Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Kids Can Santa Run: Tonight!

If you're not busy tonight, and feel the need for a little excercise and feel good out and about time, have I got the event for you!


As part of a new Christmas Tradition, our family is participating in the Barry Curtis Park location Kids Can Santa Run.  I've mentioned this organisation before, and they are awesome.  The proceeds from the event going to ensuring all Kiwi kids affected by poverty can look forward to a brighter future, and I love getting involved in this. 

For those of you who haven't heard of a Santa Run event before, it is essentially a 'fun run' or walk as the case may be to raise awareness and funds for a given group.  With your registration fee you also recieve a Sanata Costume to run in - how fun is that.

Our famiy has entered as team Angelu Fetu - Samoan for team Angel Star as it's what we decorate our tree with.  I'm so pumped that this is a way to give back locally and be greatful for what we have with the whole family in a fun and active way!

If you are in one of these centres it is still not too late to enter! Registrations are taken from 5-6:20om tonight.
Whangarei, Auckland Central, Auckland South, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.  The time table is shown just below for more info or just click here
 for the details for your local event!

Registration:5pm - 6.20pm at the event centre. At registration you collect your race number and Santa suit.
Race Briefing:6.15pm

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas Teacher Gifts: Goodness in a Jar

As a teacher myself, it is so nice when your learners and their families share a little festive cheer and thanks with you for the love you put in to their education.  And I am a HUGE fan of acknowledging my kids' teachers - everyone from their classroom/pre-school teachers to swimming teachers, to music teachers (etc etc). 

So, today I thought I'd put out what we're doing this year for our special teachery type people.  My rule of thumb is to try to make each year's teacher gifts eco-friendly (no plastic or heaps of other packaging rubbish that will get thrown out), usable,  (something that is non-lingering/dust-collecting), and is a handmade, heartfelt and heartwarming expression of our appreciation.

With this in mind, this year we are pursuing the jar gift route.  We've also got a bit of a peppermint theme happening with a lot of our holiday baking this year, so that is just going to carry right over to the teacher gifties as well.

Gift 1: Peppermint Stick Cocoa in a Jar has the instructions for this.  You could also use some twine to attach a mini-bottle of peppermint schnapps!
Gift 2: Peppermint Chocolate Sugar Scrub  This seems just divine - and so simple.  I'm going to try to make a candy cane effect with our jars by adding the cocoa to half of the mixture then layering it on an angle to make a swirl effect that you'll be able to see through the glass.

Gift 3:Cookies Decorated by the Kiddos has the recipe for these festive looking guys!  We're going to use my Grandma's Cream Cookie recipe and decorate them like this to go along with our jar gifts.  I think you could use the bark decorating concept with pretty much any of your favourite Christmas Cookie recipe and not go too far wrong!  Home baking is always a great gift, and a wonderful way to get kids in the holiday spirit and involved with the gifts they will be presenting their teachers.

Gift 4: Oxfam Unwrapped Cards with Donations
We have made this a Christmas tradition at our house for all teacher/friend gifts.  The kids go on line and help to pick out donation gifts from one of these sites that go along as a card with any homemade gifts that we give.  It's one of the ways that we try to bring a little Christmas Cheer to those people around the world that are not as lucky as us.

Often as a teacher, you can end up with a lot of 'stuff' that is either double/triple/sextuple ups (my dad had a Christmas mug collection to rival a boutique store!), or is not usable, or is really just going to end up in the rubbish eventually in about 10 years, when you just have to move that box of lovely teacher gifts from your room 18 class from 2001 because you have another box from this year!

I hate to make that sound like whining about gifts, because like I said, it really does mean a lot when a family takes the time to thank-you for the work that you do - because pretty much all teachers put in a CRAZY amount of hours WAY WAY WAY past 8:30-4:00pm whether it's volunteering with an extra-curricular group to tutoring, to marking and just making sure that the planning and learning activities are going to be great for a class. But, when you get edible gifts, donations, or even just a simple card made by a kid, the gratitude is overwhelming, and the guilt about eventually potentially having to throw something out that came from a student doesn't pop up at some later date. Happy Gifting!

