Wednesday, June 27

The Bring-a-Plate Tradition

We've all had a good giggle over stories of non-Aussies turning up to the local hoedown carrying an actual plate with nothing on it. 
A mistake you'd only make once I imagine!

Being a country girl, the "bring-a-plate" tradition is very close to my heart and always honoured with something delicious whipped up in my kitchen. 
None of this stopping at Woolies on the way home from work to pick up a tray of lamingtons - now that would be sacrilegious!

This lovely quote from Alexa Johnston sums up the feeling beautifully:
"By embarking on baking we link into an honourable tradition that stretches back to our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers who filled countless plates with tempting treats for afternoon teas and suppers all across the land."
For me, nothing beats the NO BAKE SLICE for a time-poor domestic-goddess-wanna-be such as I. 
And my plates always come home empty (sorry, now I'm boasting!)

I have a nice little collection of these recipes on rotation and I'd love to share a few with you...... 

In a saucepan gently heat 125g butter, 1/2 cup caster sugar, 1/3 cup maple or golden syrup and 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter until sugar dissolves. Stirring, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 mins until nice and frothy. Stir in 4 cups Cornflakes. Press into lined slice tin. Chill for 30 mins.
Top with 350g good eating chocolate, melted.

Whizz up 2 x 200g packets sweet plain biscuits in food processor (I like to use Paradise Rich Shortbread). Place in mixing bowl and add 1 cup shredded coconut, 1/4 cup lemon juice, a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest, 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk and 175g butter (melted). Mix well and press into lined slice tin.
For the icing - combine 1 1/2 cups icing mixture, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 25g butter (melted). Spread over slice with a metal spatula or knife dipped in hot water.
Refrigerate until firm.

I ADORE this recipe - you can personalise it to your audience, it's not overly sweet, has a lovely smooth slightly chewy texture and it is literally done in less than 10 minutes. A winner with young and old!

Grab a BIG bowl - please hear me when I say, you're gonna want the biggest microwave proof bowl you own cos this mixture will froth up like some weird science experiment.
Tip in a tin of sweetened condensed milk. Microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes.
While the microwave is doing it's thing, break up a family block of chocolate (whatever kind you please) and chop up 90g of butter into cubes.
Add the choc and the butter to the hot frothy milk and mix quickly until smooth and shiny.
Now you can get creative and mix through any delight you choose - chopped nuts, choc chips, marshmallow, honeycomb, lollies - go wild!
Plop into a slice tin lined with foil, gently press flat and chill until set.
For kids parties I like to leave the mixture plain then once in the tin I press mini M&M's over the surface (like I did for Mia's Rainbow Party). So colourful and the kids love it!

OK I've shown you mine, now I'd love to know....what's YOUR go-to recipe for those times you're called upon to "bring-a-plate"?

Monday, June 25

Funnest Party Games

Princess Mia had her 8th birthday party on the weekend.
It would have to be one of the best and FUNNEST (if that's not a word it should be) we've had - maybe even topping last year's bash.
Mia had her heart set on a sleepover - so with 6 little friends to amuse for 20 hours I made sure I had PLENTY of games and activities up my sleeve.

Here's a mere snippet of what we did (and not a Passing Parcel or Musical Chair in sight!):
 2 even teams...
2 similar piles of dress-up items (the sillier the better)...
Put on all the items, run to the end, take off all the items...
Next team mate gets dressed, runs, etc, etc....
Even the boys got a kick out of this one....(what is it with boys and dresses???)
So simple yet this was the one they played over and over...even the big brothers and sisters joined in.
Place markers in a circle - one less than the number of children
(we used the circular mats from Twister Scram)....
Divide group into fruits (we had just 2: Strawberries and Kiwifruit - more types are recommended for a larger group)....
One person stands in the middle of the circle and shouts out a fruit....
Everyone belonging to that fruit must move off their marker and dash to another - including the person in the middle....
Someone will miss out - they then become the person in the middle who calls out the fruit for the next round.
If "Fruit Salad" is called, EVERYBODY has to run to a new marker....
So much giggling....
So much chaos.....
So much fun!

2 teams....
2 hoops....
Team members hold hands and must pass a hula hoop along the line WITHOUT letting go hands....
Teamwork and concentration required!
2 teams....
Members of the team stand close behind each another with a blown up balloon pressed between their bodies.....
Must run to the finish line as one unit....
Without bursting or losing any balloons!
Pretty hilarious (in all the excitement I forgot to take pics).

Non-stop hysterical laughter alert!

Thread 2 toilet rolls on a broom handle....
First person to unravel their roll wins!
Even the clean-up was fun!
(Activity not recommended for a windy day, however....!)

We turned up the music LOUD....
Broke out the glow sticks....
And the sparklers....
And let the mob run wild.....
Before coming inside.


Pyjamas were apparently the appropriate attire to dine in - by the time I had unplugged the stereo and lugged everything into the house they were all enthusiasically comparing characters on their flanelettes.

Party pies, sausage rolls, spring rolls, mini hotdogs, potato gems and salad for dinner...
Birthday cake for dessert....
Then a DVD ("Baby's Day Out" - a classic fave and guaranteed giggle-fest) on wall-to-wall mattresses.....before lights out.

Quite a few of our little guests had never had sleepovers before
so you can imagine their excitement (and my slight trepidation.....)
After a fair amount of wiggling and squirming and whispering and shushing......
they slept.
No tears, no I-want-my-mummy dramas.....
they were a complete joy!

A lovely early start (.....groan....) at 6.30 - with a crunchy frost still on the ground.
Pancakes, yogurt and fresh strawberries all round.

