Wednesday 29 January 2014

Hannah Turned 2 - Hungry Little Caterpillar Style!

So my baby turned 2 … and to avoid thinking too much about that fact, Daddy and I engrossed ourselves in party-planning - we love a good party!

I've seen a few pics / posts around in the last year or so of parties themed around one of our favourite kiddy-books …. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  For anyone who doesn't know, this book is about the journey of a little caterpillar who is very hungry, so he eats through a multitude of foods including various fruits, cakes, cheese, salami, pie, sausages, lollypops and the list goes on, before he gets a stomach ache so eats a leaf, then cocoons himself and morphs into a beautiful butterfly.  We have precious memories (and some video I think) from when Bethany was about Hannah's age, with her cute little language-learning-skills trying to get around the names of the different foods … "salami" is a particularly fun one.  Anyway, Hannah's there now too, and is just as cute.

We decided to base the party decorations and foods around those in the book.  Here's what we made:

1. First up was a banner that said "Happy Birthday Hannah 2".  Daddy cut out copious amounts of green cardboard circles and stapled them together.
He then made lots of little brown feet …
And used paint and a felt-tip to make the head.

We joined them all together, and hung it from the ceiling across our kitchen.  It was actually really effective, and definitely set the theme of the party off!

2. Next Daddy and Bethany made lots of cardboard fruits, with holes where the caterpillar ate through of course!  We taped these up on the front door of our house, and all through the kitchen / entertaining area.  This was really effective too, and so simple … plus it was a great way to get Bethany involved in throwing the party for her little sister.

3.  Next up was the food.  There was quite a specific list of things eaten by the caterpillar, and we really wanted to have a crack at having them all … yeah there's never a shortage of food at our parties!
We had salami, pickles, and sausages (which were mini-cocktail frankfurts) - with holes of course! ...

… Swiss Cheese, lollypops watermelons and ice-cream cones … 

…Cupcakes, cherry pies (aka mini tartlet cases filled with cherry jam and topped with Italian Meringe … yum!), and chocolate cake (aka chocolate brownie with a glace cherry on top)

We also had fruit-salad for desert, encompassing all of the different fruits from the book.

4.  Then, of course, came the cake… On top of a white cake, there's a very cheeky-looking caterpillar, on his leaf (which has a big munch-hole) and the different fruits he ate.  I really had a ball making this one.  The fruits with their holes were so much fun to mould.

I spent a good few weeks pondering this cake, and how I could encompass the beautiful rainbow-coloured butterfly at the end of the book.  After lots (and I mean a tonne) of contemplating, I decided that the surprise of the beautiful butterfly would be illustrated by a surprise rainbow-coloured cake inside a seemingly plain white shell … get where I was going with it?  I love this rainbow-cake which I've made a few times now, but I can't remember where I got the idea from….I'm sure I've seen it on a few sites.  You basically just use a plain vanilla cake recipe, split the mixture and colour into as many different colours as you want, then carefully layer the different colours one after the other in the tin.  What's so cool is that as the cake cooks and rises at different rates in different parts, the colours kind of swirl together.  I think it's really effective!

So, Hannah's 2 and has been throwing the tantrums to prove it.  She even had her first time-out the other day … oh dear!  Having said that, it's always at times like this that I realise just how blessed I am to have two amazing, healthy, growing munchkins … can't ask for much more than that really!

Thursday 23 January 2014

This year's Christmas Sewing

I love new clothes for Christmas ... for me, but especially for the girls.  This year, with planning Hannah's birthday party (post to come) for just a couple of days before Christmas, I didn't have a whole lot of time for designing a new idea, so I found some cute Christmassy-but-not fabrics and used my Elephant Skirt design.  For Hannah's I used this red and white star fabric, with some white piping to really make it pop.  I then did a matching applique star top, edged with some silver sequins.  I think she can probably get away with wearing this when it's not Christmas ... what do you think?
This pic is actually not of Hannah's outfit (I haven't managed to find a chance to get a nice pic of her outfit in good lighting yet).  This pic is of a baby outfit for sale at my shop.  It's a skirt and matching onesie.  Have you visited my shop yet? ... Pop over and have a look! (OK, End shameless plugging!)

For Bethany, I did the exact same outfit ... gasp ... matching sisters ... but in true What's Mummy Up To style, it's a "matching-but-not" outfit.  Bethany's fabric is definitely a Christmas fabric, but I loved that it doesn't SCREAM Christmas.  It's got a beautiful aqua colour in there with the reds and greens which just breaks it up, and the baubles are really subtle I reckon!
Anyway, Bethany's skirt has a row of silver sequins instead of piping, and is coupled with a red lace-trimmed singlet which I found for a whole $4 at Big W.  I used a coffee cup to trace a circle of the skirt fabric to applique to the singlet, then edged it with the silver sequins and made a loop of sequins at the top to make this look a little bauble-like itself.
I can't tell you how many comments we got from people about the girls' outfits this year.  From strangers on the street to ladies at church and family, all in all a winner I think!  I even had a stranger at the local shops come up and ask me where I got the girls' outfits, and the "elf" helping Santa when we braved the annual Santa photo spent quite a few minutes trying to convince me to start an Etsy Shop, before I could tell her that in fact I already have one .... did I mention my shop?!?  (OK, so I might have lied about the end of the shameless plugging!)