Friday, 30 November 2012

No Bake Awesome Christmas Chocolate Supreme

Our Christmas baking traditions can be divided up into 3 categories, which I work on progressively on the weeks leading up to the big day.  (Sort of following an advent time line countdown I suppose!)  First is the no bake round which involves some fudges, sometimes some brittles, and this recipe. Second comes the cookie & pastry round, and third is the cheescake, breads and egg dishes for the day.  Simple!

Each year they also sort of go from easy to most difficult, so my confidence in re-making our traditional Christmas recipes grows until it's time for the piece-de-resistance dishes!  The first round is the chocolatey stuff that can go in the freezer for guests, or quick gifts.  Whatever is left over is also cut into small squares for 'dainties' for our Christmas dessert spread!
This first one is super easy.  It's from a recipe called "Christmas Chocolate Supreme" that I got out of a magazine a few years ago.  The original recipe is here, but I've made a few adjustments to make it just the way we like it . . . and a perfect one to make first since we have extra rum leftover in the house from our Tree Trimming Eggnog.
This is our version:

Christmas Chocolate Supreme


1 cup rum
750 g NESTLÉ Dark Melts (3 bags)
50 g butter
1/3 cup cream
125 g pistachios
350 g super wine biscuits
1 1/2 cup red glacé cherries


Place half of one bag of the NESTLÉ Dark Melts aside.
Chop biscuits into chunks and place to the side.
Place the rest of the NESTLÉ Dark Melts (2 and 1/2 bags) in top of double saucepan. Stir over medium heat until chocolate has almost melted.
Remove from heat.  Stir in combined cream, rum and butter, stir until dissolved.   
Stir in pistachios.
Add cherries and biscuits, lightly fold into chocolate mixture.
Spoon mixture evenly into 20cm spring form pan.
Warm half bag of chocolate melts (that were off to the side) and pour over the first mixture.
Cover, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
To serve, cut into wedges and plate up.
NOTE: If mixture sets to firm when stirring in liquids or other ingredients, gently warm chocolate to make smooth again.
Preparation time:
15 minutes plus chilling time.  This recipe is perfect for making and freezing to have something on hand for unexpected guests!

This dainty is rich and super festive with the red and green colours peeking through the chocolate from the cherries and pistachios.  It combines some of my favourite flavours of the season from northern hemisphere (nuts) and southern hemisphere (cherries) with year round favourites (chocolate and rum!)  It's also really easy to tweak for different taste buds by changing up the nuts, fruits, biscuits, liquor, or chocolate type to suit what you like best.  I've been thinking that a white chocolate version with cranberries, dried strawberries,pine nuts, hazelnuts, and Frangelico may be great as well!  Let me know if you make any variations and how it went!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cardboard Christmas: Favourite Festive DIY Fun

Today I had the chance to go into my daughter's classroom and do a little bit of cardboard craft.  We worked on making rockets to help wrap up the end of a unit about space, which was great!  It got me thinking about all the awesome cardboard projects and gifts I've seen on line and tried at home recently, so I thought I'd share my favourite holiday themed projects, or even some gift ideas!
Happy Cardboarding!
 Life Size Gingerbread House 

The Makedo Christmas Tree
(Australian Company: AWESOME green gift ideas here!!!)
More Cardboard Tannenbaums

The Hominnen Wreath

The Reindeer Head: Cute or Macbre?

We've done a few cardboard "installation" pieces around here this year, it is now one of my new favourite mediums!  Great too eco-wise, and price wise, and lots of fun for all ages and stages.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Easy Peasy Tree Trimming Eggnog

Well, time to get ready for Christmas . . . in the midst of all the wedding prep, we've been sneaking some Christmas into the mix as well!  Usually we put our tree up on the 1st of December, but because we are leaving in mid-December, and having our Kiwi Christmas in the first week of the month, we put the tree up extra early this year so the kids (ok, all of us) could enjoy the aniticpation and build up to our Pre-Christmas Christmas just as though it was the real thing.

