Friday, 27 April 2012

Painting - possibilities

So many possibilities when you start a piece, there is a particular idea, image, end product you try to work towards.  These paintings are more of the ones that I pulled out from a different lifetime, the life before children.  When I got into doing these ones I was getting so excited about how they were looking and suddenly every brush stroke seemed to just be ruining them.  Time for a break from them and some perspective.
Original sketch from around 2006.
 Added some definition with some beautiful Indian ink.  I have such bad luck with my beautiful Indian ink, one carpet and two other ink covered, child related incidents in this thankfully wooden floored house.
 Still pretty happy with how things are going at this stage.
 What have I done.
It's curled a bit but framing will fix that.  Every brush stroke I was adding with the pink was accompanied by "damn, what a mistake, white paint, damn".
I'm not sure If I like this or the other one in this series but I don't know what to do with either of them now.  At least I've got some high res pics of the original sketches.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Curtin Primary School Art Show

I pulled out a bunch of pieces today to finish and frame for submission into the Curtin Art Show.  I am really happy with how they're going and with having a look back on some pieces that I haven't seen in a long time.  I put everything away in my portfolio when we changed my art studio into the nursery and of course, being hormonal, had a good cry at the time of dreams and aspirations I thought lost.  It has been a very productive painting day and I can't wait to get started again tomorrow.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Canberra Kids Parties

The first birthday party I organised for my son in Canberra took a lot of searching and increasingly I am finding more and more fun things to do for kids parties in Canberra.  Fairies, pirates, petting zoos and more.

Canberra Kid's Party Venues:
Farm Yard Nursery
This is a fantastic place to have a birthday party.  They have a small kitchen area with a little electric oven to heat things up.  It's all BYO food and cakes.  Balloons and party bags can be included if you want.  We had our son's second birthday here and he had the best time.  Lamas, chickens, chicks, lizards, ponies, bunnies, budgies, guinea pigs, calves, lambs.  Whether or not you get to hold a baby animal is dependent on breeding season.  We had the party in June and it was getting a bit fresh outdoors but it was wonderful and the party helpers are fantastic.

Lake Burley Griffin Cruises - Pirate Party on Springbank Island
Your captain will take you to set up your party on Springbank Island and then return to pick up your crew of scurvy landlubbers for a pirating good time aboard.  Set sail for your very own pirate get away on Treasure Island.  I haven't tried this one but I have gone for a cruise aboard the Cygnet on one of the spectacular days we had in Canberra last week.  My son got to man the wheel and actually steer the boat, which was very exciting and great camera fodder.  Garnet was a lovely skipper, nice for a 45minute treat for Mum and child at $10 for adults and gold coin donation for children.

Classic Children's Party - Fairies and Cow Boys
The Cherry Seed cafe in Gold Creek has some of the tastiest cupcakes I have ever had and holds a very sweet kids birthday.  With the beautiful green out behind the old Nicholls school house, they have a perfect place for a warm weather birthday party.  I passed by a fairy party they were holding while having something to eat at Sweet Copper (yum), it looked like magic.

Dinosaur Themed Party
Excellent party location.  Children get to run wild all afternoon through the play land.  The party gets called in for some cake, food and party games led by your provided party host.  The food that is provided is not just your usual fried chicken nuggets but there are some yummy little sandwiches, fruits, fresh sliced veges, chips, nuggets (of course), popcorn and more that I cannot recall any more.
Lets Play Themed Rooms - Pirates, Jungle, Underwater, Unicorns, Dinosaurs
The party rooms at this new indoor fun center at Gold Creek are beautifully painted and the indoor play equipment is lots of fun.  Sadly adults to not get to accompany young children through the play equipment and they are confined to an area with their own jumping castle and fun equipment.  This works out better and safer for school holidays and other times you know these places are going to be overrun with older children.

Lets Play - Space Odyssey
Yet to see but looks amazing on their website.

DanceKids Birthday Party
Dance Kids take care of providing all the entertainment you could want at a party.  Their programs include costumes, music, dance and movement and always have an educational component which is exciting and entertaining.  My son and daughter have their birthdays on the same day so we asked Sue and the daycare if we could hold the party there.  It was an amazing party and Sue showed fantastic stamina keeping ahead of the five and three year old's with abundant energy and enthusiasm.  We had one Dinosaur themed party and a Rumble in the Jungle party back to back.
These pterodactyl nest are a coconut heavy, traditional, cofur free chocolate crackle recipe and doubled up as eagles nest for the lion themed party my daughter had.

Kids Pantry - Cooking Party
Love kids pantry.