Big sisters sent out to hide the Treasure Hunt goodies around the garden.....
while I kept the children occupied by helping them roll up their sleeping bags and pack up their things.

Treasure Hunt conducted....and to make sure nobody got more than their share, the winner was the first back with 6 different items.
A few games of What's The Time Mr Wolf.

Quiet time before the mum's arrived for pick up -
involving a fun little drawing game I remembered from my childhood, I'm calling....

Everyone sits at the table with some coloured markers and a sheet of paper each....
Everyone is instructed to write a name at the top and draw a head on a neck....
The top of the page folded back, hiding the head but revealing the neck, and the drawings are passed along to the left....
The body is then drawn, connected to the neck that was drawn by the previous artist....
Fold back the paper once again, leaving the end of the body - or hips - showing....
Pass the drawings to the left....
Next the legs and feet are drawn....
The completed drawings are passed to the left one more time then opened out to reveal some very unique characters!
A final group photo on the trampoline....

A pick from the Pick-A-Box
(gotta love the $1 toy section at BigW)....
then home time.

Apparently all too soon for Mia: "Why does my party have to end?"
When a two-day-long party is still not enough - I reckon it must have been pretty darn good!

Tuesday, June 19

Death Trap

The trusty quad bike.
Used daily on farms all over the country to muster cattle and get around the property to check fences and stock.
We also use ours to take visitors on 'farm tours', heck...the kids even ride it around the backyard (slowly and with supervision).
We've heard the safety warnings, we know the dangers......but it didn't hit home until last week.

I don't know why, or who was looking out for us, but my husband is still walking around, still breathing, still with us. This was a VERY near miss. My blood freezes when I think about how different things could be for us right now.

The story is fuzzy - concussion does that to a person - but it goes like this:
While bringing in cattle around the edge of the dam, the bike became unstable and flipped. He was thrown into about 2 feet of water, and the bike landed upside-down on top of him. By some miracle he did not drown. He freed himself, righted the bike, eventually got it started again and made his way home to call me up at work "can you come home - I've come off the quaddy and I'm hurt".

Painfully bruised ribs and a huge scare are a small price to pay. He is OK and we've all learned some very big lessons.

P.S. The lottery ticket has been purchased!

Saturday, June 9

The Earth Moved

I was momentarily gripped by panic around 9pm last night.

A slow rumble sounded all around - a bit like a storm brewing, no wait....more like a freight train speeding through the house paddock.  

The floor was vibrating under my feet, the walls were visibly shaking, windows rattling. 

Lasted way longer than a thunder clap - maybe 10 seconds? With no storm forecast....and no trainline within coo-ee of our town - this HAS to be an earthquake.

Sure enough, today's news reported a 4.4 earthquake centred at Lake Keepit near Gunnedah, around 200 kms south of us. Thankfully no one was hurt and no major damage to property.

Last night's panic was very real.
I flinch at the slightest ground vibration.
I have an intense urge to run outside.

This is why........

King St, Newcastle, 28th December 1989.

A major earthquake hit, measuring 5.5.

The Worker's Club collapsed (along with many other shops and houses) - 13 people lost their lvies.

I was a few blocks away, also on King St.
I felt the full force of this 'thing' and experienced the bewildering aftermath of confusion and disbelief that everyone in Newcastle felt that day.

First thought - our building has just been slammed into by a semi-trailer (that was how loud and sudden the noise was).
Followed by - truck accidents do not cause a concrete slab floor to ripple in waves like someone shaking out a tablecloth.

Once evacuated to the street and confronted by a huge mushroom cloud of dust across the road my next thought was - someone just bombed the Worker's Club.

Total realisation really did not dawn until we were finally cleared to leave and I drove my little blue Suzuki out of the city toward my house, 20 minutes away.

I passed ambulance after ambulance, collapsed shop awnings, building ruins, groups of people milling around in shock - it was like something from a bad disaster movie. 

I will never forget it.

Thank god we live in Australia and not San Francisco!

Friday, June 8

New Look

How to occupy self on day off (and avoid housework):

1. Teach yourself Photoshop on YouTube
2. Make a new Blog Header using this new skill
3. Decide rest of Blog needs snazzifying to match new Header

3 hours later....ta-da!!!

Hey - I have to point out my latest creation that I decided deserved a place in my new header:

My beautiful middly princess Bethany turned 10 last week....double digits....growing fast!
So all this week I worked on a portrait for her.

After my last attempt I gained a bit of confidence and off I went!

Here is the photo I worked from:

You have no idea how the mouth and teeth can change the whole look of a person if drawn wrong!
I worked on Beth's smile for D-A-Y-S.
Flabbergasted and ready to give up, I turned to my trusty copy of Drawing On The Right Side of The  Brain by Betty Edwards.
Her wise advice? Turn the whole thing upside down!
Apparently it stops you from seeing the object as you think it should be and makes you see it as just lines, shapes and shadows.
I'm happy to tell you, my right brain did not let me down.

That's all!

Wednesday, June 6

Easy (yet impressive!) Birthday Cake

TAKE one chocolate cake (I used my fave recipe but trusty packet mix works too).......
HEAT family block of Cadbury Dream white chocolate and some cream in a saucepan until smooth and creamy then leave to cool.......
POUR said ganache generously over cake.........
WHACK in freezer for few minutes to set the drippy bits...........
PILE on some Maltesers (Lindt Chocolate balls if feeling extra decadent) - press them on a bit - they will stick...............
SIFT over some icing sugar (ooooh, fancy!)............
STAB with candles (I picked up these awesome "sparkler" numbers from Woolworths)..........
IMPRESS the socks off everyone!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY my sweet Bessie Mae


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