Now, even though we are in the Antipodes and enjoying what seems to be shaping up to be a lovely summer here, it just seems right to me that we enjoy some festive libations that are tradition in the northern hemisphere . . . and to be honest, anything with rum in it usually goes down pretty well around here!

So, to wet our (adult) whistles while we put on the Christmas music and festive up the house with the kiddos, here is our SUPER EASY, adults only (because of the liquor and the raw eggs) Christmas beverage of choice.

Tree Trimming Eggnog
(serves 5)


Monday, 26 November 2012

The Wedding Posts . . . #2

Sorry, that was an exceptionally long and uncalled for hiatus!

I am up to my eyeballs in glitter.  There is glitter on all our clothes, right through the garage, in the hall, up the stairs, and in my kids' hair . . . this includes nose hair.
We are officially glitterific.

All this because I have FINALLY got my A** into G*** and realised that yes, I am actually going to be beginning to celebrate the impending nuptials next month, and do in fact want it to be memorable down to the details. .  . which have been planned for months and months . . . just not actioned!

So, glitter it is.  So, thought I'd share where much of our sparkly, star-crossed wedding inspiration has come from! The first images are from a series that Martha Stewart did ages ago.  We've taken ideas from this and added a touch of metallics and heaps of small business people, artisans, and homemade details to create the look that will be used at all the festivities both in NZ and Canada!

Bragging Bags from Morgan Hill Designs on Etsy has made us some of these lovely up cycled frames in silver and gold - they will be displaying the dinner menu on each table at the pre-elopement party in Canada!

Marian & Hazel on Etsy are doing sets of these recycled wine bottle votive holders for us in a mixture of bronze, silver, and gold!
Photo credit Martha Stewart
Photo Credit Martha Stewart
Photo Credit Martha Stewart
We've sort of combined these ideas to create the place cards and table names.  I used the glitter idea to do the edges of gold silver and bronze name cards that will be at each place setting, and have put together table names based on celestial bodies that are important in the North and in Polynesia to represent where we come from and how our ancestors navigated. (ie: Milky Way, North Star, Makaliki, etc.)  They are on painted images of the stars or sky that they describe, and will be held up by photo clips on wire placed in metallic painted bottles  like the ones below.
I'm also on the hunt for some lights to mimic this look from Green Wedding Shoes for some great photos.  While I'm at it, I'd also love to get some shots done of friends and family like this if the weather co-operates . . .
Photo Credit Martha Stewart
Photo Credit La Bella Moderna

One of the first things we sorted out (I think even before we decided where we would no-so-secretly-elope) was on the "palette" or theme or decor, or mis en scene, or whatever you want to call it!  For those who don't know, the plan, as it stands, it to go see my family in Canada and have a small celebration dinner with close friends and family, then leave Sparkle and Twinkle with Nana and Papa, and run off to Jamaica to tie the proverbial, then back to NZ in January.  We haven't yet sorted out the NZ celebrations - largely because Big Daddy Rasta still can't decide what city to have it in, let alone a venue or a date . . .  but never fear NZ family . . . we will celebrate all together . . . once he makes his mind up on how/where/when he wants to do it here!!!

Because the festivities will be happening all over the show, to cut down on costs and hassle, it seemed really foolish to focus on flowers or other things that couldn't be re-used.  We also have booked a digital wedding album service called Milk Books which is perfect for this kind of spread out drawn out celebrating.  They put together the album layout, etc, and printing and you can select the images you want from your events.  So the end product for us, will almost seem as though we were all together with all friends and family all along, and tell the story of the celebrations around the globe!  Then the idea is that the starry decorations will be at all events to visually link all the photos.

So, with all that said and done, back to my glitterific garage and more aerosol glue and glitter!

(if you liked this taster of inspiration, there are heaps more images/ideas/diy's on my pinterest page )

Friday, 9 November 2012

Friday Pieday! Favourite Strawberry Glace Pie Recipe

YAY and YUM!!!!  I love strawberry season.  I actually bought about 6 punnets at the market this week and immediately began salivating about all the wonderful things we would make . . . which we didn't . . . because they all got eaten plain!!!