Pink Kisses - Princess, Fairy, Mermaids and Pirates, Teddy Bears Picnic

High Tea Hire Canberra
Beautiful equipment for your children's party for hire at very reasonable rates.

Bubble Party - This is a great party idea for younger children.  I was walking from a train station in Tokyo and what almost seemed like a mums and bubs flash mob turned up with a bunch of bubble tools and created the most amazing bubble party in a small patch of green in between the concrete and steel.  It was incredibubble.  Find some fantastic tips and solution recipes from FireFrog's Bubbles.
Rainbow Party - The Sweetapolita blog shows a gorgeous rainbow themed birthday with heaps of great ideas to share.

Leave it to the Proffessionals:
Addie and Me

Yummy cupcakes from Jazz Apple Cafe.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcake recipe:
This recipe makes to most delicious, moist and decadent chocolate cupcakes.


      200g dark chocolate, chopped (dark eating chocolate, not compound chocolate)
     125g butter, chopped
     1 3/4 cups (375g) caster sugar
     1½ cups (375ml) buttermilk
     3 eggs, beaten lightly
     2 cups (260g) plain flour
     ½ tspn baking powder
     (original recipe called for 1 3/4 cups plain and 1/4 cup of self raising but we don't keep self raising flour in the house)
     ½ cup (50g) cocoa powder
     1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


Preheat the oven to moderate (180’C/160’C fan-forced). Grease selected pan/s (see below), line base and sides with baking paper.

Makes around 24 cupcakes.

1. Combine chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted.
2. Whisk in sugar, buttermilk and eggs.
3. Whisk in combined sifted flours, cocoa and soda.
4. Pour mixture into prepared moulds.  Only fill to half way, for smaller moulds this should be a heaped tablespoons worth of cake mix.  Do not leave this mixture for long as the chocolate mix stiffens and becomes difficult to get into the moulds.
5. Bake in a moderate oven for time specified for individual cakes (deep 15cm round = 1 hour 5 mins and deep 22cm round = 1 hour 15 mins, cupcakes = 15 - 20 minutes), or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool cupcakes in moulds for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.  I like using

150 ml thickened cream
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa

pour the cream into a bowl, sift in cocoa and icing sugar and whisk until the cream starts to thicken.  This makes a delicious and sweet icing without having too much sugar in it, decrease the icing sugar if desired, it will thicken because of the cream to a good consistency for piping.  The one downside is it is doesn't have as long a life as icing mixture made up mostly of icing sugar and you either have to keep refrigerated or pipe on shortly before serving.

Lemon and sour cream cupcakes
Chocolate isn't loved by everyone so tossing in a flavor alternative is always great if you can be bothered and these cupcakes are delicious.  I'm thinking of checking out if I can make these chocolate because they are so light and fluffy and chocolate and sour cream sounds yum.

25 g soft butter
220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 medium eggs
2 tbsp lemon juice
150 g (1 cup) plain flour
60 g (1/3 cup) self-raising flour
100 g sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2.Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest, then add eggs one by one, fully incorporating each one before adding the next. Stir through lemon juice.
3.Sift flours together and fold in carefully, alternating with sour cream.
4.Spoon into a prepared cupcake moulds.
5.Bake in a moderate oven for time specified for individual cakes (deep 15cm round = 40 mins and deep 22cm round = 50 mins, cupcakes = 10 -15 minutes). Test the cupcakes by inserting a skewer. If it comes out clean the cake is ready; if it doesn’t, cook for a further 5 minutes and test again.
6. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then remove from tin. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

I used the same icing as for the chocolate buttermilk cupcakes but left out the cocoa and added the zest of one lime.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Inspiration - Blu


Wonderland - Kim Min Ji

Kim Min Ji - Alice in Wonderland

Inspired by some beautiful etsy pieces and some book marks I found on the weekend.  Would love a copy of this book.  If anyone knows where to buy this book in english please let me know.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Cooking with Pre-schoolers

Cooking with children is so rewarding for you and for your little one as they embrace new foods they may not have wanted to try and gain more self confidence with the responsibility and satisfaction of being the one to make their own food.  Cooking with pre-schoolers was at first, for me, a really bad idea.  I was still trying to get things ready as flour was poured all over the table and total culinary chaos ensued.  After beginning to do cooking classes with Kids Pantry I have a much more successful and less chaotic approach.  Preparation.  Patience.  Portions.  If you have a child who happily heads off and plays by themselves, that's golden, if not make sure you set your child up with something they aren't going to get into too much of a mess with while you prepare everything.
Get out as many small bowls as you can to put ingredients into individually.  If there are a bunch of wet components that you can mix together that require whisking then do that during preparation time ie melt butter and mix into milk with eggs to be poured into dry ingredients and mixed by your child.
The process of cooking is rewarding for your child if they can do it with as little intervention from you as possible.  So make their jobs achievable.  Once everything is prepared your child should have the skills to with limited or no assistance
  1.  taste the ingredient,
  2.  pour it into the main mixing bowl, 
  3. cut up something easy to cut with a child safe knife, safety knife
  4. mix together and
  5. pour into tin, cake moulds, spoon onto baking paper, roll into a ball and squash with a spoon.
I still go to these classes because the teachers are inspirational, endlessly patient.  Don't forget to get them to wash hands before and after cooking.  It's never to early to give them some task so they feel they're helping clean up afterwards.

