Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Virginia State Fair

We picked up Master 5 from school yesterday afternoon and drove straight to the Virginia State Fair, just north of the capital Richmond. We were curious about what it involved and how much of an agricultural emphasis it might have. As it turns out - not as much as we are used to. In Australia, the local 'show' or 'Ag show' was always a must-go-to event. At least for my and my husband's families - who were rural-based. Given that this was the *state* fair in a state of almost 8 million people, we were expecting something a little larger... our 'local' small-town shows were much bigger events.

We started our visit at the agricultural side, looking at producers stands, giant pumpkins and various livestock. Thankfully Master 5 didn't find a 1000+lb at the pumpkin patch (at 60¢ per pound!) The kids spent some time in the best sand-box alternative: a corn-box! Our Little Miss was entranced by the animals, particularly the baby animals at Young McDonald's Farm.

Intrigued by the unusual names for fair *food*, we decided to try a few items that we had heard about. As a family, we sampled flavored honey, fresh apples, BBQ pork and beef (with sides of coleslaw and beans), a funnel cake, elephant's ear, fried Oreos, toffee apples... So much sickly sweetness - I was very surprised that we walked away not feeling really ill!

After we ate, we visited the rides. What a hit. We had to drag the boys away before it was too too late. Going along on a 'school night', and a Tuesday night at that, was a great idea as the crowds were manageable and the boys didn't have wait times for rides. We will be back next year.

Garden Party

Our new garden provided the perfect excuse to hold a garden party to celebrate little Mietta’s first birthday. We were joined by friends David, Bernadette, Aidan and Mikayla, Gabrielle, Craig, James and William (our ‘Virginia’ friends from Australia and Chicago). 

Having moved only two weeks before meant we weren’t as organised as we hoped to be... but managed to rustle up a party anyway! Paul decided he was going to relive his birthday past - and rustled up some chocolate crackles and fairy bread (with imported copha and hundreds & thousands). I made ‘garden themed’ sausage caterpillars, cupcakes and grilled/roasted/fresh vegetables. 

The weather was beautiful and the lovely established trees in our garden provided a wonderful shady setting. We didn’t need to organise any party activities as WE HAVE A BACKYARD! We hadn’t realised the potential to entertain seven kids so effortlessly with forest to explore, a treehouse and space to run, hide and generally ‘muck-about’ in.

Be sure to check-out my ‘alternative’ blog over at

Photo: Mietta enjoyed her birthday cupcake

POST NOTE May 2013: 
This post originally appeared in my previous blog: 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pumpkin Patch

Yesterday we visited a *real* pumpkin patch. Our experience of pumpkin patches has been limited to a wholly urban experience whilst in the City of Chicago with crates of identical pumpkins delivered to an inner city park. These were wonderful events for us due to the novelty value and festival atmosphere.

There really was something special about yesterday's visit to Miller's Farm: being transported to the pumpkin patch via a 'hay ride', then immersing ourselves amongst several varieties of growing pumpkins, still attached to their vines. It was an ideal opportunity to explain to the kids how food is produced.

Our eldest had a hard time choosing amongst all the pumpkins. That is until he had found the largest he could find - some 35 pounds worth! Master 3 was happy with a modest white-skinned pumpkin. Our Little Miss was content to frolic amongst the vines.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New born babies

image by Thierry Bouët
Before I had children, I was accustomed to seeing the TV / movie 'newborn' - a robust, alert and rounded baby, covered in strawberry jam and cream... and thought "Awww. How cute!" During the prenatal classes we attended while expecting our first baby, we were shown a slideshow of shriveled, scratched, red, asymmetrical and emaciated babies. The room full of first-time expectant parents collectively sighed for the poor parents that received these very odd looking creatures. Our midwife explained to us that this is what newborns actually look like. The class then gave a collective, slightly horrified, shudder. We had all obviously been sucked-in by the six-month-old-baby-posing-as-newborn from TV. Although, I think we all were convinced that our babies would not look quite this *awful*.

After giving birth to our first child, we met the most-beautiful creature we had ever laid eyes on - and so not like those other ugly newborns. Obviously our photos lie - as the baby in the photos does not look quite as beautiful as we seem to remember him being. That is the thing about newborns... they are so incredibly special (once you have laid eyes on your own)... and look this way so fleetingly, changing so rapidly once in the outside world.

I was impressed by a series of photographs I had seen eariler this year. French photographer Thierry Bouët took a series of photos of newborns, within their first hour of life. Now I don't look at such photos with horror - but appreciation, joy, happiness... and with teary eyes. See the slideshow and audio commentary here.

