It’s Party Time!

It’s my eldest daughter’s birthday today. Unfortunately, she cannot be with us today, as she is travelling round Australia and having some wonderful adventures (to read about her travels, see : exploreadventurediscover.wordpress.com), so I thought I would do a special birthday party post to celebrate, with a few delicious birthday recipes thrown in for good measure!!! Happy Birthday Darling!!!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0021During their childhood, my kids had many wonderful birthday parties at home in an era of MacDonalds-hosted parties! Their friends used to love our parties! Admittedly, they were a lot of work and often it was so tempting to wriggle out of them as the party day approached, but once all the preparation was done, we really enjoyed them!Blog Itspartytime20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.48.28The birthday table would be set with lots of colourful tasty dishes including :
• Meringue mice with black licorice tails and eyes and pink musk stick noses and ears
• Jelly boats in orange quarters with jelly made from orange juice and gelatine, toothpick masts and sails of tissue paper
• Banana muffins decorated with viola flowers
• Bowls of smarties
• Melting moments
• Freckle sandwiches and
• Fruit Salad in a bowl or a carved watermelon – see The Sweet Spot : https://candeloblooms.com/2015/10/01/the-sweet-spot/.BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2012-12-21 15.04.00 - Copy

One year, I made a beautiful jigsaw puzzle ginger cake, whose recipe I found in ‘Entertaining at Home’ by Sheridan Rogers. See : http://www.sheridanrogers.com.au/about/books/entertaining-at-home/. Unfortunately, this lovely book is now out-of-print, but it would be worth trying to find a copy. I have included this particular recipe later in the post.Blog Itspartytime20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.48.40For drinks, we’d make a delicious fruit punch from a large tin of pineapple juice, 2 large bottles of orange juice and apple juice and pieces of pineapple and chopped kiwi fruit, passionfruit, mint and ice blocks- so much nicer and healthier than fizzy drinks with red food colouring! I’m sure the parents appreciated it!!!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0061The birthday cake is always special! I love that moment when the birthday cake, aglow with candles, emerges out of the dark! It’s so magical! Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0025

For many years, we used my Mum’s old Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe- see later- decorated with strawberries.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_6930Ross’s favourite birthday cake is a layered sponge cake with cream and strawberry jam- see recipe later. His birthday is in the Spring, so one year, we decorated the top of the cake with dusted icing sugar, pink striped candles and apple blossom.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0064I loved it when the kids were finally old enough to cook my birthday cake!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0023We have also made very rich chocolate mud cakes, carrot cakes and even pavlovas for birthday cakes.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0054Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0047As you can see from the photos, we always have a lot of fun decorating the birthday cake! Flowers are essential! Often, I will ice the cake and mark out the birthdayee’s name or age in silver cachous balls or fruit, but sometimes, I just dust the top with icing sugar. I have some wonderful plastic cake stencils, which I use to create beautiful patterns. Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0063Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0022Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0045Candles vary from metallic silver or gold to coloured stripes and dots; singing candles and frustrating candles, which won’t blow out; long skinny tapers and even sparklers, which are very dramatic! We always tie a bow around the cake knife. Once the candles are blown out, the birthdayee cuts the first slice and makes a wish!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0039

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Finished off with a singing candle!

We’d play lots of old-fashioned games including :

• Pin the Tail on the Donkey
• Musical Chairs
• Pass the Parcel- with a little gift for everyone
• Treasure Hunt
• The Chocolate Game

The last game was a particular favourite. The game was timed, so at the start of the session, you had to don woollen cap, scarf and gloves, then use a fork and knife to eat as much chocolate as you could before the time was up! We always made sure every child had a prize and a party bag of sweets and a slice of birthday cake to take home.

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Solving clues in the treasure hunt

Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0059Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_6928As the kids got older, the parties became fewer, though just as memorable, and the kids were able to have much more input. Caroline’s 18th birthday party was a surprise party, organized by her friends and hosted at home.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0030Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0032Jen had a wonderful Middle eastern party for her 19th birthday just before she left to start her university studies. All the guests came dressed as Arabian sheiks, harem girls and belly dancers. One clever fellow came as a camel in a coat. He bought 2 matching tweed coats from the op-shop and cut one up to cover a polystyrene foam boulster hump.