Tip:  find a recipe you don't need to whisk too much and can be successful with by just adding one at a time into a single bowl without creaming, whisking to peaks or rubbing together until it resembles bread crumbs.

Story time

One thing I have always done with my children and have always loved myself is reading.  When I was a little girl I remember my special gift always being a new little book.  I remember sitting by myself before I could read and leafing through a pile of picture books with Morty mouse who reminded me of the adorable geckos I would watch on the windows of our house in Malaysia.

There are so many books I have enjoyed with my children and for my first born, who was a terrible sleeper, we would sit together and read Terry Pratchett as part of our seemingly never ending bedtime routine.

There are a number of children's authors and illustrators that I love to read and have bought as many of their books as I can.
  • Emily Gravett
  • Lynley Dodd
  • Oliver Jeffers
  • Julia Donaldson
  • Anthony Browne
  • Graeme Base
  • Sara Acton
  • Anna Walker

Here are some of the books that I have had a great time reading with my little ones, some for their beautiful illustrations, some for their fantastic rhythm and rhyme and some for the beauty or poignancy of the story.

Flotsam - David Wiesner
This is a magical journey to share with your child.  Mine are one and three years old and still happier to hear me make up the words to accompany these beautiful images and wonderful story but I have noticed more and more my son asking me to make up a story to go with what lives in that house and has been trying to himself.  This is bookshelf treasure.

Hairy Maclary - Lynley Dodd
  •   Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy
  •   Slinky Malinky Open the Door
  •   Slinky Malinky Scatter Cat
  •   Hairy Maclary's Bone
  •   A Dragon in a Wagon
  •   Hairy Maclary Shoo
  •   Schnitzel Von Krumm Forget me Not
  •   Hair Maclary's Catwaul Caper
  •   Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack
Lynley Dodd books are wonderful reading.  I was disappointed with the Dudgeon is coming because Lynley Dodd who is always so wonderful with her rhyme and rhythm seems to have sacrificed language to produce this book but my son still loves reading it, he's three and he also likes Dr Seuss which again is all rhyme and nonsense.

The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo

This story is bitter sweet.  A pleasure to read, magnificent illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering and a lovely voice throughout.  The characters are human, not always literally, and I will definitely read this again once my children are old enough to grasp the concepts but not too young to be frightened by some of the darker imagery and content in this lovely book.  I went on to buy The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane but am yet to finish this book as there were too many tears to read aloud.

Frog Belly Rat Bone - Timothy Basil Ering
Great book about a boy who wants to find treasure, a monster he creates, some stealthy thieves, and the wonder of life within a small, dry, insignificant looking seed.  This is a book crying out to be followed up with some gardening.  I am yet to put together my only little treasure box filled with colourful seed packets but this is on my list of things to do with the little people in my life.  There are many books I pick up as a consequence of there being something special about the illustrations and this is one of them.  Frog Belly Rat Bone is packed with full page, unique paintings.

Monkey and Me - Emily Gravett
This book has fantastic rhythm that almost feels like your singing a very percussive song.  Gorgeous illustrations with beautiful freehand pencil drawings.   The simplicity of colour and rhythm in this book will make it a favourite.

Again - Emily Gravett
Another wonderful book, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.  There are two stories in Emily Gravett's books, the written and the visual.  If your child can sit down and follow the images it begins when you look on the inside cover as you watch the young dragon getting ready for bed and ends with an over tired outburst by an increasingly irritated dragon who's mother has hit the wall before him, the ending to so many bedtime routines.  This is a book you and your child will read again and again.  Again?

Where's my Cow - Terry Pratchett
Whether you are a Pratchett fan or not, whether you have read and thoroughly enjoyed Thud or have never even heard of Disc world, this is a great book to read with your little one and has led on to games with my own children.  The game of the book as you read through making the noises of the animals you find who are not your cow will entertain you and your little person over and over again.  This is the favourite book of the fictional one year old in the story and was for my one year old also.