Saturday, December 21

My bebes are EIGHT.

Now I've been wondering where all this time has gone, and looked through my pics, and I can see they have grown up so much but it still seems not that long ago.  My little bebes birthday is today Australian time (in fact, almost 4 hours ago)... I feel tired just looking at some of these photos but mostly I just feel so proud of them both.

This was just after they were born in their twin crib.  I kept gazing at them thinking 'I can't believe I had twins!' and also 'How did they fit in my body!?'.. They were 5lb13 and 6lb6oz (Olivia on left, Laura on right) We spent our first Christmas in hospital together - and Laura coming out of special care nursery with apnoea at 9:30pm on Christmas Eve still to this day was the best present I ever got for Christmas.

When we got through their first year I could hardly believe I survived!  I felt like the party should be in our honour, that we stayed married and sane!  Promptly after this shot, Laura on the right fell asleep eating cake.. 

2nd birthday Mummy perfected the art of making dolly varden cakes.  Our girls became real little girls at two.  Little best buddies.

Third birthday it was all about fairies!

Fourth birthday was the infamous rainbow party.  They both still talk about this!  So cute!

Fifth birthday just before they started school and they requested a Hungry Jacks Party.  So easy and I became a convert to having parties outside the house (although I still do also like them at home!)  Having their birthday so close to Christmas though it does take the pressure off!

6th birthday was a busy one, we had a quick cake at Nanny's - that was the last birthday Nanny was at home.

 Seventh birthday and our girls were looking so grown up.  Their Australian Girl Dolls also had their first birthday in our house (they were gifts for 6th birthday)  this is Rapunzel
 And this is Laura with Rosie.

This year, they had a party before we left - as the last couple of years has been rather low-key birthday wise.
Tomorrow (their birthday here in the US) we're taking them to Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular as a surprise.  They keep seeing the Rockettes in advertisements everywhere and asking to go - so this is going be a much loved gift and birthday - I'm looking forward to it too!

Those who have babies now, take heed:  time really does fly even when you think the days will never end, your kids will never sleep through the night or never be toilet trained.  Before you know it they are growing up quicker than you can cope with!

Our family does a quick jaunt in LA

We had just arrived in LA in the morning after a 15 hour flight.  We had the foresight to do this in Premium Economy and if you can afford it I would recommend it.  Qantas do have specials or if you have points upgrade from Economy.  There's a lot more leg room and with kids and their stuff - you aren't finding it too difficult to get in and out of your seat.  Meals were pretty good too - especially the kids meals - with good choices and a few treats.

I would also recommend buying neck rolls for the kids, this really did help my girls sleep for some of the flight - Olivia and Laura slept for about 7 hours of the flight - Eloise - not so much...

Laura started her trip with a hamburger, it was great having lounge access before the flight, we got to chill out for the 2 hours we waited (our flight was delayed) and as I said lounge access always worth it!
Nothing prepares you for just how spread out LA is!!
Would also recommend having a car pick you up at the airport when you arrive - we used Blacklane and our driver was very friendly and helpful, had water waiting for us and a big van and pointed out the sights to our hotel.  Cost: $110 for a large van seating 6.
The weather was lovely too - about 20-22 during the day but crept down to about 6-8 degrees at night.  I personally like this kind of weather..

We made a great choice with our fabulous hotel Loews Hollywood which was close to everything and spent our afternoon walking around the adjoining mall, down to Hollywood Boulevard among all the well known stars and some aspiring ones in character outfits.  Graumans' Chinese Theater concourse with all the signatures of yesteryear's stars was great too - the best thing about these two things is they are free...

Our Olivia with her other favourite Olivia!

Grauman's Chinese Theater
Marilyn Munroe really had tiny hands and feet!

You'll have lots of people asking you if you want to take tours to see star's houses including Justin Beiber's house.. and as tempting as it was to think of graffiti-ing his place like he did with Australia, that's just not my thing... so we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe - which has the usual a=American deep-fried and completely too-sugared up drinks.  I had the fish burger which seemed not too bad.