But that's OK - probably better and healthier too.  That, plus I really want to take the girls to The Strawberry Farm 127 Kirkbridge Road, Mangere to pick our own this weekend. They're open 7 days a week from 10am to 6pm during strawberry season, and as well as pick-your-own, The Strawberry Farm sells pancakes in summer with melt-in-your-mouth strawberry ice cream.  
(We did buy some plants for our little urban garden, but they are only just coming along now, and not ready to eat, so in the meantime . . . there are heaps about from lovely spots just like this one.)  The Strawberry Farm isn't too far away from where we live, and the big Rasta used to go there when he was a kid with his mom too.

I remember as a kid doing seasonal picking with my Grandma - and always looking forward to it. . . (except for that year there was a grasshopper infestation . . .  (shudders) Ugh.  I still get nightmares about those things flying at us in the cornfield!!!)  One of my first summer job's as a teenager was even at a friend's dad's Berry Farm picking berries.  That had to be one of the best jobs ever, outdoors in the early morning watching the summer sun come up as you picked as fast as you could. . . and maybe ate a few every now and again for breakfast.  Topped with morning dew no less!

Sparkle and I couldn't decide what to do first with our market strawberries. Strawberry Glace Pie, which is my Auntie's Mom's recipe and my favourite strawberry recipe, or strawberry shortcake.  (In the end, she spotted some new season rhubarb, and we ended up making my grandma's rhubarb rolls, and leaving the berries to be eaten over the week!) Either way, personally I am not a huge fan of cooked fruit and berries in general, so I love these two recipes as you get to enjoy the best of home baking and fresh berries.  So, with that in mind, thought I'd share the uber simple Strawberry Pie recipe with you because it's so great, and Friday Pieday rhymes and just seems to make sense!

This is how The Food Charlatan does her berries.
I really love her wavy crust style as well - gorgeous.

Strawberry Glace Pie
For the Pastry - click here (same pie pastry as for Grandma Braun's Apple Pie) 
Once you've made the pastry, make 3 equal balls of dough to roll for crusts.  Up to you how many pies you want to make at once - we're only going to make one.  So the rest can go in the freezer for up to a month and can be used at a later date. (you just need to take it out and bring it to a temperature that you can roll it at - not all the way to room temp though)
Because this is a fresh berry pie, you now need to bake your crust in a 9" pie plate. 
Place your rolled dough in the plate and freeze for about half an hour (this will keep it from shrinking down the sides)
Line your crust with baking paper and fill about 2/3 with pie weights, dry beans or rice
3) Bake at 175 C for 20 minutes
Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes, and take the weights and paper out of the crust.  Gently poke a few holes in the bottom with a fork.
Place back in the oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes - or until the crust is golden.
Allow to cool completely before filling.
(TIP: If you find that your edges can get a little dried out or overdone, you can put a ring of tin foil around the edges for the last 10 minutes.  This is really helpful if you have a fan-forced oven like me which nails my pastry every time!)
3/4 cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Cornstarch (or corn flour as it's called in NZ)
1 cup Water - or part fruit juice
(NOTE:  I like to add about 1-2 Tbsp Strawberry Jelly (Jello if you're Canadian!) Powder instead of juice for extra strawberry flavour)
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
Mix sugar, cornstarch, and water in a heavy pot and stir over medium heat until thick and clear.
Prepare 4 cups of berries (in this case strawberries, but you can do this with any berries you love!)  I like to just take off the stems and leave them huge and whole - and also try to load in as many as I think will stay together in a pie shape so it's kinda like a strawberry pie mountain.  Other people like to chop them up small or halves or lay them out prettily - I have 2 different ways shown in the photos)
Add 1 Tsp lemon juice to hot glace and stir.
Pour hot glace over fruit and stir gently to cover the berries.
Pout the glazed fruit into the pie shell and chill.
Serve with whipped cream or Cool Whip if you can get it (lucky things)
Whipping Cream or Cool Whip (if you are lucky and are near a Northern Hemisphere Supermarket - no Cool Whip in NZ) (sad sigh)
I usually like to pile it even higher than this if I've got enough berries!
Try not to eat all of it at once!  (Good-luck with that.)