So that was my sewing for the girls this Christmas.  I'm hoping Hannah will get some more wear out of her outfit before the summer weather leaves us, and maybe in a couple of years she'll get some wear out of Bethany's outfit too!

Oh, and remember my post with the gorgeous beanbag tutorial from Mummy's Mummy (aka Nanna)?  Well, here's the absolutely beautiful set of beanbags that Hannah received for Christmas.  They're my favourite of all the ones Mummy's Mummy made.  Aren't they beautiful!  Oh, and at the risk of overdoing the shop-talk ... check out my shop if you like these, 'cause Mummy's Mummy has some beanbag sets for sale too!

Stay tuned for a tutorial post on the way about how to make several different bag styles, including this drawstring bag, from Mummy's Mummy.  She's been working hard!

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Recipe - Roast Chicken Dinner (with only 4 ingredients plus your vegies)

Are you a Chicken-Salt, or a plain salt person?  I am definitely a chicken-salt person! We have a lovely traditional-style fish and chip shop local to us, and when we have takeaway I always ask for chicken-salt ... really, there's nothing better on a hot chip!

Anyway, this post is thanks to Taryn of Wordstorm who kindly sent me some Mitani Chicken Salt to try and then review.  I hadn't really thought of using chicken salt for any other reason than for putting it on my take-away chips until now, but when I received this pack I spent some time pondering what other recipe uses it could have.  The great thing about this Chicken Salt is that it's MSG free, so you're not so worried about the mega-thirst that always follows with an MSG-ridden meal.  In fact, I found this chicken salt to be quite mild, yet nice just as a different seasoning instead of salt.

So I decided I'd show you my really super-simple recipe for the most delicious roast chicken dinner ... well at least, we thought it was pretty yum!

Ingredients - a whole 4 things ... can't beat that for a super quick week-night roast dinner:

- 1 whole chicken
- Olive Oil (about 2 tablespoons)
- Chicken Salt 
- 4 potatoes

The cooking:
1.  Place your chicken in an oven-proof dish or roasting tray - I love my vintage brown Pyrex that was my Gran's ... it makes me think of her each time I use it!

2. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the chicken, then spread it over the whole chicken evenly using your hands.

3.  Open the Chicken Salt to the "sprinkle" opening, and sprinkle the whole chicken lightly.  All in all you're probably only using a teaspoon or less of chicken salt, which I don't think is all that bad when it gives such a yummy flavour, and you would use at least that much if you were using salt.

4.  Put the chicken into a hot oven (about 240 degrees C) for 20 minutes.  This time in the high heat helps make a beautiful crispy, crackly skin ... Bethany calls is "Chicken Crackling".

5.  Meanwhile, grab your potatoes.  I love these Desiree potatoes for pretty much anything - potato salad, mashed potato, and even roasting.

6.  Leaving the skin on (really, why peel them if you don't need to? ... plus, the skin goes crispy and is really tasty too!), cut the potatoes in half, then each half into wedges, then spread them in another oven-proof dish or roasting pan.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the potatoes, then toss them around a little with your hands to coat them well.  Then sprinkle them lightly with your chicken-salt.  You could also add some fresh or dried herbs if you want to at this point ... rosemary would be divine ... our girls just won't eat anything with herbs like that at the moment so I didn't add any this time!

7. Once your chicken has done it's 20 minutes on high heat, turn the heat down to 200 degrees Celsius, and put the potatoes in too.  Then cook both for a further 40 minutes.  Makes sure you spike the chicken with a knife, either in the breast section, or the thigh and check that any juices coming out are clear (that is, not pink or red).  That's how you know it's cooked!  If your chook is a super-big one, you might need to leave it in a little longer.

This is how amazing your chicken will look when it comes out of the oven!! Yum!!

... And here's the tatties ... all crispy and yum!  They may stick a little to your pan, so just use a spoon or egg-flip to scrap under them before dishing them up ... don't worry, it adds to the crispiness (... not sure if that's a word, but you know what I mean!)

Of course, add your favourite steamed vegies on the side ... and if you really want to, I could forgive you for making a gravy to go on it too ... I personally can't stand that warm gloop, but go ahead if you're a fan ... oh, but I promise ... our chicken was super juicy and not even slightly dry without it!

Anyway, hope you enjoy this one.  And again, a massive thanks to Taryn of Wordstorm for asking me to review the Mitani Chicken Salt.  As always, reviewing a product is so much fun, and be assured, all opinions are my own!