Then we made the big mistake late in the afternoon in rushhour of catching a taxi out to Commerce - this is the town with not only a casino but Citadel Outlets - cost us about $60 in a cab.  You can get cabs that hold 5 and we did thank goodness but it took an hour.  Once there though it was fabulous - We did quick jaunts to Old Navy, Gap ($15 GAP Hoodies!), Michael Kors, Coach (where I picked up a new handbag down from $500 to $171) there's loads of places to go - and really you need a whole day here - not the 3 hours we spent.  

They also had a huge Christmas tree!

There just wasn't enough time, but it was a stop-over so in terms of that we got a lot done.  If I had my time over and made LA a destination rather than a stopover I would have spent:

Day 1 - Local environs of hotel (Hollywood) and sleep, go to in-and-out burger
Day 2 - Citadel 
Day 3 - Santa Monica
Day 4 - Downtown LA, Beverley Hills

One thing about the hotel - you can get rooms for about $350 with two double beds, if you have one of two kids this will be enough for family - we had two rooms because we had 2 kids and whilst $700 a night is a lot - the rooms were lovely and the beds very very comfortable. Breakfast is ample and delicious and the staff could not be nicer.

Have you been to LA?  What are your must-see/do/eats?

Thursday, December 12

(I'm dreaming of a) White Christmas

Have I got you all singing that good ol' Bing Crosby number?  We've been humming and whilsting it a bit around this house last few days as we're headed to New York for Christmas this year - one stop in our worldwide 5 week adventure.  There's been snow there for the last few days and we're hoping it sticks around for a bit as New York will be wonderful enough at Christmas time but with snow is like a cherry on top I think!  We're headed off today stopping off in LA for a few days on the way.

So speaking of cherries, and white Christmas - I just wanted to share one more Christmas morsel with you - I think white Christmas is something you either love or hate, unless you're someone like me where I'm pretty much in the middle.  I have to be in the mood for it, but it's such a lovely taste of nostalgia I have one piece and I remember how much I loved it as a kid - it was our Christmas treat and was given out a lot at Christmas time by friends at school and neighbours - yes we're talking the 70's there my friends!

My Eloise said this is her favourite of all the treats I've made for family and friends this year so clearly it can still win new fans too.  It looks so festive too!

Ingredients: (makes about 30 pieces)
1/2 cup glace cherries, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup rice bubbles
500g white choc melts

Place all ingredients except chocolate in a bowl and mix well.

Line a square baking tin with canola spray and baking paper.

Melt your chocolate, I do mine in the microwave by heating on 50% power for intervals of 1 minute stirring in between each minute until melted.  This amount should take 2 mins 30 seconds.

Pour over your dry ingredients and mix quickly.

Pour into tray and leave to cool either on the bench or if it is a hot/humid day - in the fridge.

When it hardens - about 20-30 minutes, lift out and slice.

Looks festive right?

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge - won't last that long though!

Keep up to date with where we are on our trip by following me on instagram!

Tuesday, December 10

Rocky road with free download 'You rock!' gift labels

My hubby is a confirmed rocky-road-a-holic.  This is usually his only request from Santa in his stocking and his go-to rocky road is Darrell Lea.  Well it was, until now.  I made this a few weeks ago and needless to say, it didn't last long.  I'm not normally a rocky road fan but there is something to be said about fresh rocky road.  

Because it's so easy and such a crowd pleaser I decided to make an extra batch last weekend and packaged them up for my colleagues today.  It was a hit, with one nameless person eating all of theirs before lunch!

I also had enough to give to my girls' teachers in a bar form, and will be adding the labels 'you rock' as you can see below - and I've saved you the time to create yours - you can download the A4 sheet of labels here.

1 packet pascall marshmallows, cut in half
1 packet raspberries, cut in half
1.5 cups unsalted peanuts
500g nestle choc melts.

Add cut marshmallow and raspberries in a bowl, add unsalted peanuts, mix.

Melt chocolate in the microwave by putting the chocolate in a glass or heatproof bowl (make sure it's dry) and heat on 50% heat in 1 minute intervals stirring in between each minute. Should be melted at the 4 minute mark. Important that you mix in between or the chocolate will burn. 

Line a baking tray with baking paper, ensuring the paper raises up at the sides. Then pour the marshmallow/raspberry/peanut mix into the chocolate and mix quickly.

