Dec 31, 2016

NYE 2016: A Birthday, Good Times and A Cake Hack.

Happy Birthday and Happy New Year from our house to yours.

The final days of the year for me will now forever be a mixture of happily celebrating Preschooler's birthday and saying farewell to the year that was.

Regarding the birthday, may I introduce you to the life hack that is a doctored cake mix birthday cake?  Duncan Hines' range is my current favourite go to.  Their French vanilla flavour isn't as artificial tasting as Ms Crocker's alternative.

On the suggestion of this post from Three Cooking Sisters, I altered the additions to my box of cake mix to include an extra egg, melted butter instead of vegetable oil (and double the volume at that) plus a cup of milk instead of water.

Preschooler SSG requested a raspberry flavoured cake this year so I added a packet of raspberry jelly crystals to the batter, I used regular rather than diet jelly.  This is Aeroplane's official recipe for a jelly party cake.

The raspberry icing was made from scratch though.  I found a recipe from The Australian Womens' Weekly which revolved around fresh raspberry puree made by pushing raspberries through a sieve.  I had no idea just how seed filled (as opposed to the 'seedy' one might feel on the morning of January 1) raspberries are.  They are such soft and seemingly unstructured fruit.

The puree gets mixed with a bit of softened butter, icing sugar and a bit of warm water.  Cooking in a steam bath gives the icing pliancy.

And here is the final result.  I'm calling the sides my version of those naked wedding cakes that were all the rage this year.  The cake was filled with a basic vanilla buttercream.  As much as I love packet cake mixes, I just can't do pre-made frosting.

The finished cake looked more impressive than the effort it took and it sliced like  dream.  It is also surprisingly moreish....  I've reserved myself a large wedge for afternoon tea tomorrow.  The raspberry icing has a lovely tang to is which cuts through the sweetness of the buttercream and gives a bit of a lift to the cake.  The cake itself manages to be moist and firm without being too rich.  

And the best thing about this cake?  The endless flavour possibilities limited only by the range of jelly flavours at your local supermarket.  I've got lemon on my list as the next flavour to jelly party cake-erise.

With just over half of my most liked Instagram moments being clothing related (thank you, my lovely and supportive Instafamily), how could I not end the year in some sort of fashion related situation?

H&M was a pleasant surprise when I dropped in yesterday.

I hadn't ever appreciated what lovely prints they have and also how many of their clothes are actually cut quite nicely for women of a certain age.  These two tops and dress set me back $24.  I'm usually a solid coloured T shirt kind of girl but these monochrome prints were too cute (and flattering) to resist.

Then Zimmerman called my name.  It's a label that's intimidated me for a variety of reasons - would I even fit into anything (it all looks so tiny on the rack), would it all be too sheer or leave not enough to the imagination?

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on whether or not you're my credit card), my fears were unfounded.  Readers, I fear that I am on the verge of a major Zimmerman collecting obsession.  I found a beautiful white dress that fit like a glove while also wasn't too much of a mutton dressed as lamb affair (I've always associated the trademark Zimmerman frock with Sydney's pretty  young things of the moment) and this gorgeous smock dress.  The dress wasn't too steeply priced (being on sale) but alas I had to step away.  I still engage in far too much preschooler lifting and restraining for a Zimmerman to survive for long in my wardrobe.  I don't normally do resolutions for the new year but I might just have to pencil in something about Zimmerman for 2018.  The year I officially graduate to becoming a school mum.  Which is going to be very interesting in itself....

And so here we are.  On the final day of 2016.  A year that's been almost unfairly kind to both myself and those I love.  I've spent today true to the pervading mood of my year (outside of the moments of grief and outrage directed at untimely deaths and unjust acts of terror directed at the world at large and mostly at those who least deserved it).

There was an 11/10 bacon and egg roll at Garcon at The Tramsheds.

Accompanied by an excellent coffee which I shared with a couple of dinosaurs.  Preschooler SSG still loves his trains and Lego but dinosaurs appear to be an emerging passion.

Together with mum, we had a little stroll through the sheds and watched various stalls prepare for the day ahead and observed others still resting and recovering from the night before.

Then we returned to our local Westfield so that mum could have a browse through H&M (she quite liked the tops I bought)

and Preschooler SSG could have one last meet and greet session with all the local buses for the year.

