay!?), he doesn't just float to one obsession after the other- He sprints. And then, as if nothing has changed, he bounces back to the former obsession again - much like a ping pong ball. I suppose the main obsessions have been Ben 10, Spiderman, and now, LEGO Star Wars.

Because for the past month, I'm not kidding - with every single waking moment, he's asked (again, and again, and again) to play LEGO Star Wars, a game that my eldest son had downloaded onto the Xbox about a day before this obsession began.

Sadly, there's been times that he's requested my help in the game, and I have no idea what to do, or how to play! He gets his gaming skills from his father, and my skills are limited to the Toy Story 3 game - a game that I both love and understand, but don't have time to play anymore.

I'm not sure whether to be happy that his Ben 10 and Spiderman obsessions have been pushed aside for the time being, or not! But if you were interested, these are the many faces involved in playing LEGO Star Wars:

So to keep things simple this year, I made some simple cupcakes for him to take to his preschool for his birthday. Last year, the obsession was Ben 10, so I had made Omnitrix biscuits. In a way I am glad that I get to make something new, so considering that LEGO Star Wars is the latest faze, I made appropriately themed cupcakes for him to share with his friends.

"Master Yoda" cupcakes:

Imagine my reaction when I show Jonathan these cupcakes on the morning of his birthday! He clearly recognises who is on top and exclaims "Coooool, Master Yoda! ... But where's General Grievous?"

He gets that from his father, too!

But, to prove my point about this current obsession, I took a few photos over a course of a couple of minutes, and though at a glance they look the same, there's indeed many expressions that Jonathan has when he plays LEGO Star Wars!

Happy birthday Jonathan!! :)

Friday, 7 March 2014

Feeling a bit Creeper-y!

So what is a Creeper?

I s'pose you could define a "creeper" as an armless bomb with legs. Because in the game of Minecraft, Creepers approach players... and then EXPLODE, causing massive damage to them and their blocks within a small area, and even kill mobs if they're close enough.

Sounds pretty creepy, right?! And they look pretty freaky, too:

Recently, I was asked to make another Minecraft cake. Since I have already attempted one in the past, and did NOT want to repeat the same complications that I experienced with the first one, I simplified everything. I choose to make a "Creeper" face cake, with just one shade of green, like this:

With this simplified Creeper face as a reference, I measured the eyes and mouth, so that everything was proportioned correctly. I drew them onto baking paper, to cut out and use on the fondant.

I was a bit nervous about covering this cake. I'm still not sure if I prefer prefer decorating round cakes or square cakes. With the Sharks cake I'd made the day before (and any stripy round cake), it was easy to cover up the creases, fold, and overlapping parts with extra strips of fondant... I'm still working out the best method for covering square cakes... Usually I pinch and cut off excess fondant at the corner edges, but this time, I was so pleased that the fondant I used was soft enough to manipulate around the corners without having to pinch the corners and cut pieces off!

No joke, it was probably the quickest I'd ever decorated a cake... Ever.

Once the cake was complete, it was time to move onto the cupcakes that were to go with it.

I will admit that I cheated with the cupcakes.

I did this with the knowledge and permission of the friend I was making it for, because I knew that I would not be able to make a cupcake topper to look like this:

After a quick eBay search, though, I found someone who could! And who was clever at many different Minecraft cupcake toppers, too! FTW!

These also meant that all I needed to do was make the cupcakes, pipe buttercream icing onto them, place these amazing toppers on top, and voila!

And finally the most important part of a cake's life:
Being eaten at the birthday party!

 Happy birthday Daniel!