Pour into the baking tray. Press into the sides to ensure you have an even layer.

 Leave to cool on the bench for an hour before slicing and serving.

Cut into bars or bite-size pieces.

Place in an airtight container either in the fridge or a cool place.  Gift in boxes, preserving jars or paper bags.  You can buy the ones below on Ebay  Labels can be downloaded for free from here

Sunday, December 8

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

You might have seen my facebook update this week that I had to re-make most of my Christmas treats because my Hubby got a little excited whilst I was away in Melbourne for a few days and gobbled the vast majority of what I had left, that were for Teacher presents.  Hmmm. 'They were so delicious!' he pleaded.  I suppose that I should take that as a compliment.. right?

So I thought I'd try to put something that he would really love - and I made a double batch 'just in case'. A good decoy I think.... Note, these are very rich - and you really only need one.  If you like Reeses pieces or peanut butter M&Ms then you might need a double batch also.  The recipe I've adapted this from, this is their regular batch but really you only need to make half, trust me on that one, double the below ingredients if you want lots.

These do need to be refrigerated so if you are making them for gifts do store them in the fridge before gifting and let your lucky recipient know.

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
90g butter, softened
1 cup icing mixture, sifted
2 cups pretzels
3/4 cup choc chips
1 1/2 cups choc melts

In a mixing bowl put 2/3 cup of peanut butter with your 90g butter.  Mix until well combined.

Then add 1/2 cup icing mixture, mix well - then add rest of icing mixture.

Try not to eat this, pretty hard.

Mix in 1 cup of your pretzels and all your choc chips.  Do this with a spoon because you want t keep the pretzels kind of in pieces, not completely crushed.

 Line a tray and lightly spray it with canola oil (remember mine is doubled so use a square cake tin or small jelly roll tin...) and spread the mixture along the bottom evenly.

Then melt your chocolate - I do mine in the microwave - 50% power in one minute bursts, stirring in between - shouldn't take more than 2 minutes.  When done, stir through 1/3 cup peanut butter.

Now spread that over the peanut butter mixture and then press your remaining cup of pretzels on top.  Put in the fridge for at least an hour or two before slicing up.

Store in fridge after cut.

I've put some of our batch in the freezer cut up to have at a later date with vanilla icecream... yum!

Friday, December 6

Weekend Christmas Project: 3 ingredient Candy Cane Truffles!

After the gingerbread truffles I was on a mission - what other truffles could I make?  They were so easy and much loved by all who ate them (I'm now on the eve of my third batch!) and my mind went to mint slice.  Those are my favourite chocolate biscuit and whether they are at room temperature, straight from the fridge or like my hubby likes them, from the freezer - there's never a bad time to have a mint slice as far as I'm concerned!

So I gave it a whirl.  They are delicious, and again so easy.  It makes about 40 of them so good to make for Christmas treats - and hopefully you'll be able to get one or two for yourself!

2 packets Arnotts Mint Slice
1 tb milk
1 pack (500g) of chocolate melts
optional:  Candy canes

Process your biscuits.  take a feel of them, if they stick together easily, don't add the milk, if not, add and process again.

Roll your truffles, I make mine about the diameter of a 50c piece.

Put them on greasepoof paper, ready to be dipped!

If you want to garnish with candy canes, put them in a ziplock bag, inside another ziplock bag.   Try not to eat too many at this stage... I failed.

Vent your frustrations about whatever is today's gripe right now.  Get them into smallish bits.  You know candy canes were first invented to keep kids quiet during mass and nativity plays over Christmas? True!

Then you need to melt your chocolate - I do mine in the microwave - 1 minute on 50 % power, then stir, then return for another minute on 50% power then stir, then maybe if it's not completely melted, another 30 seconds on 50% power.

Dip your truffles into the chocolate, I did mine with two spoons and then dropped them into little patty pans.  Sprinkle with the candy canes.  You could also just put little jelly tots and mint leaves on to look like holly too if you like...?

Leave them to set and then put into an airtight container and store in the pantry in a cool place.

They are such a good kick of mint, and so easy to make - give them a try!


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