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Bedouin tent created from sheets hung from the ceiling

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We transformed the lounge into a Bedouin tent with multi-coloured sheets draping the ceiling and sat on floor cushions to partake of our Middle Eastern feast! Some of the food included:

• Pomegranate dip
• Freshly-made flat breads
• Fruit salad in a watermelon with a carved camel
• Layered pavlova with cream, strawberries, blueberries and rose water
• Camel birthday cake
It certainly was a night to remember!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0037Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0042

And now for some special birthday recipes !!!

Mum’s Chocolate Birthday Cake Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0046

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • Cream 125g butter and 250g sugar. Add 3 eggs singly.
  • Sift 250g self-raising flour, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1 tsp salt at least 3 times.
  • Add to the butter mixture alternately with 1 tsp vanilla in 1/2 cup milk.
  • Add 1/2 cup cocoa, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water.
  • Spoon mixture into 2 cake tins (18 cm diameter), lined with Gladbake.
  • Place on middle shelf of the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  • Turn out onto cooling racks.
  • When cool, ice one of the cakes with chocolate icing made from : icing sugar, cocoa and 1 tbsp melted butter. Decorate the top with silver cachous balls or berries and candles.
  • Place the other cake upside-down on serving plate, spread with strawberry jam then a layer of whipped cream (with 1 tsp sugar and a few drops of vanilla in it), then top with the iced cake. Make sure the serving knife is tied with a bow, then light the candles! Happy Birthday!!!

 

Jigsaw Puzzle Cake  (Credits : ‘Entertaining at Home’ by Sheridan Rogers)

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  • Cream 250g softened butter and 185g brown sugar. Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, then add 300g honey.
  • Sift together 750g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 3 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp cinammon and 1/2 tsp allspice.
  • Add to butter mixture alternately with 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 125 ml boiling water. If the dough feels too soft, add more flour. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in Gladwrap or greasedproof paper and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray (40cm by 33cm) with Gladbake.
  • Roll dough directly onto this tray to a depth of 5mm with a well-floured rolling pin.
  • Trim edges, leaving 1 cm round the sides to allow for spread.
  • Cook for 15 minutes, then remove. Cut into large jigsaw shapes with a sharp knife.
  • Return to oven, reduce heat to 150 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and separate the jigsaw pieces slightly. Cool on wire rack, keeping the puzzle in shape.
  • Brush crumbs off each piece and coat with royal icing smoothly with a spatula. Leave to set for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  • When dry, paint a picture on the surface with small clean paint brushes and food dyes, diluted in water or mixed to produce different shades. Have fun !!!

Royal Icing

Whisk 2 egg whites until stiff. Gradually, beat in 500g sifted icing sugar and the juice of a small lemon. Beat till smooth. Keep icing covered with Gladwrap to prevent it from drying out.

Sponge Cake     (Credits : The Essential Baking Cookbook Murdoch Books, 2000)

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  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 cake tins (22cm diameter) with Gladbake.
  • Beat 6 eggs in a large bowl with an electric beater for 7 minutes. Gradually, add 220g caster sugar, beating well after each addition.
  • Sift 150g self-raising flour and 75g plain flour 3 times and using a metal spoon, quickly and gently fold in sifted flours and 2 tbsp boiling water. Do not beat.
  • Spread mixture evenly into the 2 tins and bake for 25 minutes till lightly golden. The sides of the sponge should have shrunk slightly away from the sides of the tins.
  • Cool in tins for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  • When cold, spread 1/2 cup strawberry jam over one of the sponges. Beat 1 cup cream, then spread on top of the jam and top with the other cake.
  • Dust with icing sugar and decorate the top with flowers and candles.

Melting Moments   (Credits : The Essential Baking Cookbook Murdoch Books, 2000)

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  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking trays with Gladbake.
  • Cream 250g softened unsalted butter and 40g icing sugar in a bowl with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla essence.
  • Sift 185g self-raising flour and 60g custard powder and mix into the butter mixture with a knife, using a cutting motion, to form a soft dough.
  • Roll level tablespoons into 28 balls and place on trays. Flatten slightly with a floured fork.
  • Bake for 20 minutes till lightly golden. Cool slightly on trays, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  • Make Passionfruit Filling : Beat 60g unsalted butter and 60g icing sugar in a bowl, then beat in 1.5 tbsp passionfruit pulp. Use to sandwich the biscuits together. Leave to firm before serving.

Meringue Kisses : An instant sugar hit!!!