Of course, I had to revisit our own little beauties...

Top photograph by Thierry Bouët bottom photographs by Anne

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Whisk Kid - Rainbow cake

images bu Kaitlin Flannery
I found this stunning looking Rainbow cake at a lovely site called Whisk Kid... following a Twitter posted by Gwen Bell. The author, Kaitlin, really is a kid! Aged 18, this girl has a passion for baking. There are some lovely recipes and some gorgeous photographs of her creations.

The cake reminded me of the Bananarama Cake I have made a couple of times. Looking plain on the outside, the cake reveals an amazing interior once sliced and served. With the Bananarama cake, it is a centre of banana slices as the middle layer of the cake is constructed with concentric rings of whole bananas. This rainbow cake is completely surprising with its unadorned and very simple plain white exterior, and vibrant interior.

All photographs by Kaitlin at Whisk Kid

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Things one shouldn't teach one's children

As a parent, one feels their is so much to teach their children about the world, one's environment, etc. Then there are the times that these lessons seem to backfire. 
Take this last week for instance....

Developing an understanding of the cosmos, ones place on earth and the universe... backfired when a large *meteorite* collided with Little Miss's head, courtesy of Master 3's cosmological capability.

Our insistence that our children try new foods to broaden their palate, have an appreciation for other cultures and develop an awareness of where their food originates... backfired when Master 5 took it upon himself to sample some *mushrooms* from the garden. Apparently his little brother was not so enamored with the woody, earthy garden flavors and spat it all out, while Master 5 ingested a full fungi feast. Admitting to this, scored him a trip to the ER. At least now we know where our local ER is!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garden Party

Our new garden provided the perfect theme for Little Miss's first birthday party on Sunday: a garden party! With a house still in a certain disarray, we had to keep things relatively simple. An abundance of bananas determined the cake we were going to serve. An abundance of eggs and bacon... egg and bacon pies!

My husband couldn't host a party without making fairy bread and chocolate crackles - staples of Australian birthday parties from our era. Another Australian birthday party staple, sausage rolls, became sausage caterpillars! I served grilled, roasted and fresh vegetables in keeping with the 'garden' theme and made some ever-popular hummus. I look forward to the time when we are able to serve our own 'garden fresh' vegetables.

Bananas were turned into banana cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting. A heavy hand with food dye late at night resulted in some garish looking cupcakes (not the subtle coloring I had in mind!) I rescued these with some garden and bug decorations.

I remembered a recipe from Jill Dupleix's New Food cookbook for egg and bacon pies as a picnic food. This seemed perfect. I adapted this with a few additions and omissions. Here is my version:


Filo pastry
4 rashers bacon, cut into small pieces
12 eggs
1 egg (extra), beaten
¼ cup cream
¼ cup butter (melted)
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
handful of baby spinach leaves (washed and finely shredded)
snipped chives (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 400℉ (200℃). Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.
Fry bacon in small pan until crispy. Drain on paper towel.
Cut filo pastry into approximately 4½" (12cm) squares. You will need 48 squares. Brush one square of filo with butter. Add another square and brush. Repeat until you have 4 squares of pastry together. Carefully drape these into a muffin cup. Repeat for remaining sheets of filo. For a more rustic effect, place second two sheets of pastry diagonally upon first two sheets. Roughly trim edges if too much overhang.

Divide cut spinach and bacon evenly between each pastry cup. Mix beaten egg and cream together. Season. Spoon egg mixture evenly over spinach and bacon. Carefully break open and place an egg into each cup (without breaking yolk). Sprinkle cheese over each small pie.

Place muffin pan in oven and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350℉ (180℃) and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese has melted, egg has set and pastry is a golden color.

Carefully remove pies from tin, sprinkle with snipped chives and serve, or let cool on a wire rack before taking on a picnic.

I refrigerated the pies overnight, then heated them the next day in a 300℉ oven to warm them through and crisp the pastry a little. These would be lovely served as a brunch item or with a simple green salad for a lunch. I hope to experiment a little more with other ingredients.
Take care with filo pastry as it dries out quickly and will split. Keep pastry under damp cloth until ready to use. More butter might be required for brushing pastry.

We shared the day with our lovely friends. It was SO wonderful hosting a Summer party, at home, with space for kids to run, surfaces made to soak up spills and lovely shady trees to sit under. After hosting a number of Winter parties in a two bedroom apartment with no outdoor space... it was sheer bliss!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

090909 - One year today!