Even the 9pm fireworks are going to be an impossible appointment to keep tonight so we'll be going for a pre dinner walk instead.  There's already a host of people congregating at the best vantage points around our neck of the woods so even if we miss out on the fireworks, I'm sure we'll absorb a bit of the party atmosphere.

Happy New Year and the warmest wishes for your 2017.  May you reach your goals, live your dreams (even the ones that phrase covers when it's delivered a bit sarcastically, surely there's one word to describe all of that?) and keep your loved ones safe and well.

See you on the other side!

Dec 30, 2016

Summer Staycation 2016.

Ahhh, these lazy, golden in between (Christmas and New Years) days of December.  

I'm on day three of a four day break and it's been glorious.  I might not know for sure what day of the week it is but that's a small price to pay for a summer staycation.

I've been for a morning runs with the most painless main road crossings I've ever had to make since moving.

The sun just begins to rise as I reach the park, there's still a gentle breeze to take the edge off the effort my semi sprint trained body has to make to adjust to a longer distance run and then there's the view over Rushcutter's.

The gentle bobbing clank of boats and yachts in the marina (love this boat's name, by the way) and that view to the right of the harbour bridge with whichever super cruise liner or naval ship that's decided to dock for the day silhouetted next to it.

The oval's always open though I'm not sure which sport gets played here over summer.  Cricket perhaps?  The stands and the picket fence give the oval a cricket kind of vibe...

Then it's the last few kilometres back home during which I try to use my summer mind over my post Christmas lunch and leftover snacking body to keep my pace down to a respectable number.  I'm edging closer and closer to the 5.55 min / km that was my prime way back in June.

There's been quite a few leisurely 6am coffees savoured here before I head home to mum and housekeeping duties.

But there's also been little drives and day trips to explore the local area.

Paddington is such a pretty suburb.  The shop fronts, the terraces, the converted historical buildings.  Westfields have their place in the practical day to day of my life but places like Paddington are where my mind travel to for a bit of a day dream and break from it all.

Some serious Lego building has been going on.  I have my system.

It's not fancy but it works for me.

This is the Parisian Restuarant that has taken up most of my spare time this break.  I had a go at Netflix but couldn't lose myself in The Crown like everyone else.  Didn't feel like reading much either so it was Lego for the win.

There are 2469 pieces in it (give or take a grey block or two in the chimney which I lost somewhere along the way)

and it features such unique bricks as this croissant (also in white for the roof detailing)

as well as cute details like this proposal on the ground floor of the restaurant (that really is a roasted fowl of some description in the background).

We took Preschooler SSG donut hunting the other day.  He actually ate most of his Slim Shady from Doughnut Time.  I still don't know where all this food goes in his skinny frame.

Mum really enjoyed It's Always A Gaytime.  Gaytimes are her favourite ice cream and she fell hard for this 'not too sweet' doughnut.

We've done our annual post Christmas Costco run together too.

Mum somehow always manages to find the real bargains and the best conversations with fellow shoppers.  She heard from a reliable source that this heavy duty trade cable reel is going for twice the Costco price at the Bunnings next door.

She steered me past the Roomba and Instgram has informed me that the Aldi version does a pretty good job for a fraction of the price.  I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for it in the special buy catalogues next year.

Besides the cable reel, mum will also be taking this Aldi camping lantern back to Perth as well.

She passed on a Frosty Mug though.  Did you ever have one as a child?  I have vague memories of mine.

Anyway, the original is still the best.  We tried it with low sugar fruit juice and it delivered a very cooling granita type drink for Preschooler SSG.  I think the mug works best with fruit juice rather than milk based drinks and you do need to stir hard for those two minutes to cool the drink down.  After letting it all sit for a few more minutes, more ice does form.

The tree and its decorations are all packed as well.

I hope my DIY tinsel packing method keeps it all tangle free for next year.

We've eaten my special leftover turkey and camembert jaffles for dinner as well as mum's ham fried rice.  All of which means Christmas really is over now.  Still haven't seen the hot cross buns out at the supermarket though....

And that's about it from me.  I'm heading back out of the study to enjoy the rest of this rather time fluid summer staycation of mine.

Do you have a Roomba?

What do you do with your Christmas ham and turkey leftovers?

Until next time!


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