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  • Preheat oven to 110 degrees Celsius.
  • Beat 6 egg whites until stiff.
  • Add a pinch of salt, ¼ tsp cream of tartar and 1 tsp vanilla.
  • Add 1.5 cups caster sugar 1 tsp at a time and beat well. When all the sugar added, beat for a further 6 minutes.
  • Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm star tip and pipe kisses onto a tray lined with Gladbake.
  • Reduce oven to 100 degrees Celsius and bake for 1.5-2 hours till dry to touch.
  • Note : You can use the same recipe for Meringue Mice. Pipe the mixture into a long body; cut tails out of licorice sticks, with tiny bits for eyes, and ears and noses out of finely chopped pink musk sticks. For Meringue Hedgehogs, pipe as for meringue kisses, then use slivered almonds to create the quills and tiny licorice bits for eyes. You can also sandwich them together with a coffee cream filling made from 1 cup icing sugar, 3 tbsp unsalted softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp coffee dissolved in 2 tsp hot water OR 5o g unsalted butter, 1/4 cup (45 g) icing sugar and 1 tbsp Kahlua or another coffee-flavoured liqueur.

Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0017Sending lots of meringue kisses your way, darling Jen! Happy Birthday once again and may your year continue to be filled with lots of wonderful adventures, laughter, love and happiness! xxx

Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0013PPS. We have been checking out the planets at 4 am each morning in the first week of February. See : http://theconversation.com/all-five-bright-planets-come-together-in-the-morning-sky-53226. The night sky is so beautiful! If you have missed out this month, all five planets will be lined up again in the evening sky in August. I just had to include this dodgy photo of Venus for Jen’s birthday : it really is the Planet of Love!!!

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Printemps en Candelo

What a blast! Not just the garden explosion with Spring, but it has been almost a month since I started this blog and I’ve loved every minute of it ! So stimulating writing it and so exciting getting out into the garden every day to report on its progress !!!

It has been a cold week – both outside and in our heads (!) – with a mixture of sun and beautiful soft rain, so perfect for the garden ! We even had a short storm earlier in the week, which smelt of Summer and promised exciting times ahead.Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 09.32.46Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 09.32.51Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 11.04.49The crab apple is in full glorious bloom and has been joined by a wild flowering plum, which is trying ( in vain ) to give the former  a run for its money ! (The plum is shown in the first photo- against the fence in front of the house,  left foreground). The giant poplar is showing tinges of green and the maples all have fine leaf cover.

The Winter Honeysuckle is looking incredibly healthy with its fresh new growth and the Banksia rose is shooting madly, as are the buddleias. All the other bare-rooted roses are well-clothed in leaf and look like they have been in for ages. Some even have little buds forming. The race is on between newcomer Cornelia and our old Soho roses Lolita and Heaven Scent. I think the latter will probably bloom first, but what they don’t realize is that the old early Hybrid Tea rose, Chateau de Clos Vougeot, which is climbing on the side of the house and was one of the few originals here, has actually beaten them to the post!!! See later !

Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1268Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1154‘The Bride’  has arrived (top photo) and even though she is young, her future holds great promise and her bridesmaids, the tiny Virginalis philadelphus and Viburnum burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’, are developing well. In the Soho Bed, the lavenders, catmint and flowering salvias are all in bud and beside the house, Acanthus mollis spires (bottom photo above) are forming. They open white and a dusky purple-pink, which complements the house colour perfectly!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1153Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-22 10.59.57The cutting garden has been fantastic, with lots of new anemones forming daily. All the daffodils and my magnificent tulips are out in full force and I think the ranunculas might finally be on their way!!! Even the dahlias are coming to the party! This lovely ,blowsy parrot tulip (above right) has opened out flat, but is remarkably tenacious, retaining all of its petals throughout wind and  storm. The cornflowers are growing madly and the poppies are in head, albeit a little bent and shy ! I look forward to them opening up, once the weather gets a little warmer! Photos below include a new salmon Bokassa Tulip, shy Iceland Poppies, my happy mix of bulbs and the snowball tree gradually coming into leaf.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1170Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1168Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1183Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1246In the vegie patch, the raspberry canes are starting to get their leaves, the tiny blueberries are covered in flowers and everything is growing well. We had our first home-grown salad of lettuce, rocket and radishes the other day !!! I love it when the sun shines through the colourful stems of these chards.Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-24 13.09.46Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1255We haven’t done a lot in the garden this week due to this cold/flu freshening up, but the pergola uprights are up! Ross still has to fix the horizontal beams on top, but he did plant the citrus this last weekend. They will look good behind the moon bed and should grow well there in the full Northern sun The 2nd photo shows the order of planting from the cutting garden to the Main Pergola: a Washington Navel; a Lemonade Tree; an Imperial Mandarin; and a Tahitian Lime. We also planted another Lemonade, which was looking a little less robust than the other, opposite the cumquats, to form a colourful arch in front of the entrance to the Main Pergola. It will also form an arch (over the downhill path from the fernery and house ) with the quince tree, hidden behind Ross in the bottom photo.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1180Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1239Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1252Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-21 13.14.04 We finally planted out the stocks, now that the frosts are in abeyance, to replace the tulips and erlicheers as they make their departure for the year.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1256Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1257