Our darling little girl turned one year old today! How time has flown: it does go faster with each subsequent child. In her first year, our little one has managed trips to Australia, the UK, the west and east coasts of the US, and a complete change of abode/lifestyle. Taking it all in her stride, our happy little one is completely at home playing in the dirt in her new garden.

My husband wanted to do something special to mark the occasion, deciding to make a carrot cake complete with cream cheese frosting. This was a special dessert loved by us all. He admitted that this was the first cake he had ever made 'for someone'. I felt a little miffed that I hadn't been his 'first' (cake recipient) - but can't deny our little miss the title... besides, I am currently enjoying the spoils with a cup of tea as I type!

Mietta turns one

Our darling little girl turned one today! Where did the last year go? Mietta is such a happy little girl, very bright and engaging. She loves people and will often say “Hello” to strangers to gain their attention. Mietta has a cheeky and curious disposition and is quite happy to explore by herself. She is far more verbal than the boys were at the same age, and is developing quite a vocabulary and repertoire of animal noises (largely growls and roars). Our attempts to teach Mietta to safely ‘get down backwards’ seem to be finally sinking in. Despite showing early signs of walking, Mietta prefers to crawl but will walk with toys and while holding our legs. Mietta has ten teeth now and still loves her food. 

The craziness of our move, living amongst boxes, and an unfamiliarity with the local store options meant that we were not quite prepared for Mietta’s birthday. Thank goodness for organised grandparents who managed to have presents arrive in time. Mietta was delighted by all her new gifts. 

Paul wanted to do something special for his favourite daughter - and so made her a carrot birthday cake, complete with cream cheese frosting. This was appreciated by all - especially Mietta - who seems to have a fondness for cake! 

Nanma sent over gifts for the boys so they didn’t feel left out. Nic received Wall-E and Eve figurines. We spent a good portion of the day playing Target- where I would walk into the new playroom, look around and ask Nic (the store assistant), if he had any recommendations for toys that would be good for my ‘three year old son’. Several suggestions would be profferred, I would purchase a toy (mostly the new figurines), then call for (son) Nic, and present him with his new toy. He would be delighted with my choice every time! 

Photo: Mietta surrounded by birthday spoils. 

POST NOTE May 2013: 
This post originally appeared in my previous blog: 

Monday, September 7, 2009


It was with some trepidation that I took Master 5 along to his first day of kindergarden (his and mine). I was somewhat reluctant taking him along to a big public school after his very intimate and homely two-room Montessori school. After much past encouragement about him being lucky to attend a 'free-choice' school, I felt a certain sense of betrayal taking my son to a 'sit down' school. His teacher offered soothing words of encouragement and after a hug from me, I guiltily left him behind.

Words can't express our complete relief when Master 5 was happy to go to school the next morning - and didn't want our help catching his school bus at all!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mood wall

I saw the Moodwall over at designgeist and thought it a wonderful way to lighten up an otherwise inhospitable location. Created by Urban Alliance, the mood wall won a competition to improve unsafe public space in Amsterdam.

"The Moodwall is located in a pedestrian tunnel and interacts with people passing by, improving the atmosphere in the tunnel and making people feel happier and safer. The interactive urban wallpaper is made from 2500 LEDs behind a ribbed semi-transparent wall. The curves in the wall make it less vulnerable to graffiti and improve visibility"


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WooHoo! We are now at (new) home

To our surprise, as we headed out to our new home on Saturday to accept delivery of our new washer and dryer, we had a call from our Mayflower driver, informing us that our 'household' had arrived and that the crew was ready to unload! This was such a pleasant surprise as we had been informed that our designated delivery date was not until Tuesday.

A tight turning circle compounded by our drive crossing a swale, made it impossible to reverse a large truck down our driveway. The crew therefore had their work cut out for them: having to move all items on a trolley down the driveway.

We couldn't quite believe that our limited possessions from a two bedroom apartment totaled 222 boxes and items!

We spent the weekend unpacking and organizing (and are still going).

The children LOVE the garden and house. We keep receiving impromptu hugs and thank yous from the boys. Water fights have become an afternoon necessity and little miss just adores playing in the dirt.

We did not have our gas connected until Tuesday... so had no hot water. Baths and sponge baths were taken in the kitchen sink while my husband braved cold showers. Nothing like 'camping out' indoors.

We finally had our internet connected today. It is amazing how much I miss access to the net when it is not available. Now to try and find time to blog in the midst of a crazy mess!