We transplanted the strawberries to the berry section of the vegie garden (just in front of my neighbour’s washing line in bottom photo!) and sweet peas to climb up a feature tripod beside the chard (top photo on left side).Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1263Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1266 - CopyAnd we had visitors…

: a local horse, who slipped his paddock – I’m so glad my neighbour caught him before he munched into my roses and tulips!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0691Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0690

:a flock of acrobatic silvereyes foraging for insects in the new foliage of the maple…Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.41.56Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.41.20: a return visit from the Kings ! This super-quiet pair are obviously very familiar with Candelo verandahs ! I think I might call them ‘Oliver’ and ‘Twist’ !!! We are a bit tough on succumbing to their cadging – when they realize no food is forthcoming, they retreat to feed on the Prunus blossom, which is where they should be !!!Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.12.01Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.12.12Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.11.30Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-23 08.14.10: The next-door neighbours now have two very cute  sheep to mow their lawn!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1236Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1197: And a very noisy ultralight did a flyover the morning after our late midnight French sojourn! Assuming it was red and navy blue, the colours were appropriate, so we forgave him!!!

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Yes !!!  We went to France at the weekend! My neighbour Anne had always planned to celebrate her 60th birthday in Paris, but plans had changed and so Paris, like Methuselah, came to her instead !!! It was a great night and wonderful for us to meet all the locals. Everyone dressed appropriately from very glam and sophisticated (not me!) to arty and flamboyant. If you click on our photo, then click on his neck, you will see Ross’s concession to dressing up !!! Anne had done a wonderful job with the decor from black cardboard cutout lampposts on the walls to an Eiffel Tower of fairy lights, surrounded by photos of her younger self.Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1205Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1207We had a magnificent feast, with everyone taking a plate of food. I made a quintessentially Australian dessert, pavlova, but shaped in a French flag with the tri-couleurs represented by blueberries, cream and strawberries (see ‘The Sweet Spot’ on Thursday ! ) . I couldn’t resist adding our first rose bud (Chateau de Clos Vougeot), even though it is not part of the French Flag ! We very carefully carried the pavlova, down the hill to Anne’s place, on an old, but firm, blue plastic tub lid, then decorated the outside of the tin pavlova tray with flowers (white plum blossom, forget-me-knots and periwinkle) to hide the ugly cooking marks!!!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_1188Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-26 19.41.38

We also took along a bottle of Rosé ( albeit Australia’s Jacob’s Creek!) ; a bouquet of red, blue and white anemones in a recycled jar of our favourite delicious imported French jam, St. Dalfour, (blueberry jam of course!), and a gift of one of my hand-embroidered felt cushions, based on French themes, in red, blue and white, with a backing fabric of a Paris street map and wrapped in tricouleur tissue paper, complete with a handmade Eiffel Tower card !!!Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-15 16.19.29Blog Printemps20%Reszd2015-09-15 16.17.22Here is how I made the card :

  1. Google, select and cut-and-paste an image of the Eiffel Tower to a Word Document, resize if necessary and print out.
  2. Fold an A4 black card in half and place on the cutting mat with the card join at the top.  Using a tracing wheel , transfer the pattern onto the black card and cut out.
  3. Open up the card and cut out the negative space on the front of the card only.
  4. Using a silver pen, mark in the girders, as well as the inside window, write your message and put your logo on the back. Voilà !Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0569Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0575

I have always had a love affair with France, so much so that I think, in the interests of getting this post published, as well as not overstepping the mark with the length of my posts (though I am well aware that I already have!!!), I will reserve sharing my passion with you for a Random Thoughts post later this coming month !!! But it is great to know that I have some fellow Francophiles right here in Candelo !!! Especially my front neighbour in her beautiful blue house !  Au revoir !Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0693Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0696P.S. Would you believe it? Our amazingly generous camellia is still blooming. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! She deserves a few more photos in recognition of her wonderful service and generosity !!!Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0692Blog Printemps20%ReszdIMG_0695